Weekly Winner: Apparently it is easy (and tasty) being green.

Parsley IMG_0835gets a bad rap. Actually, I take that back — parsley gets no rap at all — it’s totally overlooked and ignored.  That’s a shame.  This bright, verdant herb really adds a lot more than simple “curb appeal” to a recipe.

Take this salad for example:  Chicken & Cucumber Salad with Parsley Pesto.  The recipe comes from Cooking Light Magazine and if you’re looking for a hearty, healthy, very “green” salad, then this one is for you!

Chicken and Cucumber Salad with Parsley Pesto

Serves 6


2 cups packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (from one bunch)

1 cup fresh baby spinach

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp toasted pine nuts

1 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

1 medium garlic clove, smashed

1 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 cups shredded rotisserie chicken

2 cups cooked, shelled edamame

1 (15-oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 cup chopped English cucumber

4 cups loosely packed arugula


  1. Combine parsley, spinach, lemon juice, pine nuts, cheese, garlic, salt, and pepper in bowl of a food processor; process until smooth, about 1 minute.  With processor running, add oil; process until smooth, about 1 minute
  2. Stir together chicken, edamame, chickpeas, and cucumber in a large bowl.  Add pesto; toss to combine.
  3. Place 2/3 cup arugula in each of 6 bowls; top each with 1 cup chicken salad mixture.

Weekly Winner: Herby, Nutty, Creamy Comfort. Almost Perfect Pasta

IMG_0533Pasta in any form makes me happy.   I’ll take plain with butter, extravagantly layered lasagnas or a luscious mac-n-cheese.  If it involves pasta, I’m in!

Rigatoni with Ricotta-Sage Pesto and Walnuts, which I found in a recent issue of Milk Street Magazine, has all my favorite things – cheese, nuts, and herbs — if it had bacon in it, it would be the perfect!.  Of course, there’s nothing stopping you (or me next time) from adding some bacon.  Note to self!

Rigatoni with Ricotta-Sage Pesto and Walnuts

Serves 4


1/2 cup fresh sage, chopped

6 Tbsp olive oil

3 cups packed fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 oz grated Parmesan cheese

2 tsp grated lemon zest

1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese

1 tsp kosher salt

3/4 tsp black pepper

12 oz rigatoni or penne rigate

Chopped toasted walnuts, for garnish


  1. In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine the olive oil and sage.  Microwave on high just until hot and fragrant, about 1 minute but check after 30 seconds; it should not sizzle.  Cool to room temperature.
  2. In food processor, process the sage-oil mixture and parsley until finely chopped, about 15 seconds. Add parmesan and lemon zest and process until well incorporated, about 5 pulses.  Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Stir in ricotta, kosher salt and pepper.
  4. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil.  Add pasta and 2 tablespoons of salt; cook until the pasta is al dente.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain.
  5. Toss the pasta with the ricotta pesto, then stir in the reserved cooking water; the pasta should be creamy.  Serve sprinkled with chopped toasted walnuts and additional parmesan.

Weekly Winner: Pistachio-Pesto Pappardelle Perfection (with poultry)

I am not easily surprised by pasta. I think that’s because, while I dearly love pasta, I find it difficult to do something surprising with it. There’s not much I don’t like in my pasta but you always kind of know what you’re getting into and what it’s going to taste like. Until last night.

I decided to try Pappardelle with Chicken and Pistachio-Mint Pesto simply because it looked, well… different. I love pistachios and am always anxious to try out a new pesto. Pappardelle is one of my favorite pasta types and you can’t go wrong with chicken and tomatoes. It seemed like a no-brainer.  The zucchini and yellow squash were really the only wild cards here because, while I don’t mind them, I don’t generally seek out recipes with them. If I do eat them, I prefer them raw, which is exactly how they are served in this pasta.

In a word, this dish was amazing! So easy to make and so different from anything else I make on a regular basis. It was bright and hearty yet tasted like you were eating something healthy and nourishing because, well… it is healthy and nourishing. The recipe comes from Food & Wine magazine and is the perfect quick, guilt-free pasta for a satisfying weeknight meal.

Pappardelle with Chicken and Pistachio-Mint Pesto

Serves 4


1-1/2 cups lightly packed mint leaves

1/2 cup shelled unsalted pistachios (I️ used lightly salted)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup olive oil

Kosher salt and pepper

8 oz pappardelle pasta

12 oz shredded rotisserie chicken (3 cups)

1 small zucchini, very thinly sliced or shaved

1 small yellow squash, very thinly sliced or shaved

1-1/2 cups mixed cherry tomatoes, halved, or quartered if large


1. In a food processor, combine the mint with the pistachios and lemon juice and pulse until finely chopped. With the machine on, gradually add the olive oil until incorporated and the pesto is nearly smooth. Scrape into a large bowl and season generously with salt and pepper.

2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain well, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta, chicken,zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes and reserved cooking water to the pesto and toss well. Season generously with salt and pepper and toss again.

Weekly Winner:  Picture Perfect Pasta (made better with Pork!)

As I continue my quest to find different twists on the typical basil-pine nut pesto, I came across this dish. First of all, it was the magazine photo that got me. I was sold before I even knew it was a pesto. I mean this is one seriously pretty dish, isn’t it?? Then come to find out that this spaghetti is tossed with a tomato and walnut pesto. Now you’ve got me hook, line and sinker. Seriously? Is there anyway this could get better? Well, yes — add Italian Sausage!

While the original recipe from Bon Appetit for Spaghetti with Tomato and Walnut Pesto is totally vegetarian, I’ve got a hubby who’s coaching marathon training and needs meat! At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. This had nothing to do with the fact that I am constantly looking for reason to add pork products to any dish!  It was all for him, I swear!

So while deciding to try this luscious pasta last Friday, I decided to call an audible on two points: first (and most importantly) was the addition of Italian sausage. Second, I always have a huge selection of various pastas in my pantry and really love fettuccine, so that got swapped for the spaghetti.  The end result (regardless of what pasta you use) is, gorgeous, creamy, pasta perfection – with pork!

Spaghetti with Tomato and Walnut Pesto

Serves 4


⅔ cup walnuts

2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved

2 tablespoons plus ⅓ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Kosher salt

6 oil-packed anchovies, coarsely chopped

2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

½ ounces Parmesan, finely grated (about ½ cup), plus more for serving

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

12 ounces spaghetti [or fettuccine]

½ cup (packed) basil leaves

1/2 pound mild Italian sausage — my addition


Preheat oven to 350°. Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until slightly darkened, 8–10 minutes. Let cool.

Heat broiler. Toss tomatoes with 2 Tbsp. oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt. Broil, tossing once, until tomatoes are blistered and have released some of their liquid, 5–7 minutes. Let cool.

Pulse anchovies, garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, and ½ oz. Parmesan in a food processor until finely ground. Add walnuts and half of tomatoes, then, with motor running, stream in ⅓ cup oil; process just until combined. Season with salt. Transfer pesto to a large bowl and stir in black pepper.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving ½ cup pasta cooking liquid.

[Meanwhile, sauté Italian sausage in a bit of olive oil until well browned.]

Transfer pasta and sausage to bowl with pesto and add a splash of pasta cooking liquid. Toss, adding more cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta. Add basil and remaining tomatoes.

Divide among bowls; top with more Parmesan and black pepper and drizzle with oil.

Weekly Winner:  Parsley Pesto Pasta Packs a Perfect Punch

Oh alliteration, how I’ve missed you!  But you are back – which makes me very happy and my blog posts that much easier to write. But wait… This entry isn’t about my journalistic quirks, it’s about the food!  So without further ado, I present Bucatini with Walnut-Parsley Pesto. (See?  Don’t you think my headline is better?)

The recipe is from Bon Appetit Magazine and caught my attention because it hits on some of my all-time favorite things.  Bucatini has to be my favorite pasta shape.  It’s substantial and chewy.  Walnuts definitely top my list of favorite nuts (along with cashews) and I’m a big fan of pesto made from non-traditional ingredients.  I also tend to lean toward pasta dishes that have relatively few ingredients.  Simplicity is the key for me and in this dish, it just about reigns supreme.

One more fun fact about this dish.  When I decided to make it I realized that, although I’ve wanted shallow pasta bowls forever, I’ve never bought them.  There is no excuse for this but every time I made a new dish, I regretted the fact that I didn’t have the perfect vessel to show it off.  So last Friday I bit the bullet and before I shopped for groceries, I went to my favorite home furnishings store and picked these up.  My pastas finally have a welcoming new home.

Bucatini with Walnut-Parsley Pesto

Serves 4


1 cup walnuts

6 pickled Calabrian chiles or 1 Fresno chile

1 small garlic clove, finely grated

1-1/2 oz Parmesan, finely grated (about 1-1/2 cups)

1/3 cup olive oil

1 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for serving

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

3/4 pound Bucatini


  • Preheat oven to 350F.  Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until fragrant and slightly darkened, 8-10 minutes.  Let cool.
  • Pulse 3/4 cup walnuts in a food processor until very finely chopped (but not pasty). Reserve remaining walnuts for serving.  Remove stems from chiles, add to food processor.  Pulse until finely chopped.  Transfer walnut mixture to a medium bowl and stir in garlic, Parmesan, oil and 1 cup parsley.  Season pesto with salt and pepper
  • Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente.  Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.  Return pasta to pot and add pesto along with 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid.  Toss, adding splashes of cooking liquid as needed, until pesto coats pasta and sauce is glossy.
  • Crush reserved walnuts with the flat side of a knife.  Divide pasta among bowls and top with walnuts and more parsley.

Weekly Winner: My Idea of “Going Green”

parsley pesto spaghettiI have to admit it, I’m not a terribly “eco-friendly” person.  I don’t fret over eating organic, I don’t have an electric car and I don’t lose any sleep over my “carbon footprint”.  I’m not a juicer but I do tend to eat relatively healthy and generally believe locally sourced food tastes better and is fresher which is why I choose it when I can.  So, having said that I did decide to “go green” last night — with a parsley pesto.  It was delicious.  This is a very simple, honest-tasting pasta dish from Cooking Light Magazine that comes together in no time.  And as I just discovered — sorry Kermit, but apparently it really is easy being green.

Spaghetti with Parsley Pesto and Sausage

Serves 4


8 ounces uncooked spaghetti

3 ounces spicy pork Italian sausage, casings removed

4 garlic cloves, crushed and coarsely chopped

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 ounce fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated and divided (about 1/4 cup)

5 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, divided

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add pasta to pan, and cook 8 minutes or until almost al dente. Drain pasta in a colander over a bowl, reserving 3/4 cup cooking liquid. Discard the remaining cooking liquid.
  2. Heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add Italian sausage to pan; sauté 6 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove sausage from pan, reserving drippings; drain on paper towels. Add garlic to drippings in pan; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add 1/2 cup reserved cooking liquid to pan; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly with a whisk. Add pasta to pan; cook 1 minute, tossing to combine. Remove from heat.
  3. Combine about 2 tablespoons cheese and 4 3/4 cups parsley leaves in a food processor; process until finely ground. With motor running, add remaining 1/4 cup cooking liquid and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil; process until smooth. Add parsley mixture and salt to pasta; toss well to coat. Divide pasta mixture evenly among 4 shallow bowls; top evenly with sausage, remaining 2 tablespoons cheese, and remaining 1/4 cup parsley leaves. Serve immediately.


Weekly Winner: A Kindler, Gentler Pesto

As I have mentioned before, it’s not that I actively dislike traditional pesto, it’s just that it tends to over power anything it comes in contact with.  While I love basil, garlic, pine nuts, etc… the combination of such in a traditional pesto is just, well, too much sometimes.  And while I dearly love the Arugula Pesto I posted almost a year ago https://donnasquickqi.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/weekly-winner-pesto-perfected/, it was time for a change.

Sicilian PestoEnter Sicilian Pesto.  If it is possible for a pesto to be refreshing, this one is.  I think it is the mint.  The small amount of tomatoes also gives it a nice body without relying heavily on olive oil.  Just all around a great pesto.  I think my husband’s comment said it all “This is way better than it should be”.  Apparently I had higher hopes that he did, but at least it turned out as a unanimous Weekly Winner.

I have no idea where this recipe came from.

Sicilian Pesto

Makes 3 cups

  • 4-5 yellow or red globe or Roma tomatoes, peeled and seeded
  • 1 cup packed fresh mint leaves
  • ½ cup blanched almonds
  • 3 Tbsp shredded pecorino
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Pulse tomatoes, mint, almonds, pecorino, oil, lemon juice, garlic, and pepper flakes in a food processor until smooth; season with salt and pepper.  Toss with pasta of your choice.

Weekly Winner: And I’m Still Not Sure Why

Crispy Chicken Thighs & Pasta   This week was a very good food week.  Lots of tasty stuff came out of the kitchen this week.  When I thought back and tried to determine which would make the Weekly Winner I just kept coming back to this one dish.  I still don’t know why.  It has absolutely no right to win.  It’s too simple.  It’s nothing different or fancy.  It doesn’t even have any pork products in it!  And yet, both hubby and I decided that this was the dish.  It is Crispy Chicken Thighs with Pasta and Pesto.  Yep, that’s it.  And that is truly all it is.  Chicken.  Pasta.  Pesto.  And yet, it worked.  No, it more than worked.  It rocked.  Simplicity at its absolute best.  The recipe came from Southern Living Magazine, which in and of itself is an unlikely source for my recipes.

I think if I am being perfectly honest, another reason I am so in love with this dish is that it turned out looking exactly like the picture in the magazine.  And to prove it, the first picture is mine, the second from the magazine.  See?  I know!  Try this recipe and tell me why it wins.  I still don’t know.crispy-chicken-thighs-pasta-pesto-l

Crispy Chicken Thighs with Pasta and Pesto


3 ½ to 4 lb skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (about 7 thighs)

2 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp freshly ground pepper

½ tsp vegetable oil

8 oz. cellentani pasta

1 cup chicken broth

Arugula Pesto


Preheat oven to 400.  Sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper and paprika.

Heat oil in a 12-inch oven-safe skillet over high heat until oil just begins to smoke

Place chicken in skillet, skin sides down; reduce heat to medium-high, and cook 15 minutes.  Transfer chicken to a plate; discard drippings.

Prepare pasta according to package directions.  Toss with chicken broth and 3 tablespoons Arugula Pesto.  Add mixture to skillet.  Place chicken, skin sides up, on pasta.

Bake at 400 for 25-30 minutes.  Dollop with additional Arugula Pesto

Arugula Pesto:

Process 2 cups firmly packed arugula, ½ cup firmly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, ½ cup olive oil, 2 garlic cloves, ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons water, 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ pepper in a food processor until smooth.  Refrigerate up to 1 week.  Makes 1 cup.

Weekly Winner – Pesto, Perfected

This was a busy week which, I’m sure in time, will spawn more non-food-related blog posts.  However to avoid further tardiness, I present this week’s Weekly Winner.  Grilled Salmon with Walnut-Arugula Pesto.

Generally, I am not a big fan of pesto.  I’m not sure why as I adore basil, garlic, pine nuts and sauces in general.  But it’s true.  I am not Pro Pesto.  This recipe however, was a bit different and therefore intrigued me.  The pesto was made with an arugula and basil combination and used walnuts in place of pine nuts.  I dug it.  I hope you will too.  The recipe came from Fine Cooking Magazine which I usually devour within the first 12 hours of landing on my doorstep.  It’s really just a recipe for the pesto, as the salmon is simply grilled.  But that’s how I like my salmon …. simple, with just a little bling.  In this case — a verdant green dollop of pesto.  Enjoy.

Grilled Salmon with Walnut-Arugula Pesto

Serves 4


1/4 cup walnut halves
2 cups loosely packed fresh arugula (2-1/2 oz.)
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil (about 1/2 oz.)
3 Tbs. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 medium clove garlic
5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil; more for the grill pan
Kosher salt
4 6- to 8-oz. skinless salmon fillets
Freshly ground black pepper


In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the walnuts, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and a shade darker, about 5 minutes. Let cool slightly on a plate, about 3 minutes, and then transfer to a food processor. Add the arugula, basil, Parmigiano, and garlic and process until the mixture is very finely chopped, about 1 minute. With the motor running, slowly add 4 Tbs. of the oil until well combined. If you like, add 1 Tbs. water to thin the pesto. Transfer to a bowl and season to taste with salt.

Heat a lightly oiled grill pan over medium-high heat. Rub the salmon fillets all over with the remaining 1 Tbs. oil. Sprinkle all over with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Put the fillets on the grill pan, skinned side up, and cook until well marked, about 5 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until opaque in the center, about 5 minutes more. Serve with the pesto.