Have you read the children’s book Strega Nona, by Tomie de Paola? The main character is a grandmother witch who has a magic pasta pot. She sings a song to it, and it magically fills with fresh, hot pasta:
Bubble, bubble, pasta pot–
Boil me some pasta, nice and hot.
I’m hungry and it’s time to sup;
Boil enough pasta to fill me up.
Her bungling assistant, Big Anthony, thinks he knows her secret, but he forgets one crucial step and soon the whole town is swimming in pasta!
We love that book. And we love pasta! When I first introduced my girls to this recipe, I called it “Strega Nona pasta,” because it’s magic, just like hers! This pasta won’t magically appear in your pot, but it takes so few steps that it might as well. And at least you don’t have to worry about it overflowing and filling your house!
I love that I can dump all these fresh, delicious ingredients into a pot, turn on the burner, and when the timer goes off, I have a magical pot full of fragrant, hot pasta, ready to eat–I don’t even need to drain it!
“Strega Nona” Pasta
Original recipe here
- 12 oz. whole-wheat spaghetti (I throw in a couple handfuls of short pasta, like whole-wheat rotini, for my little ones as well)
- 1/2 large yellow onion, sliced
- 2 cups (1 pint) grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 sprigs fresh basil, chiffonade (cut into ribbons)
- up to 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (I use 1/4 tsp)
- up to 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp good-quality balsamic vinegar
- 4 to 4 1/2 cups chicken (or “no-chicken” or vegetable) broth
- optional: fresh grated parmesan
- Dump all ingredients into a large pot with tall sides. If your pot isn’t wide enough for your spaghetti to lie flat, break the spaghetti in half.
- Bring to a boil over high heat; boil 10-12 minutes or until pasta is cooked and much of the liquid is absorbed.
- Serve immediately, topped with parmesan if desired.
Meatless | Clean | Vegetarian option | Dairy-free | Soy-free | Nut-free
My good friend posted the link to this recipe months ago & raved about its tastiness. I was intrigued, so I pinned it, but I never mustered the courage to actually make it.
Because it’s vegan.
Vegan is a dirty word in our house of meat-eaters. But it looks just so tasty, right?
So one day I took the plunge. I had a backup plan in place–a jar of pasta sauce hiding at the back of the pantry–that I considered employing even as the mixture was simmering. How could cashews possibly make a sauce creamy?
But it worked. Oh boy, did it work. Rich, tomato-basil-garlic heaven. & it was easy!!! Now I understand why my friend raved about it. Fellow carnivores (or at least omnivores), please don’t make the mistake I did & wait forever: make this immediately.
Note: while the original recipe says this makes enough for 2 servings of pasta, I’ve coated a whole pound of pasta in it & it’s worked great. I also add a little more tomato flavor.
- 2 medium-sized ripe tomatoes
- 1/2 cup cashews
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. tomato paste (optional)
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2-4 cloves garlic (I use 2), minced
- up to 1 tsp. salt, or to taste
- black pepper, to taste
- 1/3 cup fresh basil, or to taste, finely chopped (if you, like me, don’t buy fresh herbs often, the small plastic package of basil that hangs out in the refrigerated part of the produce section is just enough for this recipe)
- up to 1 lb. of pasta of your choice (we use whole-wheat)
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes & toss them, seeds & all into your blender. Add the cashews, water, & tomato paste, & puree until smooth.
- Add the pasta to the boiling water & cook as directed. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan on medium-low. Add the garlic & saute a couple minutes, taking care not to burn it. Add the contents of the blender. Bring it to a simmer; add the salt.
- Let it simmer 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Remove sauce from heat; stir in pepper & basil.
- When pasta is done cooking, reserve about 1/3 cup pasta water, drain, & return to pot. Slowly add the sauce until it looks coated enough for your taste, adding pasta water if needed. Stir & serve immediately.
- Leftovers refrigerate & reheat well!
Dairy-free | Soy-free | Clean eating | Vegan
Aside from the tastiness, healthiness, & easiness of this recipe, The Toddler Who Won’t Eat Anything ATE THIS!!!
So am I posting regularly now? I don’t know… Not regularly enough to use a real camera to photograph dinner tonight, apparently. All we have is this Instagram shot. But this is a tasty dish, no matter how blurry or dark it may look. Several people on Facebook asked for the recipe after seeing said Instagram shot, so I figured I’d post it here for the good of all.
It came from Williams-Sonoma’s One Pot cookbook, which has some real gems if you’re looking for meals that are quick but unique. When my mother-in-law first sent it to me (she got it out of the clearance bin at Deseret Book), this was one of the first recipes that caught my eye. But Husband said he didn’t like squash, & besides, winter squash was out of season. So when the southern-hemisphere stuff started showing up in my grocery store, I ignored my husband & made it anyway. Everyone — including him — loved it (ha! So there!), though I will say that (Almost) One-Year-Old preferred gnawing the raw squash to the cooked, seasoned stuff. It takes less than 30 minutes start to finish & only dirties a pasta pot, a cutting board, & a baking sheet, plus some assorted utensils.
- 2 lbs. butternut or other winter squash, peeled, seeded, & cut into small (1/2-inch) cubes
- 1 large yellow onion, halved & thinly sliced on a mandoline
- 4 strips thick-cut bacon (though I used regular and it was just fine)
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh sage (I used scant 1/2 Tbsp. rubbed sage)
- salt & pepper
- 1 lb. pasta: rigatoni, farfalle, or other chunky shape
- 1/2 cup parmesan, freshly grated (or… not), plus more for serving
- Preheat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with foil.
- Toss squash, onion, & bacon with the oil. Sprinkle with sage & season with salt & pepper. Spread in a single layer.
- Roast until squash is caramelized & tender & bacon is getting crispy, 15-20 minutes. Remove & set aside.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta & cook according to package directions, making sure to reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water prior to draining. Return pasta to the pot.
- Use a wooden spoon to free any of the squash mixture that may be sticking to the foil, then lift the foil off of the baking sheet & use it to funnel the squash into the pot with the pasta.
- Toss for 1 minute over high heat, adding as much of the pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce.
- Add parmesan, toss, & serve.
Weelicious triumphs again!
To minimize mess, I generally buy & cook the short pastas, so when I told The Munchkin we were having “slurpy spaghetti” for dinner, she practically leaped for joy. The many different veggies in this dish are julienned just like the pasta, so she slurped them up just like the noodles. & get this: she was happy about it! She ate them on purpose! “Look, mommy, I’m slurping asparagus!” This, coming from the toddler who enjoys carrots, but will hardly touch zucchini or asparagus. The bowl was polished off. Success!
- 2 zucchini
- 2 carrots, peeled
- 6 asparagus spears, woody ends snapped off
- 1 small red bell pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced (original recipe calls for only 1, but it needs more)
- 1 lb. whole-wheat spaghetti (or, if you don’t have a food processor to julienne your veggies & your knife skills are as atrocious as mine, linguine covers a multitude of sins)
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 1/3 cup Parmesan
- Julienne your vegetables with a knife or the shredding blade of a food processor.
- Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in a saute pan over medium heat.
- Saute garlic 1 minute.
- Add veggies & salt & saute an additional 3-4 minutes or until softened.
- Drain pasta, reserving 1/3 cup of the pasta water.
- Return pasta to pot or place in a large serving bowl. Add veggies, pasta water, butter, & Parmesan; toss to coat.
- Let your Munchkins pretend to be baby birds slurping up worms!
The Munchkin’s current favorite book is Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Our good friend Lauren gave her the “complete” book, which includes the sequel Pickles to Pittsburgh, some time ago, & now that her attention span has caught up, we’re reading it with her at least twice a day.
So when I saw this recipe over at Weelicious, you can imagine that the book was the first thing I thought of. (Her picture’s better than mine.) Meatballs, fun pasta, & mozzarella “clouds!”
I halved the recipe & there were still leftovers for us. I also used ground turkey instead of chicken because it was cheaper. I’ve re-ordered the steps a little, since the meatballs take longer to prep & cook than the pasta.
- 1 lb. ground chicken or turkey
- 1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 2 tsp. salt, divided
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 lb. mini-wheel or other fun pasta
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1, 28-oz. can tomato sauce
- 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
- 8 oz. Bocconcini mozzarella (“small balls” — or buy the larger balls & then cut them smaller)
- Combine chicken, bread crumbs, egg, & 1 tsp. of the salt in a medium bowl. Use wet hands to roll teaspoonfuls into small meatballs.
- In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the meatballs & cook 3 minutes, turning occasionally.
- Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package directions.
- Add garlic to meatballs & cook 1 minute or until fragrant. Add tomato sauce, basil, & 1 tsp. salt (you may wish to add slightly less; I found it a little on the salty side) & cook meatballs in sauce on medium-low 8 minutes or until done through.
- Add pasta & mozzarella balls to the sauce mixture & cook until heated through, 2-3 minutes.
My Husband The Breadwinner doesn’t cook much anymore: 1) he doesn’t need to with me around, except when it comes to pancakes, & 2) he doesn’t get home from work in time anyway. But this meal is evidence that he can find his way around the kitchen if the occasion calls for it. It’s his mom’s recipe, but he made it for me for my birthday a couple years ago & it was delicious & memorable enough to have me craving it this week.
In my own carnivorous opinion, the steak is really the star of this meal, but if you’d rather go the vegetarian route, it’d taste great with marinated portobellos, or even just by itself! It also heats up fabulously for leftovers.
- 1 lb. flank steak
- 1/2 cup of your favorite house Italian dressing
- 2 cloves garlic, divided
- 1 lb. pasta
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- 2 med. zucchini, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup (or to taste) diced onion
- 2 cans (8 oz. each) tomato sauce
- 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
- salt, to taste
- parmesan, to taste
- chiffonade fresh basil, to taste
- Marinate the steak 6-8 hours or overnight in the dressing with one of the cloves of garlic, minced.
- Prepare the pasta as directed.
- Meanwhile, rub the pepper into both sides of the steak & cook it in a skillet on medium heat, 5-6 minutes a side or until desired doneness.
- Meanwhile meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium pot on medium heat & saute the other clove of garlic, minced, & the onion for a couple minutes.
- Add the zucchini, tomato sauce, & red pepper, then salt to taste. Cook another 2 minutes, then cover & let simmer on low another 2-3 minutes or until zucchini is tender.
- Toss pasta with sauce & zucchini, then place in serving bowls. Sprinkle with parmesan & basil, then spread sliced steak on top.
Picky (or at least skeptical) eater pleaser: Take out some of the pasta before tossing it with the sauce & place it in a section of one of those nifty partitioned plates & a little of the sauce & some zucchini slices in another. Cut the steak into small pieces & place them in a third. The Munchkin preferred to dip her pasta in the sauce rather than having it coated in it already, & even tried a slice of zucchini! As for the steak, it was gone before we knew it. I’d call that a success.