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Beef, Dinner, Italian, Pasta, Recipes

Cheesy Beef Stuffed Shells

April 12, 2017

Cheesy Beef Stuffed Shells

These stuffed shells are my new favorite pasta dish.  It has many flavors in common with lasagne bolognese.  Yet unlike bolognese sauce that simmers for a several hours, this meat sauce is ready in less than 30 minutes and is equally delicious.  Another time saver is to use a good store-bought pasta sauce such as Rao’s Basil Tomato Sauce. Because it is particularly tasty, I stock up when it is on sale.

Barilla Jumbo Pasta Shells

Barilla makes beautiful pasta shells that are just the right size for this recipe.  Check the box for broken pieces before purchasing it.  If the box shows signs of being damaged, the shells may be fractured and once cooked can fall apart and be unusable.

Meat Sauce for Shells

Ground sirloin is the perfect choice for the meat sauce.  It is flavorful yet lean.  However if you are unable to find ground sirloin, lean ground beef is a fine substitute.

Cheesy Beef Stuffed Shells

Cheesy Beef Stuffed Shells

I use cottage cheese in the recipe however you may substitute ricotta.  The cottage cheese is light and mild in flavor but adds a creaminess without adding too many calories. I love how it melds together with the meat sauce and becomes a luxurious filling.

Cheesy Beef Stuffed Shells

Cheesy Beef Stuffed Shells
Serves: 6
  • Meat Sauce:
  • 1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound ground sirloin (or other lean ground beef)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1 24 ounce jar Rao's Tomato Basil Sauce, divided
  • Pasta Shells:
  • 20 - 24 jumbo pasta shells (Barilla Jumbo Shells 12 oz. box)
  • Cheese Mixture:
  • 16 ounces cottage cheese (I use Lactose Free)
  • 6 ounces (2 cups) coarsely shredded yogurt cheese (or mozzarella), divided
  • 3 ounces (1 cup) coarsely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 large egg lightly beaten
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9x13" casserole dish.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté onion in olive oil until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for another minute. Add the ground sirloin and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until meat is no longer pink. Season with ¾ teaspoons kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add fresh parsley, dried oregano and marjoram. Stir to combine. Remove from the heat and mix in 1¼ cups of Rao's sauce. Spread the remaining sauce in the casserole dish.
  3. Cook shells in boiling, salted water for 10 minutes or until al dente. Rinse under cold water to stop the cooking, drain on paper towels.
  4. Combine cottage cheese, ¾ cup yogurt cheese, and all of the cheddar cheese in a large bowl. Mix in beaten egg. Add beef mixture to the bowl, stir to combine well. Spoon the filling into the pasta shells and arrange over the sauce. Sprinkle the remaining 1¼ cups yogurt cheese over the shells. Bake for 30 minutes or until the filling is thoroughly heated and the cheese is melted and bubbly.



Dinner, Korean, Lactose Free, Pasta, Recipes, Salad, Side Dishes, Vegan, Vegetarian, Veggies

Chilled Somen with Spicy Cucumbers

December 7, 2016

Chilled Somen with Spicy Cucumbers

Cold noodles tossed with crisp vegetables are one of my favorite lunch dishes.  I often make a big bowl of Aunty Ruby’s Somen Salad and take it to work to share with my friends.  This recipe calls for perciatelli or bucatini pasta but I couldn’t resist using delicate somen noodles.  They cook up in 3 minutes and are the perfect partner for the spicy cucumbers.  I found this delightful recipe in Martha Stewart Living magazine. The subject of this particular article was Korean Barbecue and a talented Korean cook, Mrs. Pai.  This is one of her original side dishes.

Somen Noodles

Keiki Cukes

These beautiful “Keiki Cukes” are grown on the Big Island of Hawaii.  Big Island Produce is a hydroponic farm that produces cucumbers all year long.  They are super crunchy and don’t have any seeds.  We use them to make dill pickles, bread & butter pickles, and add them to all types of salads.

Chopped Scallions

Korean Chili Flakes

Korean chili flakes or gochugaru (not to be confused with red pepper powder), has a unique balance of sweet and smoky flavors with medium heat.  I have heard that hotter varieties are available but the one I buy from Whole Spice tends to be just the right heat for me.

Spicy Cucumbers

The cucumbers are mixed with Korean chili flakes, scallions, garlic, and sesame oil before being tossed with cold noodles.


Chilled Somen with Spicy Cucumbers

Chilled Somen with Spicy Cucumbers
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living Magazine
Serves: 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side dish
  • 10 ounces thinly sliced small cucumbers (Keiki, Japanese, Persian)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ tablespoons Korean chili flakes
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed in a garlic press
  • 4 tablespoons roasted sesame oil, divided (Kadoya brand recommended)
  • 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 package (3 bundles - 8 oz.) somen noodles
  • 4 teaspoons soy sauce
  • salt for seasoning
  1. Toss cucumbers with ½ teaspoon salt, and let sit for 30 minutes. Transfer cucumbers to a clean dish towel and wring to remove excess liquid from cucumbers. Transfer to a large bowl. Add Korean chili flakes, sugar, scallions, garlic, 2 tablespoons sesame oil, and the vinegar. Mix seasonings into cucumbers; let sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cook somen noodles according to package instructions. Shirakiku brand cooks for just 3 minutes. Immediately drain, rinse under cold water and place noodles in an ice bath until well chilled. Drain noodles well and add to cucumbers, tossing to combine. Add remaining 2 tablespoons of sesame oil and the soy sauce. Season with salt and additional Korean chili flakes before serving. Leftovers are delicious the following day.


Dinner, Lactose Free, Pasta, Recipes, Vegan, Vegetarian

Avocado Pesto

October 21, 2015

Avocado PestoOur poor Sharwil avocado tree has dropped most of its fruit before their usual December season due date.  We attribute this to the extremely hot and humid weather we experienced this summer.  It was quite unbearable for us humans, and so we expect the poor plants were suffering as well.  In any case, we had to throw many away but the most recent ones that have fallen off the tree have been ripening nicely and are quite good.  I’m always searching for new ways to use our homegrown fruit.  This avocado pesto recipe from Eating Well magazine sounded delicious so I whipped up a batch for lunch.

Fresh BasilThe one plant that never suffers from too much heat is basil.  It just thrives in our garden.

Sharwil Avocado

Hemp SeedsHemp seeds are quite delicious. I sprinkle them on salads and now use them in place of pine nuts for pesto.

Avocado Pesto

Avocado Pesto
Serves: 4 about 1⅔ cups
  • 1 large bunch fresh basil (about 2 cups lightly packed)
  • 2 medium-sized ripe avocados
  • ⅓ cup hemp seeds (or walnuts)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper
  1. Place basil leaves, avocados, hemp seeds, lemon juice, garlic and salt in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped, scraping down the sides as necessary. Add oil and process to form a thick paste. Season with pepper and additional salt if needed.
  2. Toss the pesto with your favorite pasta. I love the way the pesto coats the long, flat strands of linguine.
  3. Pesto is best eaten the day you make it as the avocado pesto will brown slightly if made in advance.


Dinner, Italian, Lactose Free, Pasta, Recipes, Side Dishes, Vegan, Vegetarian

Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette

October 12, 2014

Cherry Tomato VinaigretteSummer is officially over yet this record hot weather will be with us for at least another month.  Nevertheless, it hasn’t deterred me from baking brownies or simmering short ribs for 2 1/2 hours in the oven, but it does bring to mind meals that can be prepared in a jiffy, like this simple tomato sauce.

Cherry Tomatoes

Pan Fried Cherry TomatoesThough the recipe refers to this as a vinaigrette,  it is also referred to as a condiment and as such, is equally delicious on grilled sourdough bread, or grilled chicken, pork or fish.  It adds beautiful color to all these dishes. I love serving the tomatoes on thin capellini noodles for a summery lunch or dinner.

Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette on Capellini

Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette on Capellini

Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette

Bon Appetit Magazine

Serves 2


1 pint cherry tomatoes

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons finely chopped chives

crumbled feta (optional)


Cut half of the cherry tomatoes in half.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the shallot, and cook, stirring often until softened, about 4 minutes.

Add halved and whole tomatoes to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to release juices, about 4 – 6 minutes.  Crush some of the tomatoes with the back of spoon.

Add 1 tablespoon vinegar and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil; season with kosher salt and pepper.  Serve warm or at room temperature; add chives just before serving and sprinkle with feta cheese.

Dinner, Pasta, Recipes, Side Dishes, Veggies

Mac & Cheese with Butternut Squash & Bacon

April 27, 2014

Mac & Cheese with Butternut Squash & BaconEveryone I know loves mac & cheese.  That’s a fact! I prefer to have a selection of recipes to choose from rather than always turning to one old standby.  On occasion I will make Martha’s decadent, rich, mac & cheese or broccoli mac & cheese if I’m craving nutritional veggies in the mix.  This rendition of mac & cheese is tops on my list.  The sweet, roasted, butternut squash along with the smoky bacon makes this dish special.  For the life of me I can’t remember where I found this recipe.  If you search the internet there are many recipes for mac & cheese with butternut squash.  Some puree the squash and combine it into the sauce, others mix the butternut squash with the pasta.  I love this version where the roasted squash is scattered on top of the mac & cheese along with panko bread crumbs that produce a crispy topping.

Butternut SquashCut the butternut squash into 1 inch cubes.  That may seem quite large but keep in mind they will shrink once roasted.

Cubed Butternut Squash


Roasted Butternut SquashTurn the butternut squash with a spatula once during roasting so that you’ll have nicely browned pieces.

Crispy Bacon Bacon.  Crispy, smoky, delicious.

Panko FlakesPanko flakes are a handy item to have.  It keeps well in the refrigerator and can be used as a topping for mac & cheese or other casseroles and even tempura. They are a wonderful substitute for bread crumbs.

Baked Mac & Cheese with Butternut Squash & BaconDinner is ready.

Mac & Cheese with Butternut Squash & BaconMac & Cheese with Butternut Squash & Bacon

Serves 8


8 pieces cooked, crumbled bacon

3 cups cubed butternut squash (1 inch cubes)

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary

1 pound penne or elbow macaroni

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

2 small garlic cloves, minced

4 tablespoons butter, divided

5 tablespoons flour

5 cups milk

5 cups coarsely grated extra sharp cheddar (I used Cabot Vintage White Extra Sharp Cheddar)

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup panko


Lightly butter a 9 x 12 inch baking dish and set aside.

Cook bacon, crumble into fairly large pieces and set aside (always make an extra piece to snack on).

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Toss butternut squash with a bit of olive oil, rosemary, and kosher salt and pepper.  Roast on a baking sheet for about 20 minutes, turning pieces once, until just tender and nicely browned.  Set aside.  Reduce oven heat to 375 degrees.

While the squash is roasting cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente.  I like to under cook my pasta by a minute or two since it will further cook as it bakes in the oven for 30 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and set aside.  In a large sauté pan (I use a 12-inch straight sided pan) over medium heat, sauté onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil for about 5 minutes until softened but not browned.  Add cayenne and garlic and sauté for another minute.  Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.  Once melted, whisk in the flour and stir for a minute to combine with butter.  Gradually add the milk and simmer for about 8 minutes, stirring constantly until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Remove from the heat, fold in the cheddar cheese.  Stir in salt and a few grinds of pepper then stir in the crumbled bacon.  Add cooked pasta and toss to combine ingredients.  Transfer to your buttered baking dish and top with butternut squash.  Sprinkle panko evenly over the top and drizzle with the 2 tablespoons melted butter.  Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes until golden brown on top.  Let mac & cheese rest for 10 minutes before serving.



Dinner, Italian, Pasta, Recipes

Tagliatelle with Sausage & Swiss Chard

August 12, 2013

Pasta with Italian Sausage & Swiss ChardHere’s a simple recipe that you can put together in a pinch.  Though I love tagilatelle, any pasta shape, short or long, wide or narrow, will work fine.  Swiss ChardIsn’t Swiss chard gorgeous?  So very colorful and it happens to be one of the healthiest of vegetables (its nutritional benefits include vitamins K, A and C, magnesium, potassium and iron).

Chopped Swiss ChardSwiss chard is delicious briefly sauteed in a bit of olive oil with a sprinkling of fresh garlic. In this recipe we cook it a little longer with onions and garlic then chop, chop, chop, before adding it to the pasta.

SausageI’ve used both roasted garlic & herb sausage and Italian sausage and either are delicious in this recipe.Sausage Pasta Bowl

Tagliatell with Sausage & Swiss Chard

2 generous servings


1 14.5 ounce chicken broth

2 garlic and herb or Italian sausages, casings removed and crumbled (about 6 ounces)

1 bunch Swiss chard, washed well and chopped

1/2 medium onion, sliced thin

2 medium garlic cloves, minced

red chili flakes (optional)

6 ounces tagliatelle or other pasta of your choice

1 tablespoon butter

crumbled feta cheese

salt and freshly ground pepper


In a medium saucepan, boil the chicken broth over medium high heat until reduced to 3/4 cup, about 6 minutes.

Remove the casings from the sausage.  Crumble the sausage into bite sized pieces and lightly brown for a few minutes over medium-high heat.  The sausage I used was fully cooked.  If you buy uncooked sausage follow the cooking directions on the package.

Cut off and discard a small portion of the ends of the Swiss chard ribs.  Remove the thick portion of the ribs and slice into 1/2 inch pieces.  Roughly chop the leaves and keep separate from the ribs.  Thinly slice the onion and mince the garlic cloves.

In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the Swiss chard ribs and sauté for 3-4 minutes or until just tender (do not brown).  Add the onion and garlic and a dash of red chili flakes if using.  Sauté on medium heat for about 6 minutes or until the onion has softened.  Fold in the chopped Swiss chard and season with salt and pepper.  Cook covered, for about 10 minutes, stirring now and then until the vegetables are very tender.

Meanwhile, cook your pasta until al dente.  Drain and set aside.

Remove the vegetables to a cutting board and chop into very fine pieces.  Place the saucepan back on the stove on medium-high heat and add the reduced chicken broth and butter.  Add the pasta, give it a stir then add the chard and sausage.  Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.  Serve right away with a sprinkling of feta cheese.


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