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Tag Archives: simple recipe

Balsamic Penne Caprese with Spinach

Stay at home week 9. We officially have a two month old (on Sunday the 17th) and I cannot believe how time flies in a matter of a snap. I kind of wish time would go quicker so I can have family and friends over again, be close enough to hug again, enjoy a brunch cocktail at a restaurant again, but all in good time. This time spent at home with Rowen is something that not many new moms experience so I am eternally grateful to have this special bond with him, and more time with my husband too. Having more time at home also allows me to be in my kitchen more which I will never complain about.

I’m going to officially call this week pasta week, because I’ve made pasta twice already, including the dish I’m sharing on the blog today: penne pasta with tomato and mozzarella (caprese) tossed in a homemade balsamic sauce/glaze with sautéed spinach. As most recipes do, this one came to me in the shower. Don’t judge me. I think a lot in the shower and I had a vision for a lighter, vegetable-based, with a touch of sweetness pasta dinner that would be good with a variety of mix-ins. Caprese, which is simply tomato and mozzarella, is delicious on its own, so to throw it together with penne pasta, a homemade balsamic glaze, and add in some spinach, what’s not to love?

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 pkg penne pasta ( I did NOT make this recipe gluten free but I imagine any gluten free pasta would do, Banza in particular or Jovial – found on Thrive Market – link to the site on the banner on the right!)
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 pint fresh mozzarella balls “ciliegine” style (size of a cherry tomato)
  • 1 tbsp butter or olive oil (to sauté the spinach)
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar or coconut sugar
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • Oregano
  • Dried Basil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

For the pasta:

  • Sauté the spinach on the stove with the butter and set aside (the spinach will wilt and become half the portion you put in).
  • Take out the mozzarella balls from its container and put into a separate bowl to let them dry. Rinse and quarter the grape tomatoes – set aside as well.
  • Prepare your pasta as described by the package and drain. Pour pasta into a large serving bowl.

For the balsamic:

  • Pour the cup of balsamic into a small sauce pan on medium heat.
  • Add in the coconut or brown sugar and maple syrup.
  • Whisk together and bring to a boil, stir for 3-4 minutes until it becomes a little thicker.
  • Turn off heat or set to a very low flame, be careful not to burn.

Combine the tomatoes, mozzarella, spinach in with the pasta and mix. Pour the balsamic sauce/glaze all over and mix together. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, dried basil, and oregano. Serve with a side of garlic bread, a glass of Montepulciano, and a new show on Netflix and you’ve got yourself a great evening. NOMaste 🙂

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Roasted Broccoli Baked Mac and Cheese

Welcome to 2020: a year of uncertainty, unknown, and lack of clarity. This is also a new decade, with new memories to be made, new things to explore, new opportunities, and new experiences. It’s unfortunate what is happening in our world at this time, and while it takes us out of our comfort zones and forces us to isolate, we remember to cherish the time we have with our loved ones, FaceTime with family we can’t get to physically visit, and look for the silver lining: how lucky we are to be alive right now.

I decided to get back to simple and easy meals, some that really only require pantry or already-at-home items because while everyone stocked up on toilet paper, I was hopeful to just make sure I had enough milk, bread, and eggs in my home. I knew I wanted to make something equally delicious and comforting, so I opted for a staple: Macaroni and Cheese. My pantry always has pasta, heavy cream/milk. I had butter and flour, I also remembered I had some cheese in the house, as well as broccoli. To ramp up the fun in the MAC, I roasted broccoli and threw that in the mix too. It’s ok to drool on your screen, I won’t judge ya.

I love making pasta meals with veggies because it’s just a perfect balance of carbs: complex versus simple starch. Broccoli is a house favorite and we more often than not have it on hand at all times. I tossed the broc in some avocado oil, salt, and pepper and threw it in the oven to bake for 20 minutes, right at the peak of crispiness, since I knew it would cook more and soften in the oven with the pasta. It added a whole other dimension of salt and savory to this dish that I didn’t realize I needed – this will absolutely become a freezer staple in my house.

Ok, enough narrative, here’s the deal with this recipe:

  • For the MAC:
    • 1 pkg macaroni
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • 1 1/2 cups broth (veggie or chicken)
    • 2 tbsp butter
    • 1/4 cup flour
    • 2-3 cups grated cheese (cheddar: sharp and mild)
  • For the broccoli:
    • 2 cups broccoli florets
    • 2 tbsp avocado oil
    • Salt
    • Pepper
  • Products used:
    • Organic Valley butter, heavy cream, cheese
    • Rao’s macaroni pasta
    • Chosen Foods avocado oil

Toss broccoli in avocado oil (or oil of your choice) and season with salt nd pepper. Bake at 375° for 20m.  Set aside. Boil pasta to al dente (2 minutes less than package).  Strain and set aside. For the cheese sauce, you’ll make a roux, which is flour and butter whisked together. Melt butter and whisk in flour to create a paste.  Add in heavy cream and stock. Bring to a boil then simmer.  Turn off heat and melt in cheese.  Using a oven-safe dish, pour in the drained pasta, then the broccoli, and then pour in the cheese sauce and mix, making sure the broccoli is dispersed evenly and the cheese sauce coats all the noodles.

Sprinkle a little bit more cheese on top and some breadcrumbs (totally optional). Bake for 10 minutes and broil for two to get a nice golden top. Serve and enjoy! PS. There will be leftovers, which is great for working from home 🙂