Chickpea and Orzo Pasta Salad

Chickpea & Orzo Salad

This healthy and delicious recipe for Chickpea and Orzo Pasta Salad is a spin-off from my Mom’s favorite Chickpea and Tuna Salad. I built on the original recipe by adding orzo, lemon, Parmesan cheese, and toasted almonds. A light and summery pasta salad.

You can pick up a bit of smokiness and crunch from the toasted almonds, some pungency from the onion and garlic, saltiness from the tuna and Parmesan, and a hint of tartness from the lemon dressing that makes this wonderfully satisfying.

Chickpea & Orzo Salad

Chickpea and Orzo Pasta Salad
(by Reeni)

1 and 1/3 cup of uncooked Orzo
1 can Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
2 cans solid white albacore tuna, drained
1/2 cup red onion, sliced
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2/3 cup Parmesan, fresh grated, plus more for serving
1/3 cup Basil leaves, chopped or 2 teaspoons dried
1 teaspoon thyme, dried
1/2 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice, fresh squeezed
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Cook the orzo to al dente according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop them from cooking further. Toast the almonds in a dry saute pan over medium-low heat until they turn golden. Add to a large bowl with the orzo, chickpeas, tuna, red onion, parmesan and basil. In a small bowl whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Refrigerate for an hour before serving. Serve over salad greens or as a side.

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Chickpea & Orzo Salad

I’m sending this to the very lovely Joanne of Eats Well With Others, the host of this week’s Presto Pasta Nights.

Gorgonzola Pasta with Bacon, Chicken and Walnuts

Gorgonzola Pasta

A creamy sauce with a big bite to it is tossed with pasta, chicken and walnuts to make up this rich and delicious pasta dish.

Gorgonzola is an Italian blue cheese with a strong flavor and smell. It is made from cow’s or sheep’s milk in the Piedmont and Lombardy regions of Northern Italy. It is aged three – six months to produce a variety of results. Three months produces a sweet, creamy cheese, perfect for spreading on crackers or using in dips. Four months time gives a firmer texture and a smellier aroma. And Gorgonzola aged for six months has a crumbly and dry texture with an extreme bite, and is used often in salads.

For this pasta I used a creamy version. It melts nicely into a smooth, satiny sauce with a distinctly tangy bite and a smoky note. The same pan the bacon is fried in is used to make the sauce picking up the frond from the bottom. Even though the Gorgonzola is the overpowering flavor bits of sweetness from the vidalia onion and warm, spicy nutmeg come through, tinged with the saltiness from the bacon and crunchy walnuts. It’s a wonderful palette of flavors and textures. A true delight for your taste buds.

Gorgonzola Pasta

Gorgonzola Pasta
(by Reeni)

2 chicken breast, pounded thin
salt and pepper
6 slices bacon
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons brown sugar
8 ounces Pasta
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon thyme, dried
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
8 ounces Gorgonzola. rough chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/3 cup walnut pieces
Parmesan for serving

Bake or grill the chicken seasoned with salt and pepper until cooked through.

In a large saute pan fry the bacon until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels, set aside to cool, crumble into large pieces when cool enough to handle. Let the grease cool down, and drain. In the same pan add a tablespoon of olive oil and the onions. Add the brown sugar and season with salt and pepper. Saute until soft.

Cook your pasta to al dente according to package directions.

Add the milk, thyme, and nutmeg to the onion. Bring to a slow boil, add the cheese and parsley, simmer until cheese is melted and sauce starts to thicken, stirring constantly. Smash the cheese to help it melt if needed. Turn off heat. Add the drained pasta and toss to coat.

Slice the chicken breasts. Serve the pasta topped with sliced chicken, crumbled bacon, walnuts and fresh Parmesan.

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Gorgonzola Pasta

Caramelized Pepper and Sausage Pasta with Tomato Pesto

Pasta w/ Tomato Pesto  Caramelized Peppers & Sausage Pasta w/ Tomato Pesto

A hearty and delicious pasta tossed with caramelized bell peppers, Italian sausage and a fresh tomato pesto sauce.

Slices of bell peppers are slowly sauteed over the course of an hour to caramelize them. In the meantime the fresh tomato pesto is made and sliced sausages are pan-fried. The peppers turn into sweet, intensely flavored bites of incredible delicousness. So different from just sauteing them. Almost indescribable. I used the peppers as a bruschetta topping too. Insanely delicious! The tomato pesto is pretty fantastic too!

Carmelized Pepper & Tomato Pesto Bruschetta

Caramelized Green Pepper and Sausage Pasta w/ Fresh Tomato Pesto
(by Reeni)

Sausage & Peppers

3-4 Bell peppers, assorted colors, sliced 1/4 to 1/2-inch wide
1 large onion, thinly sliced in half moons
2-3 tablespoons Olive Oil
6 Italian Sausage links
4 cloves garlic, minced

In a large saute pan or iron skillet saute the bell peppers, onion, sugar, in the olive oil on low-medium heat for 45 minutes – 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper. They will start to turn black around the edges and shrink in size. And the best way to tell is by tasting them, even if you’ve never tasted one before you’ll know. Remove from pan and set aside.

Cook the sausage links in the same pan as the peppers. Add the garlic during the last few minutes of cooking. When cooked through, add the peppers and toss with the sausage to re-heat.

Tomato Pesto Pasta

2 cloves garlic
1 and 1/2 cups fresh tomato, diced
1/2 cup pine nuts or walnuts
1/2 cup fresh shredded Parmesan
3/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus a little extra if needed
Sea salt and pepper
1/2 to 1 pound pasta
red pepper flakes, for serving
fresh grated Parmesan, for serving

To the bowl of your food processor add the garlic, tomato, nuts, basil and parsley. Pulse to chop.

Stream in the oil. Pulse constantly until nice and smooth.

Add Parmesan and pulse briefly to combine. Check the thickness, and stream in a little more oil if needed.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions. Toss with pesto and top with peppers and sausage. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan and red pepper flakes.


Toast thick slices of Italian bread in the oven. Spread with pesto and some of the caramelized peppers. Sprinkle with Parmesan.

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Tyler’s Cold Sesame Noodles

Cold Sesame Noodles

The first time I ate cold sesame noodles was when I lived in Tucson. The gourmet sandwich shop where I worked made them extra spicy and kept them extra cold. They were perfect when it was 108 outside and just the thought of hot food made my stomach rumba. Never having made them myself I looked to Tyler for some help. I found what I was looking for in his Cold Sesame Noodle recipe that is heavy on the peanut butter and flavored with just the right amounts of soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, chili sauce and rice wine vinegar. Next time a heat wave hits you know where to find me. Standing in front of the open fridge with a fork in my sesame noodles.

Tyler Florence Fridays

This is my entry for Tyler Florence Fridays. A talented group of foodie bloggers who love Tyler…and his recipes.

Cold Sesame Noodles

Cold Sesame Noodles

Kosher salt
1 pound Chinese egg noodles or spaghetti
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon red chili sauce (recommended: Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
6 tablespoons water
2 scallions, sliced thin
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

1. Cook the noodles in large pot of boiling salted water over medium heat until barely tender and still firm.

2. Drain immediately and rinse with cold water until cool. Drain the noodles well and transfer to a wide bowl.

3. In a blender or food processor add the ginger, garlic, sugar, peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce, chili sauce, sesame oil, and water. Process until the mixture is smooth.

4. Put the blender jar into the refrigerator and let it chill for about 1/2 hour. Pour
the peanut sauce over the noodles and toss until well coated.

5. Serve garnished with the scallions, sesame seeds, and cilantro.

Cold Sesame Noodles

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Chinese Cold Sesame Noodles

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti & Meatballs

On Top of Spaghetti
All covered with cheese,
I lost my poor meatball
When somebody sneezed.
It rolled off the table
And onto the floor,
And then my poor meatball
Rolled right out the door!

I always use a lot of Parmesan cheese on my spaghetti and meatballs, a habit I picked up when I was just a little girl. When I ate at my Grandparents I would use up all the Parmesan in their tiny glass shaker. Grandpa didn’t mind. He would always get me more. Sometimes it would take a long time. I used to wonder if he went all the way to Italy to get it for me. But what I didn’t know then I know now. He was freshly grating it and that takes time. Even if we were in the middle of eating he would get up and take the time and the trouble to get it for me. Grandpa serenaded me with the “On top of spaghetti song” all the time. It still plays in my head occasionally and as corny as it is I don’t mind, cause my Grandpa was the best.


Spaghetti and meatballs is another one of those all-time favorite classics. I can’t think of anything more joyful then sitting down to a plate piled high with twirly spaghetti and tender meatballs! When your in the moment nothing else matters but getting those elusive spaghetti strings to stay wrapped around your fork with just the perfect size bite of herb and garlic infused meatball. Only to pop said forkful into your mouth and forget about everything else while you savor the pure bliss that has found its way to your tongue. Pure and delicious comfort food.

Spaghetti & Meatballs

Spaghetti & Meatballs
(by Reeni)

1 cup crustless white bread/Italian bread, preferably stale, diced
Whole Milk
1 and 1/2 pounds beef/pork/veal mixture or an 80-85% Ground Beef
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/3 cup onion, diced small
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh Parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon Basil
1 teaspoon Oregano
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
Vegetable or Canola Oil, if frying

Place the diced bread crumbs in a small bowl and add enough milk to soak them thoroughly.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl add all of the ingredients except the vegetable oil including the bread crumbs and milk. Use a fork or your hands to combine thoroughly without over mixing.

Use your hands to form 2-inch (golfball) sized meatballs. Place on a baking sheet or large baking pan and bake for 15 minutes. If you prefer to fry them heat about 1/4 inch Canola oil in a large, deep, skillet over medium heat. Brown them on all sides in two or three batches being sure not to overcrowd the pan. Drain on paper towels.

While the meatballs are baking/frying get your sauce started.

1 large onion, diced
1 green pepper, julienned
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 can tomato paste
2 28 oz. can Crushed Tomatoes (like Tuttarosa)
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons dried Italian Seasonings (We use a mix that has basil, oregano, thyme, marjoram and rosemary in it)
1 teaspoon dried sage
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt (to start and more to taste)
¼ teaspoon black pepper (to start and more to taste)
1 teaspoon Sugar

In an extra-large stock pot sauté the onion and green pepper in Olive Oil until soft;
add garlic and sauté for two or three more minutes.

Add tomato paste. Stir it into the onion mixture and let it heat through. Add tomatoes, water, seasonings including bay leaves, salt, pepper and sugar.

Add the meatballs and simmer for at least 35-40 minutes(the longer, the better),
stirring occasionally and tasting to check the seasoning. Add salt/pepper and more
dried herbs if needed. You can also add a little more water if sauce seems too thick.
Remove bay leaves before serving.

Serve over spaghetti cooked to al dente sprinkled with fresh shredded Parmesan cheese.

Printable Recipe

Spaghetti & Meatballs

So if you like spaghetti
All covered with cheese
Hold on to your meatballs

Red Hot Macaroni and Cheese

Cajun Mac 'n' Cheese

From its humble beginnings to the endless gourmet ‘twists’ that have been thrust upon it, Macaroni and Cheese continues to reign as one of the kings of comfort cuisine!

If you like spicy foods you will love this variation on the classic. It’s simple, fast, and easy to make but tastes like you spent a lot of time in the kitchen. While the pasta boils a béchamel sauce is whisked up with a ton of spices including cayenne pepper. It’s as simple as pouring the sauce over top of the pasta in a baking pan and sprinkling bread crumbs over top. There is a nice balance between the heat and the cheesy milkiness that is totally delicious!

Red Hot Mac 'n' Cheese

Red Hot Macaroni and Cheese
(by Reeni)
8 ounces elbow macaroni
1 tablespoon Paprika
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Garlic powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 and ½ teaspoon onion powder
1 and ½ teaspoon cayenne or 1 teaspoon peperoncino
1 and ½ teaspoon oregano
1 and ½ teaspoon thyme
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoon flour
2 cups half ‘n’ half or whole milk
8 ounces shredded or diced Extra Sharp Cheddar cheese
8 ounces shredded or diced Colby Jack cheese
Italian Bread Crumbs for topping
1 tablespoon Butter for topping
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cook macaroni to al dente according to package directions.
3. Into a small bowl measure out the seasonings and combine. Set aside.
4. While the macaroni is cooking in a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan melt the butter on medium-low heat, whisk in the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes continuously whisking. Add the spice mixture and whisk into the flour mixture. Slowly add half ‘n’ half, continuously whisking. Bring to a slow simmer and continue to whisk for another 2-3 minutes, the milk should begin to thicken up. At this point add in the cheeses and whisk until melted. Remove from heat.
5. Grease a 2 quart casserole – pour in macaroni. Pour béchamel over the macaroni.
6. Top with bread crumbs and dot with butter.
7. Bake at 350 for about 25-30 minutes until bubbly and top is golden.

Red Hot Macaroni and Cheese

Lemon-Arugula Pesto Pasta Salad

Lemon-Arugula Pesto Pasta Salad

This pasta recipe has a wholesome balance of chickpeas, meaty black olives, sweet red onions, and tangy tomatoes. The lemon-arugula pesto is refreshing, nutty, and salty tasting from the Parmesan cheese. The lemon and arugula complement each other in a perfect meld of flavors. The spirals catch all the tasty bits of pesto and the olives do their job by trapping it inside. Biting into them you get a pleasant burst of sunshine from the lemon. This is a quick and easy side-dish that can even sub as the star. It has all the required elements. The leftovers are perfect for lunch and taste better with age. The pesto can be used on its own; hot or cold; with chicken, seafood, fish, veggies, and as a spread for sandwiches.

Lemon-Arugula Pesto Pasta Salad

Lemon-Arugula Pesto Pasta Salad
(by Reeni)

8 oz. Celentani (Spiral) Pasta
1 can Black Olives, medium-size, pitted
1 can(15.5 oz.) Chickpeas/Garbanzo beans
1 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons fresh lemon peel
Lemon-Arugula Pesto Sauce(recipe to follow)
Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper

Cook your pasta to al dente according to package directions. Drain and
run cold water over the pasta. Add to a large bowl.

Add your olives, chickpeas, tomatoes, red onion and lemon peel. Toss
together. Then toss again with Pesto beginning with half of your pesto and
adding as needed until evenly coated.

Season with salt and pepper.

If refrigerated for serving later, remove from fridge about 15 minutes before
to allow the pesto to loosen up a bit. Toss before serving.

Lemon-Arugula Pesto Sauce
(by Reeni)

1/2 cup walnuts
2 cloves garlic
1 and 1/2 cups Baby Arugula leaves
2 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup fresh grated Parmesan or Romano
1/2 cup Extra-Virgin Olive oil
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Toast the walnuts in a skillet on low for 5-7 minutes. Set aside to cool.

To the bowl of your food processor add the walnuts, garlic, arugula, and parsley. Pulse to chop.

Stream in the oil and lemon juice. Pulse constantly until nice and smooth.

Add cheese and pulse briefly to combine.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Lemon-Arugula Pesto Pasta Salad

Butternut Squash Ziti

Butternut Squash Ziti

I know your asking yourself why I’m posting a recipe using winter squash when the first day of Spring just smacked me in the butt. I bought this squash a week or two ago when Spring was still a long-away wish in my heart and the market’s bins were overflowing with newly stocked squash and cheap prices. And because it’s one of my favorite veggies no matter what season were in and I want to gorge myself on it while I still can. So here it is in all it’s decadent glory and you can thank me for it later. Like next fall. Unless you still have one laying around…just hiding out in the back of your fridge because you’ve had enough squash to last you until next season and your trying to pretend it isn’t there. In that case you can thank me now.

This was a dreamy, creamy, cheesy comfort meal with lovely little hints of nutmeg and garlic. The star of the show shined through in every sweet, nutty, bite. This is my farewell to winter and all of my favorite seasonal vegetables like squash, especially the pumpkin-like Butternut.

Butternut Squash Ziti

Butternut Squash Baked Ziti
(by Reeni)

8 ounces Penne or Rigatoni Pasta
1 medium Butternut Squash (about 3 cups, mashed)
Sea Salt and fresh cracked Pepper
Olive oil
2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced into rings
3 cloves garlic, minced
15 ounces Ricotta Cheese
8 ounces Mozzarella, shredded
1 egg
¼ cup milk

For béchamel:
2 tablespoons Butter
2 tablespoon Flour
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon Nutmeg
1 teaspoon dried Thyme
1 teaspoon fresh Sage, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon fresh Basil, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash in two and clean out the seeds. Sprinkle with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast about 45 minutes cut side down until a fork pokes in easily.

In the meantime you can caramelize the onions. In a large sauté pan or iron skillet place two tablespoons olive oil and the onion rings. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over low-medium heat for about 40 minutes. Mix often and add more oil as needed, a little bit at a time. Onions are done when they turn a dark brown; at this point add in minced garlic and sauté for two – three minutes on low. Remove from heat and set aside.

Remove squash from oven and let cool until you can handle it.

Cook Rigatoni until al dente according to package directions. Drain and place in a large bowl, coat with a tablespoon or two of olive oil or butter. Set aside.

Prepare an 8×8 casserole pan with a thin coating of butter or baking spray. Set aside.

Make béchamel sauce. Melt two tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan whisk in flour, and cook for two – three minutes over low heat, until it turns a light golden brown. Whisk in milk slowly and simmer for a few minutes, whisking frequently until sauce begins to thicken. Whisk in nutmeg, thyme, sage, and basil, pour into bowl with pasta and toss to coat.

Remove the skin from the squash and using a food processor pulse until smooth. Add the ricotta, season with salt and pepper and pulse until well mixed. You can use a fork or potato smasher if you don’t have a food processor; first mash the squash, then add the ricotta and mash together until well mixed. Add this to the bowl of pasta. Add the caramelized onions and ½ of the Mozzarella cheese.

Beat the egg and ¼ cup milk together, add to pasta. Stir everything together until evenly mixed. Put into your prepared pan. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella over top.

Cook at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes until top turns golden brown. Let set for five minutes before serving.

Serve with fresh grated Parmesan or Romano.

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Butternut Squash Ziti