Weekly Winner: Summer – Time for Corn & Carbs (and bacon!)

Corn FettuciniWhen summer hits, I need corn.  Corn on the cob? Check.  Corn in salads and salsas? You bet. Corn in stir-fries? Absolutely!  But I never really thought about corn and pasta.  Now, that’s all I can think about, thanks to Corn & Bacon Fettuccine from Southern Living Magazine.  Although, honestly, the bacon may have something to do with it too!

This is a seriously creamy, dreamy, decadent pasta that somehow seems summery thanks to the fresh herbs and fresh corn.  Of course, nobody saying you can’t make this in the dead of winter with some good frozen corn; but man, with super-sweet, farmer’s market fresh, midwestern corn…. this is hard to beat!  And… did I mention, there’s bacon?

Corn-and-Bacon Fettuccine

Serves 4


8 oz uncooked fettuccine

4 ears, fresh corn, shucked

4 thick-cut bacon slices, chopped

1/2 cup finely chopped shallots

1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme

1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil, divided

2-1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided

3 Tbsp all-purpose flour

3 cups whole milk, divided

1/2 tsp black pepper

1-1/4 oz Parmesan cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, and set aside
  2. Meanwhile, cut kernels from corn cobs; set aside. Using small holes of a box grater, scrape milky liquid from cobs into a small bowl; set aside
  3. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high, stirring often, until crispy, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in corn kernels, shallots, thyme, 2 tablespoons of the basil and one teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring often, until mixture softens, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat.
  4. Whisk together flour and 1/2 cup of the milk in a small bowl until smooth  Stir together reserved corn cob liquid and remaining 2-1/2 cups milk in a saucepan, bring to a simmer over high.  Add flour mixture.  Cook, whisking occasionally, until thickened and slightly reduced, 5 to 6 minutes/  Stir in pepper and remaining 1-1/2 teaspoons salt.
  5. Return bacon mixture to medium-high heat.  Add cooked pasta and thickened sauce; toss to coat. Cook, tossing occasionally, until mixture comes to a simmer, about 2 minutes.  Divide pasta among 4 shallow bowls; sprinkle with Parmesan and remaining basil.


Weekly Winner: Beef Bolognese’s Elegant Blonde Sister

chicken bologneseBeef Bolognese is wonderful.  Hearty, meaty, slow-cooked goodness tossed with pasta… what’s not to like?  The thing is, it’s serious…weighty. It’s like that one guy at the party that’s just… well… a bit much.  Nice enough guy, well dressed and probably super smart, but just kind of weighs you down.  That’s why I’m so happy that Good Housekeeping Magazine introduced me to Beef Bolognese’s lighter, brighter, more elegant sister Chicken Bolognese.  The best part, unlike her slow-cooked brother, Chicken Bolognese is dressed and ready for the party in under 30 minutes!

Chicken Bolognese

Serves 4


12 oz mezzi rigatoni

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb ground chicken

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground pepper

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 Tbsp grated lemon zest

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

3/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 Tbsp tarragon, chopped

1/4 cup chives, snipped

2 Tbsp unsalted butter


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.  Reserve 1 cup pasta water, drain and return to pot
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet on medium.  Add garlic and cook, stirring, until starting to sizzle, about 1 minute.
  3. Add chicken, red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until almost cooked, about 4 minutes. Add wine and simmer until nearly evaporated.
  4. Add broth and toss to combine, then bring to a simmer.  Fold in lemon zest, cheese, and herbs.  Off heat, stir in butter to melt.
  5. Toss with rigatoni and 1/2 cup reserved pasta water, adding, more if pasta seems dry.  Top with additional Parmesan, if desired.

Weekly Winner: Big Comforting Bowl of Beige

pasta chickpea stewDesperate times call for … beige food??  Perhaps.  Even though I’m a firm believe that we “eat with our eyes first”, every so often the need for tasty, nourishing, comfort food overtakes the desire for pretty food.  I find that to be incredibly true now.

Pasta and Chickpea Stew with Rosemary-Chile Oil is definitely not a “looker”.  However what it lacks in color and visual interest it makes up for in taste and soul-satisfying comfort.

The recipe comes from Fine Cooking magazine and is an easy weeknight meal.  One note, the longer you keep this dish, the less liquid is in it and the fatter the pasta gets.  The taste is still fabulous but it does suffer from refrigerator bloat.

Pasta and Chickpea Stew with Rosemary-Chile Oil

Serves 4


2 15-1/2 oz cans chickpeas, undrained

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup finely chopped yellow onion

2 ribs celery, finely chopped, plus chopped leaves for garnish

1-1/2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth

1 small hunk Parmigiano-Reg3/4giano, preferably with rind, rind removed and reserved

Kosher salt

8 oz small pasta, such as tubettini

1 medium clove garlic, smashed and peeled

1/2 tsp coarsely chopped fresh rosemary

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes; more for serving (optional)

Freshly ground black pepper


  • Drain 1 can of chickpea liquid into a blender. Add about 3/4 cup of the chickpeas.  Puree until smooth. Drain and rinse the remaining chickpeas; set aside.
  • Heat 2 Tbsp of the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and celery, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the broth, chickpeas, chickpea puree, the Parmigiano rind, if using, and 1/4 tsp salt.  Raise the heat to medium high, and bring to a simmer, skimming any foam.
  • Stir in the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente, simming any foam.
  • Meanwhile, combine the remaining 1/4 cup oil, garlic, rosemary, pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan.  Cook over low heat until small bubbles form and the mixture is fragrant , about 2 minutes.  Remove from the heat.  Strain and set aside.
  • Remove and discard the rind from the stew. Season to taste with salt. Divide among four serving bowls. Top with the celery leaves, black pepper, shaved Parmigiano, a drizzle of rosemary-chile oil, and extra pepper flakes, if you like. Serve immediately.

Weekly Winner: This Pasta is Nuts!

walnut pastaPasta in a creamy sauce.  Really that’s all I need to know and I’m in.  Fettuccine with Walnut Sauce is hearty comfort in a bowl.   Don’t feel bad about the small amount of heavy cream and cheese in this recipe, the walnuts more than make up for it with their “brain fuel” benefits. See?  You can have your creamy pasta and eat it too (and feel good about it!)

The recipe comes from Cook’s Country and is super quick to make thanks in part to the food processor.  Getting the sauce together while the pasta cooks means it is on the table in no time.

Fettuccine with Walnut Sauce

Serves 4


1 pound fettuccine

Salt and pepper

2-1/4 cups (9 oz) walnuts, toasted

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 garlic clove, minced

1/8 tsp nutmeg

2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley


  1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot.  Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente.  Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to pot.
  2. Chop 1/4 cup walnuts; set aside.  Process remaining 2 cups walnuts, cream, Parmesan, lemon juice, garlic, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in food processor to coarse paste, about 30 seconds
  3. Add walnut sauce and reserved cooking water to pasta and toss to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle with parsley and reserved chopped walnuts. Serve, passing extra Parmesan separately.

Weekly Winner: Spice, Swine & Spaghetti

sambal porkYou know I’m going to like any dish that combines pork and pasta.  Add to it a punchy kick of sambal and I am all in.  Spicy-Sweet Sambal Pork Noodles was the perfect “welcome home” meal after traveling this past week.

The recipe comes from Bon Appetit and is more spicy than sweet.  The heat is definitely there but because it is simmered in the sauce for quite a while, the spice is milder than if you just added the sambal oelek right at the end.  There’s also some sugar and vinegar in there to help tame it a bit.  While this is an easy dish, unlike a lot of pasta and noodle dishes, it’s not super quick — the sauce needs to simmer for close to an hour but is basically hands-off except for a quick stir now and then. Well worth the time — it will make your house smell fabulous while its simmering away!

Spicy-Sweet Sambal Pork Noodles

Serves 6


  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 lb. ground pork, divided
  • 1 2″ piece fresh ginger, peeled, cut into thin matchsticks or finely chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 sprigs basil, plus more for serving
  • ⅓ cup hot chili paste (such as sambal oelek)
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1½ lb. fresh ramen noodles or 16 oz. dried spaghetti
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter


  • Heat oil in a large wide heavy pot over medium-high. Add half of pork to pot, breaking apart into 6–8 large chunks with a wooden spoon. Cook, undisturbed, until well browned underneath, about 5 minutes. Turn pieces and continue to cook, turning occasionally, until pork is browned on 2–3 sides, about 5 minutes longer. Add ginger, garlic, sugar, and remaining pork to pot and cook, breaking up pork into small clumps, until meat is nearly cooked through, about 5 minutes longer. Add tomato paste and 2 basil sprigs. Cook, stirring occasionally, until paste darkens, about 2 minutes. Add chili paste, soy sauce, vinegar, and 2 cups water. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until sauce is slightly thickened and flavors have melded, 30–45 minutes.

  • Cook noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until 1 minute short of al dente. Add to pot with sauce along with butter and a splash of pasta cooking liquid. Simmer, tossing occasionally, until sauce begins to cling to noodles, about 1 minute. Pluck out basil sprigs.

  • Divide noodles among plates. Top with torn basil.

Weekly Winner: Ravioli Ridiculousness — Because you can’t be good all the time!

ravioli casseroleBaked pasta is good.  Stuffed pasta that is baked is better.  Stuffed pasta which is layered in a casserole with sausage is …. the BEST.  EVER.

Mushroom Ravioli and Sausage Casserole is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a light dish.  However it isn’t as over-the-top as you’d think.  It really works and actually comes together as a somewhat presentable dish.  And while it would be perfectly acceptable to serve this dish at a casual dinner party with friends, my preferred situation for it is curled up on the couch in my jammies.  This big dish of deliciousness comes from Food Network Magazine.

Mushroom Ravioli and Sausage Casserole

Serves 4


Kosher salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 onion, finely chopped

10 ounces white mushrooms, thinly sliced

Freshly ground pepper

6 ounces mild Italian sausage, casings removed

3 cloves garlic (2 thinly sliced, 1 grated)

2 teaspoons fresh marjoram, chopped [I used oregano]

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

2 10-ounce packages refrigerated mushroom ravioli

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley


  1. Preheat the broiler. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, mushrooms, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cook until the vegetables are beginning to brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Add the sliced garlic and marjoram (or oregano) and cook until softened, 1 more minute. Add the tomatoes and 1/4 cup water, bring to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender and the sauce has thickened slightly, about 6 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the ravioli in the boiling water as the label directs. Reserve 1/4 cup cooking water, then drain. Add the ravioli and the reserved cooking water to the sauce; stir to coat. Transfer half of the ravioli and sauce to a 9-by-13-inch broiler-proof baking dish. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup mozzarella. Top with the remaining ravioli, sauce and mozzarella.
  3. Meanwhile, microwave the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a small microwave-safe bowl until melted. Stir in the grated garlic and breadcrumbs; season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle over the baked ravioli and broil until browned on top, about 2 minutes. Top with the parsley.

Weekly Winner: Big Bowl of Brothy Goodness

brothy pastaI’m one of those weird people that won’t eat soup during warm weather.  Yeah, I’ll do the occasional gazpacho but basically, soup for me is off the menu from around Memorial Day to Labor Day.  Which is why I’m totally thrilled by the cooler weather here in Chicago — it means once again, “Soup’s On”!!

This recipe for Brothy Pasta with Chickpeas is soul-satisfying.  There’s a rich tomato broth, plenty of pasta, hearty chickpeas and just enough cheese to make me happy.  It’s quick, easy and is a great way to use up the various pasta “odds and ends” you have in the pantry.  The recipe comes from Bon Appetit and will be making a regular appearance on our table (now that summer is officially over)!

Brothy Pasta With Chickpeas

Serves 4


  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained, rinsed
  • 1 cup whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 6 oz. orecchiette or other short pasta
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley
  • 3 Tbsp. finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Heat 3 Tbsp. oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add onion and season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until onion and garlic are both very soft and just beginning to brown around the edges, 5–6 minutes longer. Add rosemary and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chickpeas and tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are slightly thickened, 6–8 minutes.

  2. Add pasta and 4 cups water. Increase heat to medium-high, bring to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent pasta from sticking, until pasta is al dente, 13–16 minutes depending on shape. Stir in parsley and 3 Tbsp. Parmesan; season with salt.

  3. Divide brothy pasta between bowls. Drizzle with more oil and top with Parmesan and black pepper.

Weekly Winner: Another Pork Pasta Palooza!

pork pastaYou know you’re doing something right when your husband equates a Friday night dinner with “some of the best pastas I’ve had in any restaurant”. Boo-ya, Spatula-drop!

Admittedly, it’s hard to go wrong with pork shoulder, cheese, and pasta — not just any pasta either but egg pappardelle.  Pappardelle is definitely my “favorite” pasta (if it’s possible to have a favorite) and I truly believe that one can save the world with a pork shoulder.

Pork, Fennel and Lemon Ragu with Pappardelle comes from Cook’s Illustrated.  It is definitely not a quick meal to make, but it is relatively “hands-off”.  The trick is to let the oven work it’s magic on that pork shoulder, breaking it down and making it luscious.  The lemon really freshens up the ragu so that it seems lighter but who are we kidding, this is definitely not diet food, but it is supremely delicious, satisfying, apparently “restaurant-quality” food.  That’s good enough for me!

Pork, Fennel and Lemon Ragu with Pappardelle

Serves 4 to 6


4 oz pancetta, chopped

1 large onion, chopped fine

1 large fennel bulb, 2 Tbsp fronds chopped, stalks discarded, bulb halved, cored and chopped fine

4 garlic cloves, minced

1-1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp minced fresh thyme

1 tsp pepper

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 (1-1/2 lb) boneless pork butt roast, well trimmed and cut in half across grain

1-1/2 tsp grated lemon zest plus 1/4 cup juice (from 2 lemons)

12 oz pappardelle

2 oz Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (1 cup), plus extra for serving


  1.  Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat over to 350F. Cook pancetta and 2/3 cup water in Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until water has evaporated and dark fond forms on bottom of pot, 8 to 10 minutes. Add onion and fennel bulb and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften and start to brown, 5 to 7 minutes.  Stir in garlic, salt, thyme, and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  2.  Stir in cream and 2 cups water, scraping up any browned bits.  Add pork and bring to boil over high heat.  Cover, transfer to oven, and cook until pork is tender, about 1-1/2 hours.
  3. Transfer pork to large plate and let cool for 15 minutes.  Cover pot so fond will steam and soften.  Using spatula, scrape browned bits from sides of pot and stir into sauce.  Stir in lemon zest and juice.
  4.  While pork cools, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Using 2 forks, shred por into bite-size pieces, discarding any large pieces of fat or connective tissue.  Return pork and any juices to Dutch oven.  Cover and keep warm.
  5. Add pasta and 1 Tbsp salt to boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente.  Reserve 2 cups cooking water, then drain pasta and add it to Dutch oven.  Add Pecorino and 3/4 cup reserved cooking water and stir until sauce is slightly thickened and cheese is fully melted, 2 to 3 minutes.  If desired, stir in remaining reserved cooking water, 1/4 cup at a time, to adjust sauce consistency.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with fennel fronds.  Serve immediately, passing extra Pecorino separately.

Weekly Winner: Glorious Green Goodness with just a tad of decadence.

carbonaraThere is nothing more comforting than a creamy, luxurious bowl of pasta– especially since winter is still going strong here in Chicago.  While I may be dreaming of  glorious spring vegetables that will eventually take over the markets, right now I need more sustenance and comfort than a light, springy pasta.  Enter: Pea and Spinach Carbonara.

The recipe comes from Eating Well magazine and is super easy and gives you a hint of springtime flavor.  It is also really quick to make,  which leaves you plenty of time to put on an extra layer, find the throw blanket and curl up on the couch!

Pea & Spinach Carbonara

Serves 4


1-1/2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1 small clove garlic, minced

8 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese, divided

3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley

3 large egg yolks

1 large egg

1/2 tsp ground pepper

1/4 tsp salt

1 9-oz package fresh tagliatelle or linguine

8 cups baby spinach

1 cup peas


  1. Put 10 cups of water in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add breadcrumbs and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until toasted, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to a small bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons Parmesan and parsley.  Set aside
  3. Whisk the remaining 6 tablespoons Parmesan, egg yolks, egg, pepper and salt in medium bowl.
  4. Cook pasta in the boiling water, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute.  Add spinach and peas and cook until the pasta is tender, about 1 minute more. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water.  Drain and place in a large bowl.
  5. Slowly whisk the reserved cooking water into the egg mixture. Gradually add the mixture to the pasta, tossing with tongs to combine.  Serve topped with the reserved breadcrumb mixture

Weekly Winner: A Better Take on Zoodles

pastaI love pasta.  I don’t hate zucchini.  I don’t particularly love zucchini either, it’s more like I simply don’t have an opinion one way or another about zucchini.  I’ll eat it, and because it’s a vegetable and healthy, I’m trying to eat more of it.  But that’s where I draw the line.  Do not go messing with my pasta and try to get me to substitute real pasta for zucchini noodles (aka zoodles)! I found a much better alternative — add the zucchini to the actual, delicious pasta.  In doing so, you can surprisingly improve both!

Case in point: Linguine with Chickpeas and Zucchini from Cooks Country Magazine. Now I’ll admit, when I saw this recipe I thought “Hey, here’s a healthy pasta recipe for the New Year that won’t be too bad.”  Wrong, it was amazing!!  I mean, like, seriously delicious.  It is so easy, and comes together so quickly but seems so much more complex than the few simple ingredients would suggest.  So if you’re trying to “lighten up” your pasta without replacing your pasta (cause that would be really sad in my book), try this.  It is a definite winner.

Linguine with Chickpeas and Zucchini

Serves 4


1 pound linguine

Salt & Pepper

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving

4 garlic cloves, sliced thin

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

2 zucchini, shredded and patted dry

1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed

2 oz Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (about 1 cup)

3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1 Tbsp lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving


  1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in a Dutch oven or large pot.  Add pasta and 1 Tbsp salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente.  Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain pasta.
  2. Heat oil, garlic, pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper in now-empty pot over medium heat until garlic is lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add zucchini and chickpeas and cook until zucchini is wilted and most of its excess moisture has cooked off, about 6 minutes.  Using potato masher, lightly mash chickpeas.
  3. Off heat, stir in 1/2 cup Pecorino, parsley, lemon juice, pasta and reserved cooking water.  Serve, passing lemon wedges, extra oil and remaining 1/2 cup Pecorino separately.

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