Tag Archives: pasta

Sunday Pasta: Spinach Mac and Cheese

Cupcakes for Breakfast: spinach mac and cheese

It’s getting chilly out there. (No snow in DC yet though…I’m a little jealous New York.) And while I make pasta almost every week, no matter the season, now I want mine extra creamy and rich. (Like the fusilli at Red Hen or cacio e pepe at Rose’s Luxury…mmm.) Soon the farmer’s markets will start shrinking too. Luckily I know I’ll always be able to find bundles of fresh spinach and local cheese. Combine them with some classic elbows and indulge with some cream, and you’ve got pure comfort food. Sure they’re decadent ingredients, but at least you’ll know them all and where they’re from. Plus, this is my favorite way to load up on my greens!

Cupcakes for Breakfast: Sunday pasta - spinach mac and cheese

Sunday pasta is supposed to be a relaxing activity. Not a lot of thought. A way to unwind before the week ramps up. (A glass of wine usually helps with this too.) So here’s the Nikki no-recipe version:

Spinach Mac and Cheese

Put on a pot of water for pasta. In a large pan, melt some butter and olive oil. Add some chopped garlic. Chop the ends off fresh spinach leaves and add to the pan. Stir until spinach is cooked down. Season with salt, pepper, and a little nutmeg. Meanwhile, cook elbow pasta. Add some heavy cream to spinach. (Don’t be shy here.) Liberally grate cheddar and parmesan cheese into sauce. Add cooked pasta to the sauce. Continue to add cheese until you just can’t wait to dig in.

Cupcakes for Breakfast: Sunday pasta - spinach mac and cheese

Sunday Pasta: Roasted Tomato, Corn, Ricotta

On Sundays I make pasta. It’s not overly planned or anything, but over time I realized this was become a routine. It makes sense. After a weekend of moving all around the city and most likely eating out a lot, this is my time to regroup and unwind. I always have a bunch of veggies from my CSA and and I visited the farmer’s market earlier in the day for more provisions. Pasta is just my go to. It’s comforting and easy. I know it’s the perfect base for experimenting with any of those veggies or new ingredients. Carbs schmarbs. The kitchen calls.

Cupcakes for Breakfast: Pasta with Roasted Tomato, Corn, Spinach and Ricotta

This pasta celebrates the seasons changing. The corn is still so fresh and summery. Tomato season is almost over, so while I can, I like to roast them for some fall-flavor. Ricotta from Blue Ridge Dairy is so creamy and light. I love knowing about where these ingredients come from and that they all end up working together to create something new and exciting to devour.

I take my time and sip wine while cooking. Between steps, I bob in and out of the kitchen, cleaning a little and getting ready for the week. Coming back to the stove slows me down. Maybe I’m crazy that making a big mess is a way to wind down but I love it. It fuels me. It’s my time. And even though I always cook enough for small dinner party, usually I’m pretty happy that it’s just me. Sunday nights with me and my pasta.

Cupcakes for Breakfast: Pasta with Roasted Tomato, Corn, Spinach and Ricotta

As you’ve read before, I don’t really do recipes for pasta. Because I never measure anything out really I think with repetition, you’ll be able to come up with something great yourself too. Here’s my non-recipe recipe:

Pasta with Roasted Tomato, Corn, Spinach and Ricotta

Preheat oven to 300° and throw a pot of water on the stove to boil for the pasta. On a baking sheet, toss golden cherry tomatoes and whole garlic cloves with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast until soft about an hour or you’ve run out of patience. Meanwhile, heat some olive oil and butter in a pan on the stove. Cut corn off the cob and toss in the pan. Cook for a while until soft. Toss in some fresh spinach (cause you have it and you should eat something green) and cook down. Now’s about the time you should probably cook your pasta. I typically use cappellini, but I think bowties would be nice with this too. Remove tomatoes from the oven and pour into the pan, juices and all. I removed the whole garlic, chopped, and returned it to the pan. Toss with pasta and fresh ricotta. Best eaten on the couch watching West Wing season 4.

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.