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super simple summer pasta

August 5, 2011

It’s summer. The livin’ is supposed to be easy. But then the unexpected guests show up. Or you can’t decide what you should make for the family reunion. Or it’s hot in your kitchen and it’s not where you want to be. Or you think you don’t know how to cook, but have been asked to bring a dish to a party. I am here to help you out. Here is what I did yesterday and it will give you an idea how to create a pasta dish with what you have on hand.

Looked in my Pantry: 12 oz bag of Al Dente Roasted Garlic Linguine, 6.5 oz.jar of Artichokes and Olive Oil.

Looked in my Fridge: Feta Cheese (1/2 cup),  a few leftover green beans and 5 sun-dried tomatoes

Looked on my Counter: 3 Fresh Tomatoes

Looked on my Porch: Fresh Basil and Parsley, growing in a pot.


Quarter the tomatoes and squeeze out the seeds. Diced them and put in big bowl along with artichokes, slivered sun-dried tomatoes, chopped green beans, feta, basil and parsley, 1/3 cup olive oil, salt and pepper. When you are ready to eat, simply bring your pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta for 3 minutes. Before draining, ladle a 1/4 cup of the water into your bowl.  Drain the pasta and toss in the bowl with the wonderful mixture. Season with salt and pepper.  Serve hot or at room temperature. (If serving at room temperature, then sprinkle with a little vinegar or lemon before serving.)

So that’s how you put together a pasta dish. Modify the ingredients to reflect how many people you are feeding. Of course you can plan ahead and have specific ingredients on hand,  but the beauty of this way of cooking is that you can improvise using what you have in your pantry, fridge and garden. Truly a no-brainer!


Bona Sera’s Party Pasta

May 29, 2011

Everyone has been asking for Bona Sera’s Perfect Party Pasta Recipe that has been featured on many a buffet table. I will be getting the exact recipe soon, but in the meantime, here is enough to get you going. It can be served hot or cold!


3 tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1 cup black olives

handful of basil, julienned

1 cup feta, crumbled

little olive oil

12 oz. bag Al Dente Spinach Fettuccine (or any other flavor)

From this photo, looks like Bona Sera did a quick saute of the tomatoes in the olive oil, then at last minute added the olives and basil. Cook pasta for 3 minutes in large pot of salted water. Drain pasta, add to skillet with tomatoes. Put in serving dish. Top with feta. Serve either immediately, hot, or later, at room temperature. Amazing!

spicy sesame pasta-in just 3 minutes!

May 26, 2011

My son was home from NY last weekend and, at first, was not impressed with what I decided to make for lunch. I defended myself, my recipe and my choice of vegetable. I bragged that this recipe is quickly becoming a universal favorite. In fact, I think that this recipe will do for our Spicy Sesame Linguine what Thanksgiving’s famous green been casserole did for French’s Fried Onions. Sure enough, Jean-Luc really loved it, just as I knew he would, as did my daughter. This recipe, or a version of it, needs to be in EVERYONE’S repertoire, beginner and experienced cooks alike.

beautiful photos taken by Olivia Vandertuig

Spicy Sesame Pasta with Broccoli and Garbanzo Beans

serves 4

6 oz. (1/2 bag) Al Dente Spicy Sesame Linguine (or any of Al Dente’s other pastas)

1 head of broccoli, cut into florettes

1 can of garbanzo beans, drained

1/2 to 3/4 cup of a bottled Asian-Style dressing like Paul Newman’s, Annies, Whole Foods, etc.

garnish with green onion and toasted almonds .


Drain garbanzo beans in colander. Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Add broccoli. When water comes back to a boil, add pasta and cook for 3 minutes. Drain the pasta and broccoli over the garbanzo beans. Toss it all with the dressing and garnish.

Many variations. If you want to make a large quantity for a party, then still use one bag of pasta and double the other ingredients adding extra dressing. Can also add shrimp, chicken, sweet red pepper, pea pods, etc. This can be served hot or cold.

pasta on the table in less than 5 minutes total!

The kids are definitely growing up. These beautiful photos were taken by Olivia Vandertuig, whom I’ve known since she was 6. Recently accepted to University of Michigan Architecture School she is contributing her talents to Al Dente this summer. Thanks, Olivia.

Would love to know if you have you have ever used Al Dente Fettuccine or Linguine for a Pasta Salad?

peggy loves pappardelle……

May 25, 2011

I’ve been getting very nostalgic these days. With Al Dente’s 30th anniversary coming up, I can’t help but think of all the people I’ve collaborated with over the years. Peggy Lampman is certainly one of them. Our lives have continuously intersected over the years and almost always around food. I honestly think Peggy loves pasta as much as I do. Here’s the recipe she featured last week on her dinner feed.

Peggy's Spring Pappardelle with Peas and Asparagus

Just like I do,  Peggy often cooks the vegetables like broccoli, asparagus and green beans in the same pot along with the pasta, when you think they will cook in 3 minutes. If the veggies need longer than 3, simply them into the water a couple of minutes before adding pasta.

If using frozen pea, she and I simply drain the pasta over the peas in the colander. If using fresh peas, you will need to cook them separately.

Yield: 6 servings
Time: 25 minutes


1 cup frozen peas
12 ounces Al Dente® Papparadelle pasta
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 bunch (8 cups) chopped chard, stems separated from leaves and washed
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 pound asparagus of similar width, stem ends snapped or cut off
Zest and juice from 1/2-1 lemon
3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as basil, dill, thyme or marjoram
Grated cheese, such as Manchego, Parmesan or Romano


1. Place peas in a colander in the sink. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and asparagus.  Drain pasta and asparagus over frozen peas in colander; the hot water will cook the peas.
2. While pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon oil to medium heat. Cook pine nuts until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove and reserve. Place chard stems in oil with garlic and saute until slightly limp, 2- 3 minutes. Add chard leaves and cook until tender, an additional 2 minutes.
3. Combine pasta, asparagus, peas, pine nuts and remaining olive oil with chard. Stir in zest and juice from half lemon, herbs and season to taste with kosher salt, freshly ground pepper and additional lemon zest and juice, if needed.
4. Ladle pasta onto individual plates or dishes and serve with grated Manchego cheese.

people lovin’ pappardelle

April 27, 2011

Is it because it’s new? Is it because every magazine, chef and tv show has a recipe calling for it? Is it because this pasta is so wonderfully wide? Whatever the reason, our Pappardelle is quickly becoming a bona fide best seller. Yes, people are loving it and that always makes me happy. Take for example, Kate–my newest foodie friend and author of Framed Cooks. She was inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe, but you must read her entire post for all the fun details.

Braised Short Ribs with Pappardelle

  • 28-ounces short ribs
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 handful each fresh rosemary and fresh thyme, stems discarded and leaves finely chopped
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick, finely chopped
  • 2 wineglasses Chianti
  • Two 14-ounce cans plum tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons pearl barley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 handfuls grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 12 oz. Al Dente® Pappardelle
1. Season the meat with salt and pepper.   In a Dutch oven, fry your meat in a little olive oil until golden brown. Add your herbs, onions, garlic, carrot, and celery. Turn the heat down and continue to cook for 5 minutes, until the vegetables have softened.
2. Add your red wine and continue to simmer until the liquid has almost cooked away but left you with a fantastic color and fragrance.
3. Add the plum tomatoes, the pearl barley, and just enough water to cover the meat by 1/2 inch. Make yourself a cartouche of parchment or wax paper. Wet it with a little water, rub it with a little olive oil, and place it over the pan. Put a lid on the pan as well, as this will retain as much moisture as possible while cooking. Cook over really low heat for about 2 to 3 hours, depending on the tenderness and type of meat. It’s ready when you can literally pull the meat apart in tender strands.
4. At this point, season the braise carefully with salt and pepper to taste and allow to cool slightly before removing the meat from the pan. Using 2 forks, pull apart all the lovely pieces of meat, throwing away any  bones. Skim any fat from the surface of the braising liquid. Put the meat back in the pan and place over low heat.
5. It’s now ready to serve, so cook your pappardelle in a pan of boiling, salted water for 3 minutes.  Once it’s cooked, drain it in a colander, saving some of the cooking liquid in case the sauce needs a little loosening. Remove the pot of stewed meat from the heat and stir in the butter and Parmesan with a little of the cooking water — this will make it juicy and shiny. Toss together with your pasta and serve immediately. If desired, serve sprinkled with a little finely chopped fresh rosemary and some more grated
P.S. Do you know what a cartouche is? If you read Kate’s post, you’ll know why I am asking.

pasta and peas, pretty please

April 14, 2011

Ahh yes! Spring is here. Time to shift the comfort foods of winter to the back burner as we start dreaming up pasta recipes using asparagus and artichokes, fava beans and fiddleheads, garlic scapes, leeks, nettles, mint, morels and of course…..peas.

Pasta with Ham and Peas

Serves 4-6

12 oz. bag of al dente® pasta

1 Tbsp. butter

1 cup of either cream, evaporated low-fat milk or half and half

10 oz. of freshly shelled peas or frozen peas

8 oz. thickly sliced ham, or smoked turkey, cut into cubes

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

salt and pepper to taste


1.Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add ham or turkey stirring until heated. Add half and half and simmer gently.

2. In the meantime, put pasta in boiling, salted water. Add the peas to cook along with pasta. When pasta is cooked and “al dente”,  drain.  Over medium heat, toss pasta and peas with ham mixture and Parmesan until thickened. Season with salt and pepper.

The gorgeous photos were taken by Josh Chamberlain, an amazing young man attending Washtenaw Community College and son of the equally amazing woman who is the founder of FLY.  Certainly two of my favorite people and favorite organizations.

Any other quick and easy pasta and peas recipes out there? How about sharing here or on the Al Dente Pasta Facebook Page! Here’s a variation on my theme from The Bitten Word, a blog that I think is cool. Even though their recipe calls for 18 oz. of Angel Hair, it would work great with 12 oz. of any Al Dente Pastas–Linguine, Fettuccine or Pappardelle.


No FestiFoolin’

April 1, 2011

callin' all noodle heads

You could win a case of Al Dente Pasta and a $50 Zingerman’s gift certificate….

Not enough people in the world know about Ann Arbor’s annual FestiFools Parade. I want to change that. In my humble opinion, it’s what every college town needs. A perfect bridge connecting town and gown. On a personal level, it blends everything I value in life: Creativity. Fun. Inclusiveness. And, there’s even an  over-grown noodle head in the parade!

This morning I had a vision-that someday people all around the country would know about FestiFools. Kind of like Al Dente Pasta and Zingerman’s Deli, two businesses from Ann Arbor, Michigan who have, over time, garnered a national presence and reputation. I think it could happen!

What do you think? Do you believe in FestiFoolery? If so, then help me spread the word. Here is extra incentive to inspire social media action.

Al Dente Pasta’s FestiFool Challenge

If Al Dente Pasta can get 300 new Facebook Friends by Monday, April 4th at 4:00 then a random name will be drawn from the names of the people who commented on this blog post responding to the question.

Have you ever tried Al Dente® Pasta? If so, what is your favorite flavor?

The winner will receive 1 case of Al Dente® Pasta and a $50 gift certificate to Zingerman’s. In addition,  Al Dente® Pasta Company will make a $100 donation to FestiFools to help them in their mission of bringing FestiFoolery to us every April.

We currently have 420 Facebook Fans. The drawing will occur at 4:00 on Monday April 4th, exactly 24 hours after the FestiFools Parade begins on April 3rd, at 4:00. It will only happen if we have 720 fans by that time. Winner will be announced on Facebook.

PS. This is what Al Dente Pasta Looks like, just in case you are wondering. Also, even if you are not a local, you could use your gift certificate for Zingerman’s MailOrder.


This guy was the winner of pasta at Silvios

Spring Time Pasta

March 24, 2011

Spring just may be my favorite season. That feeling of warmth and sunshine……it almost makes going through the cold Michigan winter worth it. Here’s how Dennis and I celebrated the season last night.

Warning: I didn’t measure anything so this recipe is “loose”.


spring is in the air

Pasta with Asparagus, Smoked Salmon and Pinenut
serves 2


1/3 bag of Al Dente® Pasta (I used Egg Fettuccine)

nice bunch of asparagus, cut on the diagonal

a little smoked salmon or gravlax

1/2 cup pinenuts, toasted

2 Tbsp. olive oil


Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. In the meantime, gently toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over low heat. Remove from skillet. Then heat the olive oil in the skillet and saute the asparagus until tender and beginning to brown. Sprinkle with coarse salt to bring out the flavor. Once water comes to a boil, add pasta. Right before draining the pasta, ladle approx 1/4 cup of the pasta water into the skillet with the asparagus. Drain the pasta. Toss in skillet with the asparagus. Put on plate garnished with pine nuts and salmon.


If Kristin wins the Saveur Challenge……

March 22, 2011

you could win, too! Here’s how:

Whenever Kristin Cole sends me a recipe using Al Dente Pasta, I get really excited and share it with everyone right away. This latest one deserves extra attention because she submitted it to the Saveur HomeCook Pasta Challenge and it would be so cool if she won!  Here’s an extra incentive to vote…..

If Kristin wins, I will randomly select one Al Dente Pasta Facebook Friend to win a case of pasta and a $100 gift certificate to a store in their town which carries Al Dente®Pasta. What to do now.

1. Go to Saveur and vote for Kristin by March 28th.

2. Become an Al Dente Pasta Facebook Friend

3. Spread the word to your friends. If Kristin wins, you could win!

green is good

March 17, 2011

eat green in good health

I know, I know……pasta is hardly considered a traditional Irish dish. And, I love potatoes, I really do. But this blog is all about pasta and since my specialty is finding ways to tie anything and everything to pasta, here goes. In this recipe, I am featuring green veggies (any will work) along with some chicken apple sausage. I was cooking for just me and my 1/2 Irish husband, so only used 1/3 of a bag of pasta.

lucky to have local veggies in my freezer

Pasta with 3 Green Veggies and Chicken Apple Sausage

serves 2

1/3 of a bag of Al Dente ® Pasta (I used Whole Wheat)

2 links of Chicken Apple Sausage, Aidells or your favorite

3 cups veggies, eg. broccoli, edamame, green beans

1/4 cup walnuts, because they are so good for you

2 Tbsp. olive oil

Parmesan Cheese or Blue Cheese, your choice

1/3 cup reserved pasta cooking water

quick veggies and sausage in skillet


Put large pot of salted water on stove.  If the veggies are leftovers from your fridge or already parboiled, then simply heat the sausage and veggies over medium high heat in olive oil. Since I was using Locavorious veggies that’s all I did. Before draining the pasta, ladle a little of the cooking liquid into the skillet. Drain pasta and add to skillet. Garnish with walnuts, cheese and season with salt and pepper.(If the veggies are fresh, then you can cook them in the boiling water along with the pasta)

another recipe on the table in minutes

Another very appropriate recipe for St. Patrick’s Day is this one from Peggy Lampman. She did it in conjunction with FestiFools, which makes it extra appropriate since FestiFools is right around the corner.  We still don’t know who will be donning the Pasta Crown, so f you live near Ann Arbor and are interested, comment here and we’ll see what we can do.