Category Archives: Pasta

Easy Spaghetti and Meatballs

Since my son started eating “real” food, meatballs have become one of the most frequently served dinners in our household. I like to mix it up, sometimes using beef, sometimes turkey, and I use a variety of seasonings and sauces. But sometimes it’s nice to stick with traditional Spaghetti and Meatballs. This recipe doesn’t require hours of your time. It’s fast enough to make for a weeknight dinner though still hearty and satisfying so you feel like you’re sitting down for a relaxing family meal.

Easy Spaghetti & Meatballs

The meatballs include standard ground beef, onion, breadcrumbs (I used panko), garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, and an egg white to help bind everything together. Easy so far. I’ll admit this recipe “cheats” a little and includes jarred tomato sauce. I love to make everything from scratch but I have my hands full with a full time job and a toddler and sometimes (okay, realistically, always) there just aren’t enough hours in the day sometimes to do it all. So jarred sauce it is.

Easy Spaghetti and Meatballs

After forming the meatballs from the ground beef mixture, I lightly browned them in a nonstick skillet coated with a little olive oil cooking spray. I then added the prepared tomato sauce, spiced it up with a little basil, and let simmer for 10 minutes. I made the pasta while the sauce was simmering and the dinner was ready before I knew it, about 40 minutes max. Save time after work by chopping the onions in advance or preparing the meatballs in advance and refrigerating the uncooked meatballs until you’re ready to brown them. I bet this would freeze well too!

Easy Spaghetti and Meatballs

Like all the meatballs I’ve shared here, my son was a HUGE fan! No leftovers for us! He’s only 18 months old but I’m sensing my grocery bills are going to be nuts when he’s a teenager since he can already down quite a bit! But I love cooking for him. And seeing his excitement when he finds something really yummy, like these Easy Spaghetti and Meatballs, is so worth it!

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Easy Spaghetti and Meatballs (adapted from Cooking Light Five Star Recipes)

Yield: serves 4

1 pound ground beef

1/4 cup minced fresh onion

2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1 large egg white, lightly beaten

1 jar (about 25 ounces) of tomato sauce (tomato and basil flavor works great), divided

cooking spray

1/2 tablespoons dried basil

8-12 ounces uncooked spaghetti

Directions:

1. In a mixing bowl, combine the beef, onion, bread crumbs, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, egg white, and 2 tablespoons of the tomato sauce. Shape into 20-24 meatballs, about 1.5-2 inches in diameter.

2. Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and place over medium heat. Brown the meatballs on all sides for 6 minutes. Pour in the remaining tomato sauce and add the dried basil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.

3. While the sauce is simmering, boil water and prepare the pasta according to package directions. Serve meatballs over spaghetti. Garnish with basil or cheese if desired.

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Soba Noodle Salad with Vegetables and Tofu

Soba noodles, also known as buckwheat noodles, are a traditional New Year’s food in Japan. It is thought that the length of the noodles symbolizes longevity in life, which of course is a good thing to hope for going into a new year. Aside from the length of the noodles, this dish may help contribute to a long life because it’s really good for you. I know a lot of people make various healthy eating resolutions starting January 1st and this recipe won’t derail you. Over the next few weeks I’m planning to feature a number of nutritious and lower calorie meals that will help you to achieve your resolutions. I’ll put the nutrition information at the bottom of the recipe. If there’s not nutrition info, more than likely you just don’t want to know (or my 15 month old son just wouldn’t go to bed so I didn’t have time to calculate everything, which is a distinct possibility these days)!

This dish is satisfying thanks to delicious sweet and spicy Asian flavors. The distinctive flavor of sesame oil is enhanced by the sweetness of brown sugar and orange juice, and spiced up with some chile paste, ginger, and garlic. The salad is served cold, but I really prefer cooked tofu so instead of “raw” tofu as called for in the original recipe, I seasoned and broiled it to crisp it up a little and add more flavor.

Soba Noodle Salad with Vegetables and Tofu

This salad contains tofu and long soba noodles for a long life. Other than cooking those, which requires minimal hands on time, this is a quick weeknight meal to put together. The salad veggies include napa cabbage, bean sprouts, and carrots and provide a nice crunch in contrast to the noodles and tofu. A bagged coleslaw mix could be substituted for the napa cabbage if you’re really in a rush. I’ll share another use for napa cabbage soon too so any leftovers don’t go to waste.

Soba Noodle Salad with Vegetables and Tofu

I want to wish all of The Dinner Pages readers a safe New Year’s celebration and a happy and healthy 2014! For this blog, which has only been around for 2 months, I hope to continue to bring you delicious, family friendly, and (mostly) healthy recipes. Let me know what you’d like to see more of and I will get cooking!

Soba Noodle Salad with Vegetables and Tofu

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Soba Noodle Salad with Vegetables and Tofu (adapted from Cooking Light Complete Meals in Minutes)

Yield: 4-5 servings

Dressing:

1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

2 tablespoons orange juice

1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic (or finely minced fresh garlic)

1 teaspoon chile paste with garlic

Salad:

1 package (12-14 ounces) firm or extra-firm tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes

nonstick cooking spray

salt and pepper

1 8-10 ounce package of soba noodles (can substitute whole wheat spaghetti)

half a head of napa (Chinese) cabbage (about 3-4 cups), thinly sliced

2 cups fresh bean sprouts

1 cup shredded carrot

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Directions:

1. Prepare the salad dressing by placing the first 9 ingredients (under dressing) in a small mixing bowl and combining with a whisk. Set aside.

2. To prepare the tofu, coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Place the cubes of tofu in a bowl and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste. Transfer the cubes to the baking sheet and broil on high for 15 minutes, or until lightly golden, turning the cubes over once halfway through.

3. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil then add the soba noodles and cook according to package directions, about 4 minutes. Drain the noodles, rinse in cold water, then drain again.

4. In a large bowl, combine the tofu, noodles, cabbage, sprouts, carrot, and cilantro. Top with the dressing and toss together to combine.

Nutrition Information:

For 1/4 of the salad: 371 calories, 9 grams of fat (calculated from myfitnesspal.com; all nutrition information is approximate)

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Red Curry Peanut Noodles

Mmmmmm…peanut butter. It is really good on everything! So clearly peanut noodles are amazing, I mean, pasta plus peanut butter…what could be bad? I found this recipe in the 2009 Food & Wine Cookbook and was intrigued by the addition of red curry paste to classic peanut noodles. After making it, I was pleased to see that it worked really well. The curry paste added a little bit of spice to this dish but with the amount I used, I wouldn’t really call this a spicy meal. If spice is your thing, you might want to add more curry paste, crushed red pepper, or Sriracha to spice it up. I added shredded chicken to the noodles to make this more of a meal than a side. Using a supermarket rotisserie chicken saved time and made this a quick weeknight dinner, which I really needed, since I had to use the time I saved that night to make Peppermint Blondies for my son’s teacher. If you prefer to make a vegetarian dish, tofu would work well instead of chicken, or just enjoy the peanut noodles on their own. They’re supposed to be served cold but I love them hot as well!

Red Curry Peanut Noodles

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Red Curry Peanut Noodles (adapted from Food & Wine Annual Cookbook 2009)

Yield: 4 servings

3/4 pound spaghetti (I used a mixture of whole wheat and regular)

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon red curry paste

1/3 cup lower sodium chicken broth

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, divided

kosher salt, to taste

1 cup shredded chicken

2 green onions, white and green parts thinly sliced

1 cup matchstick carrots

1/3 cup coarsely chopped salted roasted peanuts

Directions:

1. Boil a large pot of salted water. Once it is boiling, add the spaghetti and cook according to package directions, until it is al dente. Drain the pasta and rinse under cold water.

2. In a food processor (a 2 cup mini food processor is large enough), pulse together the peanut butter, lime juice, red curry paste, broth, and 1/4 cup cilantro until pureed. Season with salt, to taste.

3. In a large bowl, add the drained and rinsed spaghetti to the chicken, onions, and carrots. Mix in the sauce and toss to combine.

4. Garnish with the remaining cilantro leaves and the chopped peanuts.

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Pasta with Eggplant and Tomatoes

Eggplant parmesan is definitely an old standby, but it can be really heavy and greasy with globs of cheese and fried eggplant slices leaving you feeling pretty weighed down afterwards. This meal was another discovery from How to Cook Everything, and I chose to make it because I really haven’t cooked with eggplant in years so I figured I’d give it a shot. It turned out to be a deconstructed eggplant parm, minus the cheese, and was quite tasty.

I started off by making fresh breadcrumbs. I used a few day old loaf of Italian bread and in my mini food processor, coarsely ground chunks of bread to equal about a cup of bread crumbs. I put a large pot of salted water to boil on one burner and on the other, I heated 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Once it was hot, I added the breadcrumbs, along with a little salt, freshly ground black pepper, and garlic powder, and cooked them until they were crispy and brown. I removed them from the skillet into a bowl and added another 1/4 cup of olive oil to the same skillet.

By this time the water was boiling so I added a pound of linguine and cooked it for 10 minutes, then drained it. In the meantime, I cooked about a pound of eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes, in the skillet until it was soft and browned, about 10 minutes. I added salt and black pepper to taste. I then added 3 plum tomatoes, which I had seeded and cored, and cut into small pieces and thin slivers from a large clove of garlic. When the tomatoes were softened, about another 5-8 minutes, I added 1/4 cup worth of thinly sliced fresh basil. I combined the linguine, the eggplant mixture, and the breadcrumbs, added a bit more salt and freshly ground pepper, and served dinner, garnished with more basil, and with garlic bread on the side.

It was huge success. It tasted as good as eggplant parmesan, without the grease, and the combination of flavors is one of my favorites. Continually checking the seasoning and adding salt and pepper throughout the cooking process was a worthwhile effort to get the flavor right. I do think some fresh mozzarella would have been a tasty match for this dish. This is a good meal for entertaining since most people seem to like eggplant parmesan, and definitely a meal I will add to our rotation.

Pasta with Eggplant and Tomatoes

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Pasta with Eggplant and Tomatoes (adapted from How to Cook Everything)

Yield: 4 servings

salt

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 cup coarsely ground bread crumbs

freshly ground black pepper

garlic powder

1 pound eggplant, cut into 1/2-1 inch chunks

1 pound tomatoes, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2-1 inch chunks

1 large clove thinly sliced garlic

1 pound linguine, spaghetti, or other long pasta

1/4 cup thinly sliced basil, plus more for garnish

The Recipe

1. Prepare the bread crumbs, eggplant, tomatoes, and garlic.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta to the pot and cook per package directions, until it is done, then drain.

3. While the water is boiling, place 1/4 cup olive oil into a large skillet set over medium-high heat. When hot, add the bread crumbs and cooked, stirring frequently, until toasted, about 3-4 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Once browned, remove from the skillet and place into a bowl, then set aside.

4. Add the other 1/4 cup olive oil to the skillet, then cook the eggplant, stirring from time to time and seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste, until it is browned and tender, about 10-15 minutes. When the eggplant is ready, add the the tomatoes and garlic and cook until softened, 8-10 minutes, the stir in the basil until just wilted.

5. Toss the cooked pasta with the eggplant mixture, then stir in the breadcrumbs. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Could consider adding some fresh mozzarella at this point too.

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Lo Mein

One of the fun benefits of this blog (so far) is that I am rediscovering my cookbook collection (that was the point anyway, right?). We received How to Cook Everything for a wedding gift and honestly I don’t think I really gave it the attention it deserves. I have lots of appetizing cookbooks but this one has a really interesting and unique selection of recipes for normal (that is, not fancy) food that I am excited to cook for my family. Tonight’s selection was lo mein. It was a much healthier alternative to the greasy stuff from our local Chinese takeout place and lends itself to lots of modifications depending on what is in your produce drawer and whether you’re serving a vegetarian or carnivore.

My husband made a batch of this tofu yesterday (I’m sure I will write about it in detail some other time…it’s amazing) so I decided to use it for this dish and go vegetarian for the night. Another nice thing about this meal is that a lot of the prep work can be done in advance making it a quick weeknight dinner. I cut the tofu into tiny cubes and soaked it in soy sauce. I sliced an onion into thin rings, then chopped up a pound of broccoli florets and sliced a red pepper into slender strips. I also minced 2 cloves of garlic and grated about a tablespoon of fresh ginger. It was key to get all the ingredients measured and ready to go up front so as not to slow down the cooking. The quantities are definitely not exact. I also ended up adding a cup of matchstick carrots I found in the fridge. Chopped up asparagus or mushrooms would work fine too. Or maybe some snow peas. The tofu didn’t have to be pre-cooked and certainly other proteins like beef or chicken would go splendidly as well; they just need to be sliced into very thin strips so they will cook fully and quickly when it is time. Once I had everything measured and set up…

set up for lo mein

…it was time to cook.

I boiled slightly salted water in a large saucepan and added 12 ounces of linguine. Whole wheat spaghetti or Chinese egg noodles would also work nicely here. Once it was al dente (it took 10 minutes) I drained it and tossed it with a tablespoon of peanut oil.

While the pasta was cooking I heated my wok on high then added another tablespoon of peanut oil. To that I cooked the onion until it was light brown, then I added the carrots, broccoli florets, and red pepper strips. I cooked them for about 6-8 minutes (go less if you prefer crisper vegetables). I stirred in the garlic and ginger and cooked for another minute or two, then removed all the veggies from the pan.

lo mein veggies

I added the final tablespoon of oil to the wok and carefully poured in the tofu (I tried to put the tofu in first, then the remaining soy sauce to cut down on splattering hot oil). I cooked it for a minute more. If using raw meat this might take a bit longer but again, this is why very thin strips are needed because it will cut down on cooking time. I then added in half a cup of vegetable stock, the noodles, and the vegetables and tossed it together for another minute.

The recipe was a keeper. I think it will be added to our regular repertoire given its versatility. For future I’d aim to get all the vegetables cut up over the weekend after doing our shopping so I can just immediately get to the cooking (and eating) part after a long work day. This lo mein was definitely a nutritious and tasty alternative to takeout!

lo mein

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Lo Mein (adapted from How to Cook Everything)

Serves 4

salt

12 ounces dry linguine (or whole wheat spaghetti)

3 tablespoons peanut oil, divided

8 ounces tofu, beef, chicken, etc., sliced into small, thin pieces

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 pound chopped broccoli florets

1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced into strips

1 cup matchstick carrots

(Any other veggies you choose)

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1/2 cup vegetable stock (or chicken stock or water)

The Recipe

1. Boil water in a large saucepan and add salt if desired. Once water comes to a boil add the linguine or other noodles and cook per package directions, about 10 minutes. Once the pasta is ready, drain it, toss with a tablespoon of oil and set aside.

2. While the pasta is cooking, heat a tablespoon of oil in a wok or large skillet on high. Once it is hot, add the onion slices and cook for 5 minutes, until lightly browned, stirring regularly. Then add the other vegetables and cook for up to 8 minutes, depending on how crispy you prefer your veggies. Add the garlic and ginger and stir in for about a minute. Remove vegetables from the wok.

3. Heat a third tablespoon of oil in the wok on high. Add the tofu (or chicken, etc.) to the wok and cook for about a minute (or if using raw meat, until fully cooked through). Then add any remaining soy sauce and the stock.

4. Add the pasta and vegetables back to the pan and combine, then serve.

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