Italian Summer Pasta Salad

 Italian Summer Pasta Salad1

 

After radio silence for 3 weeks, I’m back. Again. Can’t say for how long but I am here. So how are things guys? Here, monsoon has almost arrived and summer is officially over (for good!). But here I am, with a huge backlog of summer recipes. What am I to do when all these days I have been cooking all things “summery” regularly but not getting time to post them. Let’s just say that it is still summer somewhere in the world, right?! 😉

I love anything and everything Italian so when I came across this pretty looking salad on Sommer’s amazing blog I knew I had to get to it pronto. It is so good and SO refreshing! Zests of orange and lemon, al dente pasta, orange chunks, tiny tomatoes and torn basil all tied together with olive oil and Parmesan cheese. What’s not to love? Must try, whatever time of year it is for you.

I hope you’re having an awesome weekend.
Stay cozy, it’s gonna be a rainy one! xx

 

Italian Summer Pasta Salad3

 

Italian Summer Pasta Salad

Recipe scaled down & adapted from A Spicy Perspective

Yield: 2-3 servings | Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 15 minutes | Total: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat Farfalle pasta
  • 1 naval orange, zest and orange segments
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup scallions, cut into 1 inch segments
  • 1/4 cup torn basil leaves
  • 3 Tbsp shaved Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Place a large pot of salted water over high heat. Bring to a boil and cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain the pasta and set aside to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, zest the orange and lemon. Place the zest and the juice of lemon in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and whisk. Peel the orange, gently break the segments apart and seed them. Place them in the bowl.
  3. Slice the tomatoes in half and add to the bowl. Then pour the drained pasta over the tomatoes and gently toss to coat. Add the scallions and basil leaves to the bowl and toss. Salt and pepper generously, about 1/2 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Note: I didn’t have scallions at hand so I had to skip them but they are highly recommended as it’d add some crunch & make the dish all the more flavorsome. 🙂

 

Italian Summer Pasta Salad2

5-minute Tomato Pasta Sauce ~ Meal for Two & Some Chit Chat

5-Minutes Tomato Pasta Sauce1

 

Let’s chat, shall we!? Time to end the lazy slump I’ve been rolling in lately. A lot’s been going on around here and I’m up for a full disclosure now. I did slip the news on Instagram couple of weeks ago but didn’t announce officially on the blog. So here it goes!! Drum-rolls please!!! I am going to LONDON this FALL for a one year postgraduate programme!!!!! WOHOOOO!!!!!!! HOW AWESOME IS THAT?!! Sorry for all the yelling but I’m SOOOOO excited for this new chapter of my life to begin. This year has been truly magical so far!

I got the confirmed offer on my admission about a couple months ago but was skeptical on sharing the news as there were so many things to consider and plan for before I decide to accept the offer. Let’s just say I didn’t want to jinx it! I was ecstatic (to say the least) to get into this prestigious college. I was (still am!) over the MOON would be an understatement. I leave in September and there is so much to do. I need to visit my parents, apply for Visa, do the shopping, pack my bags and off I go. Fingers crossed for a smooth sailing!

Now here is a bit of not-so-good-news. Umm… I’m not sure if I’ll be able to continue blogging along with my studies but I’m not going to incessantly worry over something I can’t control. As of now, the only thing I’m sure of is that the programme is going to be very intense and I am going to have to give my 101% attention to it, even if blogging takes a backseat. I AM absolutely ready to prioritize. I love blogging so much therefore I’ll be blogging here as much as I can until September and after that we’ll see how things go. I would love to pop over in between during my stay in London to share my experiences in new country, food related or not. I will definitely try to stay as active as possible on Instagram nonetheless so do follow me there to stay in touch and be my companion on #LondonDiaries! 🙂

*Recipe*

This recipe I am sharing today is bonkers awesome! It is the quickest meal I have ever made (apart from toss-in-all-you-have salads or couscous!). If you can boil the pasta then you can make this recipe. This one here is basically foolproof! The tomato paste (Brand name – Splitz) I used for this quick pasta sauce is made locally in Bangalore and the ingredients list reads – Tomatoes. That’s it! It does not have any funky ingredients I can’t understand or pronounce, just pure tomato goodness without any color or preservative or salt! Too good to be true and but sadly, it is mostly available only in Bangalore. But fret not. You can go ahead and try any other good, organic tomato paste you can find in the store near you.

This packet is definitely going with me everywhere I travel. I guess it’d be a blessing during my soon-to-start student life! What a cheap, no-fuss and delicious meal option with so many possibilities. Add any number of vegetables to this dish to make it more hearty and fulfilling. Just a heaping Tablespoon of this potent tomato paste is enough for one portion. You can tell I’m quite impressed! What can I say, sometimes simple is truly THE BEST! xx

 

5-Minute Tomato Pasta Sauce2

 

Quickest Tomato Pasta Sauce ~ Dinner for Two

Yields: 2 generous servings | Prep time: 2 minutes |Cook time: 15 minutes | Total time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups macaroni pasta
  • 1 cup pasta water, reserved after boiling
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • Scant 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 tsp salt or more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp dry basil herb
  • 1/4 tsp freshly cracked pepper
  • Shavings of Parmesan cheese
Directions:
  1. Cook pasta as per the package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and drain the pasta.
  2. In the meantime, heat the pan on a medium-high heat. Add olive oil, garlic and onion and sauté for a minute. Add tomato paste and salt and sauté for about 2-3 minutes, scraping and stirring occasionally. The tomato paste will turn brown and this will enhance the flavors. Mix in basil and pepper and cook for another minute.
  3. Stir in 3/4 cup of reserved pasta water to the tomato paste and magically you’ll get your pasta sauce ready! If you want thinner consistency sauce, add remaining 1/4 cup pasta water too. Stir in the drained pasta. Divide between 2 serving dishes. Top with some shavings of Parmesan cheese and fresh basil leaves. Serve immediately.

Notes:
*You can add vegetables of your choice to make the meal more hearty. Just sauté the vegetables along with garlic and onion before adding tomato paste to the mix. Zucchini, broccoli, eggplant, bell peppers…. sky is the limit!
*You may also top the pasta with capers or olives.
*Use whole wheat or quinoa pasta to make this meal healthier. 
*Use penne or spaghetti pasta instead of macaroni.

Baked Orzo with Spinach, Corn & Asparagus

Baked Orzo with Spinach, Corn & Asparagus1
Okay, I have a pattern. On this blog. I write either about desserts or pasta here. I have a proof. But what can I say?! They are two of my favorite things. The weather here is not helping the matters either. This rainy, gloomy weather forces me to switch on the oven almost everyday! It makes me add cinnamon to every sweet stuff I bake so that the house smells like Fall. I am craving soups and wearing cardigan while going out. Gosh, how I am in love with the weather right now!!
You guys know I am all for skinny dishes. But that does not mean I do not like eating overloaded cheesy goodness. In fact, I LOVE it so much but just NEVER make it. I can’t bring myself to add a pound of cheese to any dish knowingly. Period.
Baked Orzo with Spinach, Corn & Asparagus2
This dish here is in no way skinny. But not unusually loaded either. Something in between. A dish I would dive in. It is everything I had hoped and dreamed for in baked pasta. There’re pillows of corn and asparagus throughout. There are decadent, gooey cheese pulls stretching from every forkful. And it is easy. Yes, as easy as this simple mac-n-cheese I know how to make. So make it NOW as there is no reason to keep yourself away from such a bliss.
Baked Orzo with Spinach, Corn & Asparagus
Serves: 2
Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Orzo, a rice shaped pasta
  • 1/2 cup corn kernels
  • 8-10 spears of asparagus cut into 1-inch pieces, hard/woody ends discarded
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 5-6 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp tomato pest
  • 1/2 cup spinach leaves, packed, roughly chopped
  • 3 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1/3 cup Mozzarella cheese, small cubes of 1/2 cm
  • salt, to taste
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp oregano flakes
  • 1/4 tsp red chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup reserved pasta water

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC / 350ºF. Boil a pot of water with generous sprinkle of salt. Add Orzo, corn kernels and asparagus to the boiling water. Let it boil for 2 minutes and after that save 1/2 cup of water. Drain Orzo, corn kernels, asparagus and set aside.
  2. Simultaneously heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add oil to the hot pan and once oil is shimmering, add the shallots, garlic and celery. Cook for 3 minutes or so till shallots turn translucent. Add tomato paste, Orzo, corn kernels, asparagus and cook for 3 more minutes. Off the heat. Immediately mix-in spinach leaves.
  3. Add Parmesan, Mozzarella, salt, pepper, oregano, red chilli flakes, lemon zest and pasta water and mix well.
  4. Transfer mixture to a small oval or 6×6-inch square ovenproof baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes, then bake for 15 minutes without the foil. (You can change ratio of foil-on to foil-off time as per your preference for crunchy pasta lid.) Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Notes:

*You can use whole-wheat Orzo or replace Orzo with any other small-sized pasta.
*I used pasta water and did not feel that the dish was lacking in flavor at all. But if you do not like using water then use vegetable stock.

Caprese Pasta Salad

Caprese Salad1

 

It’s my Mother’s Birthday today! She is the most special woman in my life. She is my first best friend and I have had heaps of special moments with her. She handed down so many traits of hers to me… We both love bags, shoes, clothes and FOOD! She is such an awesome cook!

As already confessed in my intro page, I never learnt to cook before I got married and being such a great cook that she is, my mom was quite concerned about that part. She sincerely wrote down all her recipes in a diary for my convenience and gifted it to me on my D-day. That is my most prized possession and a lovely gesture on my mom’s part! I should soon get down to posting few of her special recipes!

Among many things my mother and I share, we both LOVE pasta! So aptly, I am posting a very simple pasta salad which is very refreshing and flavorful. I’m sure my mom would have enjoyed this thoroughly if I could make this for her at home for tonight’s celebration. But we are distanced by miles hence a virtual birthday dish will have to suffice! 😦

 

Caprese Salad2

 

I love Caprese in any and every form!

You must remember I once created this unusual ice-cream with it and these skewers served with pesto!

This time I brought together 2 of my favorites and created this dee-lish caprese pasta salad. Of course with a twist… I added capers for a little tang! And it really did wonders. This salad is so beautiful, adorned with pear tomatoes and bursting with basil! Hope you enjoy this as much as we did!

Happiest of Birthday Mother! Cheers!!!

Caprese Salad3

Caprese Pasta Salad
Servings: 4-5 as a side and 2-3 as a light lunch/dinner
Ingredients:
For salad:
  • 2 heaping cups bow-tie pasta
  • Around 20-25 pear tomatoes, sliced
  • 25-30 small cubes of Mozzarella
  • 2 Tbsp capers, drained & washed
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced basil leaves
For dressing:
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • A pinch of red chili flakes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta in generously salted boiling water according to package directions till al-dante. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  2. In a large bowl, add pasta, sliced tomatoes, Mozzarella cheese cubes, capers and toss.
  3. In a small bowl, take all the ingredients mentioned under dressing and whisk.
  4. Add the dressing to the large bowl of salad ingredients and toss well. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Let it chill in refrigerator for half an hour. Top with sliced basil leaves just before serving.

Caprese Skewers & Spinach Walnut Pesto

Caprese Skewers1

So I made some Caprese skewers.. They are so dang cute! Of course there is absolutely no need of a recipe to make them. It’s just cherry tomatoes, basil leaves and Mozzarella cheese on thrown together on a stick seasoned with salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. That simple! Making these is a child’s play and they’ll rock any party! It can be served as an appetizer or as a last course with favorite cocktail or wine! 😉

I served these skewers with spinach walnut pesto.. Hmm… seems interesting?! Require a recipe for another quick pesto? Then read on.. I have told time and again that pesto is my fave. It is so versatile. I made a big enough batch for only 2 of us in the house and served it with these skewers, made dinner with some spaghetti, threw some in my breakfast omelet and made some grilled cheese for lunch. Phew!

So let’s get down to the recipe business!

Caprese Skewers:

Ingredients:

  • cherry tomatoes, halved
  • fresh Mozzarella balls
  • basil leaves
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper, as per taste

Directions:

Skewer the cherry tomatoes alternating with basil leaves and Mozzarella balls. Once they are all skewered, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and serve alongside spinach walnut pesto.

Spinach Walnut Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups spinach leaves
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted or untoasted (I’m lazy & used untoasted)
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3/4 cup olive oil to begin with, add more as and if required

Directions:

Blend all the ingredients in a food processor till smooth puree is formed. Add more olive oil as and if required. Store in an air-tight container and refrigerate up to 4-5 days.

Spaghetti with Spinach Walnut Pesto

Grilled Cheese

Skinny Mac’n’Cheese

Skinny Mac'n'Cheese2

Oh I love me some mac’n’cheese! It is my no.1 comfort food… I love it on a rainy day, on a bad day, when I’m sad, when I’m happy! I crave for it. I resist few times and sometimes just cave in!

To be honest, I can’t allow myself good-old-over-the-top-cheesy mac’n’cheese everytime I want one! So I gave it a skinny make-over! Of course they are not totally guilt-free but everything in moderation doesn’t hurt right?!

Skinny Mac'n'Cheese1

 

If you are anything like me then you are going to love my version of mac’n’cheese. It has goodness of vegetables too. Yup, I have added some veggie tid-bits to make it little bit nutritious and kid-friendly. Best for those picky-eaters! You can sneak in any vegetable you want.

So wait no more & make it tonight!

Skinny Mac'n'Cheese3

Skinny Mac’n’Cheese

Serves: 3

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup broccoli, cut into florets
  • 2 cups macaroni pasta
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped red onion
  • 4-5 button mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
  • 1 Tbsp whole wheat flour
  • 2/3 cup skim milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable stock/pasta water
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta and broccoli together in a large pot of salted water as per the package instructions for al dante (or slightly under-cook for 2 minutes). Keep 1 cup of pasta water aside if you do not have vegetable stock. Drain cooked macaroni-broccoli in a colander. Grease a baking dish with oil and preheat oven to 190°C/375°F.
  2. In a large pan, melt the butter over low heat. Add onion and saute it for about 2 minutes. Then add and saute mushrooms, chili flakes for another 2 minutes.
  3. Add flour and saute for another minute till flour is golden and well-combined. Add milk and vegetable stock/pasta water and whisk raising heat to medium-high. Let it boil for about 3-4 minutes or till the sauce becomes smooth and thick.
  4. Once the sauce is thick, remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper. Add grated Cheddar and mix well until cheese is melted. Adjust seasoning. Add macaroni and broccoli and mix well.
  5. In a prepared baking dish, pour the mix. Top with grated cheese. Combine breadcrumbs, garlic powder, pepper together and sprinkle over the cheese layer. Spray a little more cooking oil on top. Bake for 15 minutes and broil for 1-2 minutes for golden breadcrumbs.

Dig in!!

Lemony Peas & Mushroom Pasta & My Random Thoughts

“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
– Paulo Coelho in The Alchemist

And it really happened to me! Something really tiny, to prove it right. But it did happen and now I have altered perspective.. Of course you would have read about this in the book ‘The Secret’ but it is hard to believe anything till you experience it personally.

Let me come straight to the point and tell you what exactly happened. There is a place close to my house where my friend once saw a snake and after she told me about this incident when ever I used to pass from that place I used to think about a snake crossing my path. I am pretty scared of snakes and I mean who isn’t! So that anticipation, that fear was always there in the back of my mind. I used to imagine about snake coming out of nowhere and crossing my path every single time! It was and is crazy till now! So this thinking continued for around 4-5  months. And on one rainy evening finally my vision came to life! Instead of one I saw two snakes, intertwined with each other, dancing at tunes being played by rain gods. Oh yeah, there it was! In front of my eyes! I stared in bewilderment! I thanked my lucky stars fervently that I was not on foot and was protected by my car. And even till date, whenever I pass by I still think about the snakes crossing my path. You know how human mind works (or at least mine seem to!)… I try not to think about it but it’s there! So much that I have started skipping that area altogether!

So if you are still with me on my randomness (WOW, you are!) let me ask you something.. Is it only me or does it happen with you too? You would want to know why I am writing about it on my blog today?!! As mentioned in my last post I am turning 28 tomorrow and I was just reflecting on what all happened in last year and how I want my life to be in next year.. If our mind and thoughts have power to make it real, why not use it positively? I can constantly think about good things to happen and shape my life accordingly! Isn’t it just genius?!… Things to ponder!

So I’ll stop talking now about random stuff (Finally!!!). I sincerely thank you for being there in front of the screen and I love you for reading this post (longest till date!). I really do! 🙂

 It’s my birthday week so I am cooking all of my favorite things and you all know how much I LOVE pasta! So I made this simple pasta dish with peas and mushroom.

Lemony Peas & Mushroom Pasta1

I used Conchiglie pasta in this recipe but you can use any other short pastas you have like Fusilli, Orecchiette or Farfalle.

Peas have been mildly blanched so you get the crunchy texture. Tad bit of Cheddar is added to make it perfectly cheesy. Addition of lemon zest just takes it to another level! It is light, buttery and perfect for quick lunch/dinner.

Lemony Peas & Mushroom Pasta2

Lemony Peas & Mushroom Pasta

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 cup Conchiglie
  • 1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
  • 1 cup button mushrooms, diced
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbsp grated Cheddar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • fresh parsley, chopped finely, optional

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta as per the manufacturer’s instruction. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water. Pour the remaining pasta water over the peas in colander so that peas will get blanched and pasta will get drained. If you want more tender peas then add them to the pasta pot 1-2 minutes left of cooking time.
  2. Heat the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan and add minced garlic. Saute it for about a minute, then add mushrooms and saute it for 4-5 minutes until tender.
  3. Add onion powder, chili flakes, salt and pepper. Then add 1/4 cup of pasta water and cooked pasta and peas to the pan. Add little more pasta water if required. Turn off the heat.
  4. Finish it off with grated Cheddar and lemon zest. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve.