Tag Archives: pasta

I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti

Roasted Red Pepper Carbonara and cooking for boys

The title of this post comes from a great book I read several years ago that chronicles all the meals the author has made for the men in her life. When I read it at 21, I thought I could relate, but now at 26, I wish I had stolen and kept this title for myself.

The first boy I cooked for was my high school boyfriend Aaron. It’s funny thinking about the grown up things you want to do when you’re 14, but having no license or no money really prevents you from trying. I think it was Valentine’s Day. I followed a recipe from my mom’s Joy of Cooking for spaghetti bolognese, his favorite meal. I remember chopping the onions, carrot, and celery for the sauce and thinking it was so strange that these three things go in pasta. Now I understand the importance of mirepoix in cooking, the holy trinity, and I can recognize it in any dish I eat.

I spent a long time over the stove, stirring, smelling, following the recipe to a t, asking my mom if it looked right. Finally, it was the big moment and I was very nervous for my cooking debut. We ate in our library where I set up a card table and folding chairs. We shut the French doors and had the room to ourselves, although mom and dad definitely peeked their heads in a few times. I probably lit candles and played a Creed cd. He gave me a song he wrote about seasons changing and the color of my eyes. I think I thought this meal was the most romantic thing ever. Haha. I’m glad to be 12 years older and wiser now (if anything, at least in music taste!)

There have been more boys and many more pastas since that first bolognese. (And we get to drink wine with it now too!) Fresh corn and pesto cappellini on a rooftop, a super simple carbonara because I had nothing else in my fridge except two eggs and I really wanted to cook for him, rigatoni with sausage peppers and onions eaten on the couch wearing matching sweatpants, meatball lasagna for another Valentine’s Day, chicken and peppers penne with creamy goat cheese that we cooked together, adding pancetta to spaghetti because I want to win your heart over with bacon.

I love cooking for these guys and surely for the yet-to-be-determined next guy and guy after that. I love that I don’t have to follow recipes anymore. Garlic, olive oil, and butter is really all I need. Fresh veggies or heart-winning bacon? Throw it in. Got some heavy cream? Duh. And grated fresh parm on top of course. It’s so easy… (and now I guess I can leave my nerves for the part that matters). I love slyly waiting and watching them take their first bite, to see their reaction. (FYI dudes, this is a really important moment. Don’t f-it up. Tell me it’s good. Cause I know it is.) Oh and I love that these pastas are simple to make that I don’t have too many dishes to do after dinner. Extra props to the guys who offer to wash them, while I just sit there and do nothing.

Ok, here’s the cheesy part. There isn’t always a boy to cook for. But so what? I still make the same amount just for myself. And I still put in the same amount of love into it – honestly, probably even more. I still win over my own heart with pancetta. There’s still wine and memorable nights. I just have to do my own dishes.

Roasted Red Pepper Carbonara and cooking for boys.

I made this dish for dinner recently and it’s a perfect example of a no-fuss, delicious treat for myself. Here’s the Nikki no-recipe version:

Roasted Red Pepper Carbonara

In a big pan, sautée garlic, olive, oil and butter over medium heat. Chop roasted red peppers and add to pan. Meanwhile, boil water and cook pasta. Add al dente pasta to pan with peppers/sauce. In a small bowl, scramble a raw egg with salt and pepper. Swirl egg into pasta/peppers until creamy (but not too much that the egg cooks and forms white pieces). Add fresh parm and extra pepper. Serve with wine and side of cute boy (Ryan Gosling in Crazy Stupid Love will do just fine). Bon appétit!

Let’s Make Some Pasta

On Christmas Eve, my brothers and I crowd around our granite kitchen counter at home in New Jersey and make pasta. (They weren’t going to do it this year, but thank goodness I was there to make sure it happened.) My mom learned how to make pasta from my Italian Great Grandmother Alma Pinciotti and my mom taught us three. Family, food, tradition, holiday. All the right ingredients to do something great here.

Pasta from the store just isn’t the same as homemade. When you make it yourself, you can taste both the rough and delicate work you put into making it. It’s so fresh that it melts in your mouth. It’s tastes special and it’s one of my favorite things to eat. Even better with my brother’s tomato sauce that’s been simmering all day long. So, let’s make some pasta.

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Now wasn’t that fun? Now aren’t you hungry? Thanks to my brothers for indulging in my documenting of this process. Those are my older brother’s hands you see in these pictures. Kneading is a workout. I am lucky to have strong co-chefs. If you couldn’t figure it out from the photos, here’s a basic recipe.

Homemade Pasta

  • 4 cups all purpose flour + extra flour for hands and surfaces
  • 5 eggs
  • pinch of salt

Make a well in a mound of your flour on a countertop or cutting board. Crack eggs into well. Sprinkle with salt. With a fork, begin whisking the eggs and slowly incorporating the flour into the wet mixture. Form into two balls. (add a little water if you need to to help it form). Keep your hands and surfaces dusted with flour at all times. Knead balls for 5-10 mintes. Cut balls into 6 parts. Roll to the size of a pancake and bring to the pasta machine. Roll out the dough at a #2 setting. Then twice more through the machine at #4 or #5 settings. When dough is the right size for you, roll up the long pieces into logs. Slice with a knife. Unroll each piece. Boil water. Cook for 3 minutes. Toss with your favorite sauce or just butter, olive oil, and parm.

Art to Inspiration

echoes of fragrant voices jo howe

Echoes of Fragrant Voices by Jo Howe


When I first saw this artwork, I immediately had one thought and one thought only. Pasta. It’s probably because it’s my favorite food. And because I eat it several times a week. But seriously I can’t get it out of my mind when I see this piece.

My pasta routine usually includes sautéing farmer’s market veggies in garlic and olive oil, adding a little cream, tossing in some capellini, and topping with a heap of shaved parmesan. It’s simple, quick, and always delicious. But this piece got me thinking of other kinds of pasta I’m craving to make this summer. Corn in pasta? Yes please!

pasta art to inspiration

Sweet corn, chilies and burrata over fettucini • baked spaghetti and mozzarella • Spaghetti and Meatballs All’Amatriciana • Fettuccine with Walnuts, Zucchini Ribbons, and Pecorino Romano • Capellini Gratin • Fettuccine Carbonara with Fried Eggs   


If you’d like to get involved with the Art to Inspiration project, you can sign up here.

Butternut Squash Lasagna

It’s Sunday, so that means Farmer’s Market day for me in DC. Probably my favorite thing about where I live is my proximity to the Dupont Circle Farmer’s Market. I can roll out of bed and right into all the greatness of the market…fresh produce, flowers, croissants, happy people and happy vendors. The thing about the market is that through the winter it gets a little dull. I’m sure I could be more creative there. But really, there’s only so much squash you can buy.

I’m not in DC right now, so I didn’t go over to the market this morning. But I would like to share a fantastic winter recipe featuring my favorite winter market pick: butternut squash.

I found this butternut squash lasagna recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks: Giada’s Family Dinner. All of the recipes in the book represent everything I love about food: comfort, family, tradition. Anyway, I love this creamy lasagna recipe and I definitely recommend it while it’s still cold outside. The best part about making a lasagna (especially when you live alone) is that you get to enjoy it all week long. It holds up great in the fridge and freezer and makes an excellent work lunch.

You can find the recipe here. I add ricotta cheese, because really I don’t feel like lasagna is complete without it.

While we’re on the topic of lasagna….I made a wonderful meatball lasagna a few weeks ago for Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately I got deathly ill with the flu that night so I didn’t get the chance to photograph it. You can find that recipe here. I highly suggest this lasagna too….my only regret is that I didn’t get to spend the whole week eating the leftovers! Just perfect winter comfort food.