Archive for the ‘Pasta’ Category

Very exciting news here from the Spotted Apron kitchen – I bought my first mandoline.  In celebration of the one month anniversary of the blog perhaps?  As you can tell, it’s definitely not an expensive Williams-Sonoma mandoline but it’s still pretty awesome.  If I like it and get a lot of use out of it, then I’ll spring for an expensive one.  I have lived with the fear (which I’ve realized is very realistic) of cutting off a finger tip with the mandoline.  And sure enough I cut my thumb, not badly but enough to freak me out.  You have to be so careful with the mandoline but it can slice veggies razor thin so it’s worth the risk factor. 


Onions were my first vegetable on the mandoline for this cauliflower pasta.  I have sliced many veggies, including Yukon Gold potatoes in order to make the most delicious homemade potato chips (recipe soon to come).  But the onions in this recipe were wonderful because they added flavor and cooked quickly, allowing the cauliflower to really be the stand out ingredient.  I found this beautiful cauliflower at a vegetable stand nearby and just had to use it in a recipe.  I had never seen purple and golden cauliflower so I bought it and attempted to find a recipe that highlighted the cauliflower. 


This recipe comes from Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse Vegetables.  The cauliflower remains crunchy because it’s not steamed or boiled, instead it’s lightly sautéed.  My only complaint is that I should have added more extra virgin olive oil.  The taste of the cauliflower, walnuts, and ricotta salata all complimented one another wonderfully but there was not much of a “sauce” for the pasta.  I think you just have to go for it and coat the whole wheat pasta with extra virgin olive oil and then mix it with the cauliflower mixture.  I tend to not add a lot of oil to my recipes but the whole wheat pasta really absorbs any moisture so it can easily dry out.   This dish was even more delicious the next day for lunch. 


Oh yeah, quick tip on cutting up cauliflower…you want to end up with small little trees, not lots of crumbs.  Start at the base of the cauliflower and cut where there are natural breaks so you end up with lots of small looking trees and it keeps the natural shape of cauliflower.  Or else you might end up with breadcrumbs and lots of waste if you just randomly chop away. 


Mulit-Colored Cauliflower with Whole Wheat Pasta

Adapted from Alice Water’s Chez Panisse Vegetables

  • 2 heads cauliflower
(you can use white cauliflower)
  • 1 medium onion

  • 4 cloves garlic

  • 1 pound whole-wheat pasta
Extra-virgin olive oil

  • Salt and pepper

  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
White wine vinegar

  • 1/2 lemon

  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts

  • 4 ounces ricotta salata or feta cheese

1.  Put a large pot of water on to boil. Cut the cauliflower into small flowerets. Peel the onion and slice it very thin. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Put the pasta on to cook.

2.  Saute the cauliflower in olive oil in a large saute pan. When the cauliflower begins to soften, season with salt and pepper and add the sliced onion and red pepper flakes.

3.   Saute over medium to high heat until the vegetables are brown and tender. The cauliflower should still be slightly crunchy and should not taste steamed. Add the garlic and remove from the heat, tossing and stirring so the garlic doesn’t burn; if it starts to brown, add a splash of water. Add a few drops each of vinegar and lemon juice and the toasted walnuts. Taste and correct the seasoning.

4.     When the pasta is done, drain and add to the cauliflower, adding enough extra-virgin olive oil to coat the pasta thoroughly, toss together and serve, with the cheese crumbled over the dish.



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I’m a real mutt, my ethnic roots stretch from China to Italy to Portugal to Germany.  But I grew up with great Italian cooking and one of my favorite comfort foods is a good tomato sauce, preferably with eggplant parmigiana.  My instincts are to make every dish with an Italian flair and plenty of garlic but occasionally I can restrain myself.  My husband and I made these dumplings one night to serve to our dinner guest.  They really are easy and fun to make but definitely time consuming.  We folded and sealed for a good hour to make 73 dumplings. 


My problem was that the pea and ricotta filling made me feel like I was making ravioli or tortellini rather than dumplings.  I kept trying to convince my husband how a lemon cream sauce would go perfectly with these and he kept telling me to embrace my Asian roots.  I’m glad I listened (it’s not often).  We tried three different ways of cooking them – boiling, steaming, and frying.  Boiling was definitely the worst. They quickly got waterlogged and soggy.  Steaming was definitely the best and frying was a good alternative to get them crispy and dark.  We served them with an easy dipping sauce – soy sauce, garlic, rice vinegar, fish sauce, and red pepper flakes.


For instructions on how to fold your dumplings, you can look on the wonton wrapper package.  My package didn’t have any instructions so I found this great YouTube clip with a quick folding demonstration.  Or you can invent your own way of folding!

 Pea & Ricotta Dumplngs

Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

  •       2 cups (about 10 ounces) cups peas (freshly shelled or frozen)

  •      2/3 cup ricotta cheese

  •       2 tablespoons olive oil

  •       scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

  •       1 small shallot, minced
1/3 cup grated Parmesan

  •       zest of one large lemon
  •       1 package of wonton wrappers, or round wrappers

special equipment: bamboo steamer is ideal, I used a metal steamer sprayed with vegetable oil

1.  Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Salt the water (as you would pasta water) and add the peas. Cook until bright green in color and puffy, about a minute if the peas were frozen, less if you started with fresh ones.
 Drain the peas and run under cold water for one minute to stop the cooking.

2.  With a food processor (or hand blender) blend the peas, ricotta cheese, olive oil, and salt into a puree. I like a bit of texture, so I don’t go too far. Return the mixture to a big bowl and stir in the shallots, Parmesan, and lemon zest. Taste. Add more salt if needed.

2.  Fill the dumplings using an assembly line technique – a dozen at a time.  You can follow the instructions on the wonton wrapper, if there are any,  or check out these YouTube clip on how to easily fold and seal.  Place twelve wrappers out on the counter, drop a very scant teaspoon of filling onto each wrapper (avoid the desire to overfill), rub the perimeter of each wrapper with a wet finger seal, fold in half, and then fold in the two sides and seal.  Set aside on a plate. Do the next dozen and repeat until all the filling is used up.

3.  Set up your steamer, rub each dumpling with a bit of olive oil or spray your steamer with PAM, arrange the dumplings in a single layer (being careful not to overlap), and steam for about three minutes – until the dumplings are tender and translucent. Sprinkle with a touch of salt or serve with your favorite dipping sauce and enjoy.



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I did it.  I made my own homemade pasta.  It wasn’t impossible and it tasted really good.  We had friends over for a casual dinner so of course, since they are good friends, we decided to experiment on them.  I had some dry pasta waiting in the pantry in case the homemade pasta was a disaster but we never needed it.  The difference between homemade pasta and dry pasta was astounding.  The homemade makaruni had it’s own taste and flavor.  I also like it’s rustic look because you don’t need to obsess about making it look perfect, it’s supposed to be rustic and rich.  And so very homemade.

If you are thinking of making homemade, fresh pasta but don’t have a pasta maker, this is a perfect starter recipe.  It’s also fun to have others help with hand-rolling the makaruni.  I recommend getting the makaruni as thin as possible, the smallest, thinniest ones tasted best.

 Homemade Makaruni Pasta with Baby Bella Mushroom Sauce

Adapted from Cooking Light April 2008

Homemade Makaruni Pasta:

  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • Dash of salt
  • 6 tablespoons of water
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of extravirgin olive oil
  • 5 large egg yolks
  1. To prepare pasta, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.  Combine flour and dash of salt into a food processor.  Combine 6 tablespoons of water, 1 ½ tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and egg yolks in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. 
  2. With food processor on, slowly pour water mixture through food chute, processing until dough forms a ball.  Turn dough out onto ad lightly floured surface; knead lightly 5 times.  Shape dough into a disk.  Dust dough lightly with flour; wrap in plastic wrap.  Let stand 30 minutes.
  3. Pat dough into a 3 X 8 inch rectangle 1 inch thick.  Divide dough into 8 equal portions.  Working with 1 portion at a time (cover dough to prevent drying), divide dough into 14 equal pieces.  Roll each piece between your palms back and forth, into a strand about 2 inches long.  Place strands on a well-floured jelly-roll pan.  Repeat procedure with remaining dough portions to form 112 strands.
  4. Cook pasta in 6 quarts of boiling water for about 2 minutes or until pasta is done.  Drain.


Baby Bella Mushroom Sauce

    • 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
    • 2 cups of baby bella mushrooms, sliced
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 1 shallot, chopped
    • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
    • 2 cups of chicken broth or stock
    • 2 tablespoons of fresh-flat leaf parsley
    • 2 tablespoons of chives
    • ¼ cup of grated fresh Parmiggano-Reggiano cheese
  1. To prepare sauce, heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large nonstick skillet on med-high heat.  Add onion to pan, sauté for 3 mins, stirring frequently.  Clear a spot in the bottom of the pan, add the garlic and shallots and sauté for 30 seconds.  Add salt and pepper, sauté for 30 seconds, stirring frequently.  Add mushrooms, reduce heat, and cook for 3 minutes.  Add 2 cups of chicken broth, increasing heat to medium-high, stirring occasionally, allowing the sauce to thicken for 8 minutes. 
  2. Add pasta, parsley, and chives to the mushroom sauce.  Toss well.  Serve sprinkled with parmiggano-reggiano cheese.  


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I have fond memories of bright orange mac & cheese out of the box from childhood and this afternoon, I came home tired and starving after a long morning.  I was in need of something hearty and comforting.  So of course, I searched the pantry for a random box of mac & cheese.  I got excited when I pulled out a box of Quinoa, thinking that it might be Kraft, but alas no box of processed cheese.  So I decided to be resourceful and actually make my own from scratch.  It was so quick and easy – I made it in practically the same time it would have taken to make it from a box.  Plus, it was healthier, nothing processed or artificial, and the heartiness of whole wheat pasta.

“Healthy” & Hearty Mac & Cheese

Adapted from Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything Vegetarian

2 ½ cups of milk (low-fat is fine)

2 bay leaves

1 pound elbow, shell, ziti, or rotini (I prefer to use whole wheat pasta)

4 tablespoons of butter

3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups grated cheese, such as sharp cheddar, gouda, provolone

½ cup of grated Parmesan cheese

Freshly ground pepper

Sea Salt

Dash of Nutmeg

Dash of Garlic


Dana’s Ingredient Notes: 

-To reduce the fat of the recipe, cut the butter in half and if you do that then reduce the flour.  Also do a mix of low-fat cheese with your regular full fat cheese. 

-For the best flavor, the key with the cheese is to have a variety.  It can be expensive if you go to the grocery store and buy 7 different types of cheese but you can also be intentional and hand-pick a good mix.  For a quick meal, just use up all the random (not moldy) cheese that is hanging out in your fridge. 

-If you had some pancetta in the house, it might not be a bad idea to sauté it and throw it in for a saltier, more Italian flavored dish.  Mix it with the pasta and cheese sauce before going in the oven.


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it.
  2. Cook the milk with the bay leaves in a small saucepan over med-low heat.  When small bubbles appear along the sides, about 5 mins later, turn off the heat and let stand.
  3. Cook the pasta to the point where it is almost done but you would still think it needed another minute to become tender.  It’s important not to overcook the pasta.  Drain it, and put it in a large bowl or casserole dish.
  4. In a small saucepan over med-low heat, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter; when it is foamy, add the flour and cook, stirring, until the mixture browns, about 5 mins.  Remove the bay leaves from the milk and add about ¼ cup of milk to the hot flour mixture, stirring with a wire whisk all the while.  As soon as the mixture becomes smooth, add a little more milk and continue to do so until the milk is used up and the mixture is thick and smooth.  Add the cheddar, salt and pepper, nutmeg, and garlic.
  5. Pour the sauce over the noodles, and toss in the Parmesan, and freshly grating a little more over the top.  Bake until bubbling and all the cheese is melted, about 10 – 15 mins.  Be careful it does not dry out in the oven.  Serve piping hot.

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Lemon Penne with Arugula

I bought these new yellow ballet flats, which make me think of spring.  And in cooking, the yellow of lemon and freshness and lightness of their taste in a dish makes me yearn for warmer, sunnier days.  So even if spring hasn’t fully arrived here, I can pretend it has with my yellow shoes and my lemon penne with arugula.  This was a quick dinner that has a crisp taste and highlights the flavors of all the greens and tomatoes. 

I lightened the dish by using low-fat milk instead of the heavy cream.  I mixed in a little Wondra (quick dissolving flour) to the butter to thicken the milk since I wasn’t using cream.  You don’t get the same creaminess with the milk but it really reduces the amount of fat in the recipe.  I also substituted whole-wheat pasta for regular pasta.  Give this dish a try, especially if you’ve never had lemon with your pasta.  It’s great as a meal onto itself or as a side dish for fish or chicken.

Lemon Penne with Arugula

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home


1 tablespoon of butter

1 tablespoon of minced garlic (2 cloves)

2 cups of heavy cream (I used milk)

3 lemons

1 bunch of broccoli

1 pound of dried penne or fusili pasta

½ pound baby arugula

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan

1 pint of grape or cherry tomatoes, halved


  1. Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the garlic, and cook for 60 seconds. Add the cream or milk, the zest from 2 lemons, the juice of 2 lemons, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until it starts to thicken.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the broccoli in florets and discard the stem. Cook the florets in a pot of boiling salted water for 3 to 5 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain the broccoli and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta, and cook according to the directions on the package, about 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain the pasta in a colander and place it back into the pot. Immediately add the cream mixture and cook it over medium-low heat for 3 minutes, until most of the sauce has been absorbed in the pasta.
  4. Pour the hot pasta into a large bowl, add the arugula, Parmesan, tomatoes, and cooked broccoli. Cut the last lemon in half lengthwise, slice it 1/4-inch thick crosswise, and add it to the pasta. Toss well, season to taste, and serve hot.


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