Cajun Chicken and Andouille Fettuccini Alfredo

What do you get when you give a sixteen-year-old girl who loves pasta free reign in your kitchen? You get spicy, flavorful, creamy, luxuriant pasta bliss!

I love cooking with my daughter, and this recipe is great for a young cook. The directions are simple and easy to follow, and cooking the pasta in the liquid uses the starch from the noodles to naturally thicken the sauce. It’s a one pot meal. Brilliant and delicious!

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Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Gnocchi

It’s hard to imagine the same bright summer heat that ripens tomatoes could still infuse its warmth offseason, but that flavor really comes through here.  I used minced sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil, which not only infused that delicious warm tomato flavor into the dough, it gave the gnocchi great color as well.

These little nuggets have so much flavor all they need is a light toss in some toasted garlic olive oil and a sprinkle of fresh Parmesan and chopped basil.

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Penne with Sausage, Fennel, and Mushrooms

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I love making this pasta dish when we have company over because you can prepare the sauce ahead of time and allow the flavors to blend and deepen until you’re ready to warm it back up in time for dinner. I’m also a believer in the rule that you should always cook with the wine you plan to serve with the meal. The peppery, currant, berry flavor of Syrah wine adds a deep richness to the sauce and wonderfully compliments the earthy mushrooms, spicy Italian sausage and bright licorice essence of the fennel.

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Baked Penne with Meatballs

Baked Penne with Meatballs

This recipe is one of my super-easy, super-quick, fall-backs, ‘always try to have the ingredients on hand’ recipes for last minute changes or unexpected dinner guests.  Penne is a great type of pasta for soaking up spicy red sauces, and it bakes well when paired with Italian-style meatballs, ricotta, and fresh mozzarella cheeses.

An alternative lower fat option would be to replace the Italian style meatballs with turkey.  Both taste great and add a nice heartiness to the dish.

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Crawfish à la crème with Shitake Mushroom Fettuccini

Crawfish à la crème with Shitake Mushroom Fettuccini

A rich, creamy sherry sauce folded into sweet, tender crawfish and earthy mushroom infused pasta is by far one of my favorite, decadent bites. When you order the dish in a restaurant, though, it’s often weighed down by unnecessary fat and calories, causing you to feel uncomfortable by the time you’re finished eating it.

Not wanting to give up on this delectable dish, I came up with this lightened version, replacing the heavy cream with reduced fat half and half and using light butter and heart-healthy olive oil. The sauce still has the rich, flavorful taste you look forward to, but you walk away from the table without any of the guilt!

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Carrot, Fennel and Radicchio Stuffed Pasta Shells

Carrot, Fennel and Radicchio Stuffed Pasta Shells

Here’s another perfect weekday dinner that comes together in about an hour. And if you make a big enough pan, you’ll have enough leftovers for another night. The creamy Fontina cheese is a nice change from the traditional Mozzarella, and mixing the half-and-half into the sauce adds another layer of depth and richness in flavor.

It’s also a perfect meal for vegetarians, much to the chagrin of my daughter. Halfway through our dinner, she asked me, “This is really good, Mom. What kind of meat is stuffed inside the pasta?” When I told her there was no meat, just carrots, fennel, onion, garlic and radicchio, she paused, thought about that for a moment and then kept eating.

That’s a success in my book!

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Spicy Pumpkin Lasagna

Spicy Pumpkin Lasagna

I promise this is not one of those ‘pumpkin-spiced everything’ recipes.  It is, however, a great use of fall vegetables like pumpkin, yellow squash, and zucchini.  And as much as this would be a perfect dish for my veggie friends, the carnivore in me had to add the spicy Italian sausage for no reason other than it ended up tasting so good, I couldn’t have imagined the dish without it!

I chose fontina cheese for this recipe, rather than the traditional mozzarella, because the creamy, earthy, nuttiness of the fontina pairs so well with the flavors of the sage and pumpkin.  But if you’re a die-hard mozzarella fan, that will work too!

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Bacon, Broc & Butternut Mac N Cheese

Bacon, Broc & Butternut Mac N Cheese

Okay, parents with picky eaters.  This recipe is for you!  I even taste-tested it on my pasta loving, extremely veggie-selective daughter, and she spooned out a second helping onto her plate without even realizing I snuck in a second vegetable.  Of course if she reads this post, my secret is out but, hey,  it was totally worth it!

And of course, there’s the generous addition of applewood smoked bacon… Need I say anything more?

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Smoked Salmon Pasta with Capers and Fresh Dill

Smoked Salmon Pasta

This recipe is another great way to serve the cedar plank grilled salmon that I featured in my blog on February 28, 2015.  It’s a family favorite that both my husband and my daughter ask for repeatedly.  In fact, I’ve made it so many times I don’t even look at the recipe anymore.

If I happen to be short on time or the weather doesn’t want to cooperate for grilling outdoors, another easy to fix alternative is purchasing smoked salmon from your local grocery store.

For a link to my cedar plank grilled salmon recipe, click here.

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Curried Couscous with Broccoli and Feta

Curried Couscous with Broccoli and Feta

I had one of those moments the other night, where I found myself staring blankly, into the pantry, trying to decide what I had a taste for.  I kept waffling back and forth between pasta and veggies, until I finally just decided to make them both!  As it turned out, I was very pleased with the results.

The creamy chickpeas and feta cheese added a healthy dose of calcium and protein; the cashews and crisp broccoli contributed a nice crunch, and the dried fruit and shredded carrots gave just the right amount of sweetness against the tangy curry and rice wine vinegar marinade.  It satisfied both of my cravings and the colors made for a very pretty dish!

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