Ravioli with Creamy Roasted Pepper Sauce

What’s for dinner? I cringe when I get asked that question. I always get my act together, but typically that question is asked the moment I step in the door after a chaotic day. There’s typically a few hungry people just staring at me waiting for me to answer. That’s when the stopwatch starts. That 30-minute countdown to get something on the table.

It can be hard to menu plan for a typical week as my week typically shifts from day to day and the schedule is always changing. Working full-time during the day, combined with the kids’ busy after-school plans, means that I’m typically getting home at 5:30 or 6 in the evening. So I get it. The kids are validly hungry.

Those same kids though are pretty critical about dinner options and their appetites for flavor change on day to day. So it’s always a gamble whether or not they’ll like what I’m about to prepare. I get excited if I get some input from the kids when it comes to the menu planning.

When my older daughter, my pickiest eater, called me in the middle of the day and asked if we could pretty please have some ravioli for dinner tonight, it didn’t matter that I hadn’t a clue what ingredients I had in my house, I would try to figure out some way to oblige.

I do typically try to have some cheese ravioli in my freezer though. It’s a great shortcut to have ready to go. In moments like this, I would typically just toss the simple ravioli with a simple doctored up jar of marinara sauce, but I wanted to do something different this time. I had all these good intentions for specific ravioli accompaniments, but quickly learned that my fridge wasn’t as stocked as I wanted it. But I did have sweet peppers sitting in my fridge that needed to get used up. Alas, my family doesn’t like sauteed or cooked peppers. But maybe I could do something else with them.

I decided to roast the peppers. I threw the papers on a foil lined baking sheet and a broiled them, turning them every so often so they were charred all over. Next, I peeled off the outer char layer.

Afterwards, I tossed them in my Vitamix along with some fresh basil, olive oil, garlic, and lemon. I love using my Vitamix. It takes like 30 seconds to do anything in there.

Next,  I sauteed up some onion and garlic and I added the sauce mixture into the onion mixture. To that mixture, I stirred in some ricotta cheese and a little bit of veggie broth to thin the mixture a little. I then tossed the cooked ravioli into the sauce. Stirring well. And done. I served the ravioli with a spinach salad and everyone was happy. My picky family members who typically aren’t pepper fans loved the sauce. Dinner was served. And it took less than 30 minutes.

The best thing about this sauce? It can be used on anything. Try it on veggies. Try it on grilled chicken. This flavorful sauce is perfect for anything that needs a boost. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Ravioli with Creamy Roasted Pepper Sauce
 
Author:

Ingredients
  • Frozen Cheese Ravioli
  • 20 Assorted Sweet Baby Peppers or 2 regular size red, yellow or orange bell peppers
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • ½ tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup veggie broth
  • additional salt and pepper as needed

Instructions
  1. Cook the ravioli according to the directions on the package, drain and set aside.
  2. Cover a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and place the peppers on it. Set your oven to broil and broil the peppers for about 8-10 minutes, turning the peppers every couple of minutes for even charring.
  3. Once the peppers are charred on all sides, transfer them to a large glass bowl and tightly cover with foil. Let sit for a few minutes.
  4. After about five minutes, remove the foil cover. Remove the skin from the peppers – it should have detached a bit. Slice open the peppers and remove any stems or seeds.
  5. Transfer seeded peppers to a blender or food processor. Add in the oil, basil, lemon juice, garlic clove, salt and pepper. Blend until pureed.
  6. Heat up a large saute pan with olive oil. Add in chopped onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent.
  7. Pour in pepper sauce mixture. Stir in ricotta cheese and broth.
  8. Stir completely. Toss in pasta and let it absorb some of the sauce.
  9. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
  10. Serve and enjoy!

 

Arugula Pesto

pasta-with-arugula-pesto

If my 10-year-old self could see me now, I wonder what she’d say.

I was a picky eater with a pretty developed flavor palate. My parents are foodies, but at 10, I was anything but. My parents had a rule that we had to try everything. We couldn’t just stick out our tongue. I remember several evenings around the family dinner table where it was a total battle of wills to just take a bite of the mahi mahi or two bites of the curry. Who knew?

At age 10, all I wanted was a crunchy iceberg salad at dinner. Instead, I had a plate of mesclun and arugula greens. I remember the requests to “finish the arugula on the plate and then….” I didn’t believe in arugula at age 10. Why does this strange lettuce have to have so much flavor?! Arugula, really?? Who knew that I would grow up to be this person that seeks out arugula. Heck, I even grow arugula on my fire escape! That’s how much I love it!

In the off season, I tend to buy the bags of baby arugula from Trader Joe’s. Arugula is in season now – as are a variety of other greens. And I’m in salad green heaven.

Arugula is a fantastic green characterized by its amazing slightly peppery flavor. It’s also sometimes called roquette or rocket greens.

fresh-arugula

Last week, as I came upon the farmer’s market outside my office, I spotted some beautiful greens and I had to have them. I eagerly bought two bunches. Of course, when I came home and picked up my CSA, there were a couple more bunches. This whole lot of arugula was in addition to a bag of baby arugula sitting in my fridge. Um. I think I had more arugula that I needed. I mean, I love salads, but this much arugula was making me twitchy.

I decided to make a pesto out of the greens. My husband usually turns down a basil pesto, but I had a hunch that the lighter flavor of the arugula leaves would be more to his liking. And I was right!

I washed and dried a few cups of the greens and pulsed it in my Cuisinart along with some garlic, lemon juice, pine nuts, salt, pepper and olive oil. It took all of two minutes.

Arugula-cuisinart

I added the pesto to some pappardelle that I tossed with some sautéed shallots, garlic, mushrooms, chickpeas and additional lemon juice. I sprinkled on some red pepper flakes and ground black pepper and dinner was served. Dinner was a success. I stored the rest of the pesto in my freezer. I am totally making this again. If only arugula season was year-round.

Hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

Arugula Pesto
 
Author:

Ingredients
  • 3.5 cups of arugula leaves (you can include some of the stems), washed
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup toasted pine nuts
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • additional salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
  1. Place everything except for the olive oil in to the bowl of a food processor.
  2. Process everything then slowly pour in the olive oil until everything is processed and mixed together.
  3. Taste the pesto and add additional salt and pepper as needed.
  4. Enjoy! Add this pesto pasta or use as a pizza topping. The options are endless.

Arugula-Pesto-Long-as-Smart-Object-1

 

Meatless Monday: Garlic Scapes and Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

I love this time of year. Wandering around – there is so much more color to be found at the vegetable market. While wandering HMart, I was excited to see bundles of garlic scapes. In the past, I have chopped them up and added them to stir fries, sauteed veggies, and salads. I decided to make a pesto out of it this time. I thought that it would go well with some sun dried tomatoes I had that needed to be used up. This pesto comes together fast with the help of a food processor.

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Garlic Scapes and Sun Dried Tomato Pesto
Ingredients:

1 small bunch of garlic scapes (about 6 or 7)
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes
1/2 cup parsley or basil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
3/4 olive oil
kosher salt
ground pepper

Cut up the scapes in to manageable pieces and place in the bowl of your food processor.

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Add in the sun dried tomatoes, basil, lemon juice and pine nuts.

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Pulse a few times.

Add in the parmesan cheese.

With the food processor at a low-medium speed, pour in the olive oil.

Taste a bit.

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Add in some salt and pepper to taste.

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For dinner tonight, I served the pesto with some white beans and broccoli over pasta. Delightful dinner.

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Spinach and Walnut Pesto

Some of you may already know about my love for pesto. Those of you that know me will also know that not everyone in my life shares this love of pesto. So I keep trying to come up with ways to change up the pesto in hopes that J might become a pesto convert. The good thing is that he is willing to try anything.

While watching Lidia Bastianich the other night, I came across her making some spinach pesto. Looked so good! I decided to give it a whirl.

I decided to wing it as far as a recipe goes. Taste as you go along. Measurements below are estimates.

Spinach and Walnut Pesto
Inspired by Lidia Bastianich

Ingredients:

1 bag of washed spinach leaves (standard Trader Joe’s size)
2 cups washed basil leaves (loosely packed)
5 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup of chopped toasted walnuts
Olive Oil
Salt to taste

Place the various leaves in the food processor. Turn it on.

Add the garlic while it’s going.

Add in the walnuts.  Chop Chop

Slowly add in the olive oil. Let it get to the consistence you like.

Taste it a bit. Add some salt. Just a couple of teaspoons.

I like to make a lot and then freeze it for future meals.

Enjoy it over anything you like. We had it with some pasta. Delish!

Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup with Pistou


Tonight was a night like any other. With not much time, I needed to execute a decent dinner for two starving children.


I try not to serve ready-made processed food, but I do take the liberty to have shortcuts lying around in wait. I am not ashamed to have some easy, ready-to-go meal starters. Tonight’s meal starter was on of those boxed organic soups. I love them. They aren’t good on their own, but used as a base to something – they work out well. I usually just buy the vegetable broth cartons to keep on hand, but a recent trip to Trader Joe’s had me buying some other flavors to play with.

A quick scan of the pantry and freezer when I got home this evening revealed the perfect quick fix for tonight. We had creamy tomato tortellini soup with a basil pistou. I had everything ready to go! Dinner came together in less than a half hour and the kids were ecstatic with full bellies. I served the soup with some good crusty ciabatta bread and some chopped veggies. Everyone is happy tonight.

Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup with Pistou
Ingredients:


1 tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 carton of tomato soup (I used the boxed Trader Joes)
1 can of chopped tomatoes
2 cups of vegetable broth
1 cup of milk
2 tsp. italian seasoning
1/4 cup chopped basil
salt (to taste)
pepper
red pepper flakes (optional)
1.5 cups of small tortellini
1/2 cup pesto (I prepare in large batches and then freeze in ice cube trays)
Parmesean Cheese, grated


Directions:
In a soup pot, heat the olive oil on medium-hight heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute for 5 minutes on medium.

Add in the canned tomatoes, vegetable broth, milk, and the boxed soup. Add in the spices. With an immersion blender, puree the soup.

Bring the soup to a boil. Add in the tortellini. Let cook for 15-20 minutes or until the pasta is done. If using fresh tortellini, this will only take about 5 minutes.

Serve the soup in a bowl with a spoon of pesto and some grated parmesean cheese. Enjoy!

Gnocchi with Basil Cream Sauce

I came across some gnocchi the other day, and I decided that I must have them…I just needed to make them for a dinner. I have eaten gnocchi maybe twice in my life. When made the right way, it is really good. When made wrong, it can me a heavy, lumpy, pasty mess. Gnocchi are essentially potato/wheat dumplings. They are a heavy meal, so you don’t need much to fill you up. I am determined to make my own one day. I fondly remember one Saturday afternoon with my dad in Minneapolis, watching Lidia Bastianich and her family making gnocchi. They make it look so simple. Lovely Lidia had her miniscule grandchildren working hard on the gnocchi. I wonder if I can get that sort of child labor into my kitchen. They can even pronounce gnocchi properly!

Anyhow, I decided to make the gnocchi with a basil cream sauce. I chose the basil cream sauce mainly because I scored some beautiful fresh basil at the store when I was picking up the gnocchi. The spouse is not as fond as pesto as I am…so basil cream sauce is some sort of middle ground. One day I will share the great pesto story.

Basil Cream Sauce
Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
salt
pepper
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup milk (I used skim)
1/4 cup grated parmesean
1/2 cup baby peas
1/3 cup pesto (I whipped some up in the food processor for this, you could use store-bought)

In a sauce pan, melt the butter. Add in the olive oil. Add in the garlic and onion and saute a few minutes. Add in some salt and pepper. Stir. Stir in the flour. Whisk in the milk and cream. Keep whisking. Add in the parmsesean. Do not stop whisking! Add in the pesto and the peas. Stir, stir, stir. Turn the heat to low. Let’s move on to the dumplings.

Gnocchi cooks up very quick. Do not cook until you are ready to serve. For a pound of gnocchi, heat up 4 quarts of salted water until boiling. Throw the gnocchi into the hot water. When the gnocchi floats to the top, it means they are done. Drain the gnocchi.

Plate up your dinner. Garnish with some pine nuts, basil leaves, and a good healthy dose of parmesean cheese.

Enjoy!
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