This recipe reminds me I should cook with tortellini more often. We frequently turn to pasta (usually with some form of protein and vegetable) for a quick and easy dinner option. For as much as I like pasta and cheese (and the two together), I’m surprised tortellini isn’t in a regular rotation.
This dish is a quick, hearty, filling but not heavy option for the summer months. The tortellini take just a few minutes to cook, the chicken sausages are cooked through ahead of time, and some early mid-summer cherry or grape tomatoes are paired with wilted spinach and a not-too-heavy cream sauce. A recipe that might feel like a nod toward the wintry months with the use of sausage and cream turns out to be, in fact, flavorful and satisfying.
I’m tinkering with some ideas for carrying this over into the winter months. The recipe relies heavily on the brightness and freshness of the tomatoes — this really should be made around July or August to capture all that in-season goodness. But I also think it has the basic structure for a quick fall-back meal when nothing else is on hand. If you kept a package of frozen tortellini in the freezer, a store of canned tomatoes in the cupboard, and had spinach, half & half, and grated Parmesan cheese on hand on a regular basis, this could be a quick and easy fall-back recipe for nights when energy is low or a trip to the grocery store just isn’t in the cards, no matter what time of year.
This pasta dish is a quick and easy option for weeknight dinners that brings a lot of flavor without a lot of fuss or mess. Inspired by the classic flavors of a Banh Mi sandwich, this pasta combines the crunch of chopped vegetables, the tang of cilantro, and perfectly sized bites of ground pork and serves it up over a bed of rice noodles with a just-spicy-enough creamy sauce. Instead of dealing with a dripping (though so delicious) mess of a sandwich, you’ve got all the best parts carried over into a family-pleasing dinner.
Out to lunch at a familiar bistro with my sister yesterday, I hit a kind of rut with ordering off the menu: none of the soups, sandwiches, flatbreads, or specials were sounding quite like they’d hit the spot. It was the Friday before 4th of July weekend, and I’d taken the afternoon off at my practice, turning the long weekend into a mini at-home vacation. But it was pretty sultry out, and some of my favorite dishes from the past (warm mini lobster rolls or a grilled cheese sandwich paired with tomato soup) felt too complicated. I wanted something scoopable: easy to eat, with the dish’s flavors blending in every bite. I opted for the chopped salad with medium-rare steak tips, but what I think I really wanted was a flavorful, twirlable noodle bowl.
A few weeks ago, my friends and I met for dinner at one of Cambridge’s great new restaurants, Alden & Harlow. Their menu is based on small plates shared among the table. It was fabulous: we ordered corn fritters, chicken-fried rabbit, sweet corn gnocchi, and a kind of corn flapjack topped with fresh popcorn and sweet syrup. Given that we’re smack in the middle of August, it’s no surprise that the menu is full of fresh corn.
Tomatoes are the other late-summer signature ingredient, and this lasagna combines the best of quintessential summer flavors. It’s actually been rather chilly in Boston lately (barely above 70 degrees for a few days’ stretch), so I’ve been firing up my oven without needing to crank the air conditioning. …
David has been making these smoothies on a daily basis for a few years. He has the method down to a science, and though we sometimes tweak the ingredients, it’s been an easy, reliable recipe we both enjoy. We’ll make a large batch that makes two 16-ounce smoothies. We’ll either both have one in the morning for breakfast or cover the second smoothie with plastic wrap and keep it in the refrigerator overnight for the next morning. Maybe the top ¼ inch of the smoothie starts to turn a bit darker (like a banana going from yellow to brown), but the smoothies actually keep amazingly well overnight.
I’m sharing the recipe now because the health benefits stemming from the combination of tons of high-fiber fruit with a kefir and yogurt base is on my mind after attending the annual conference for dietitians in Massachusetts; one of the most interesting (and popular) presentations was on the role that gut bacteria play in our health (and the connection between gut bacteria, obesity, and diseases like diabetes). It’s fascinating to hear the emerging research on this topic.
Basically, it’s thought that the kinds of bacteria growing in our gut have an influence on our health, and the foods we eat can influence the types of bacteria we grow inside. Some of the research can be complicated, but there were several key takeaways that are applicable in the world of cooking. Some of the best lessons I gleaned from the presentation included:
So, what we eat has an influence on what kinds of bacteria grow in our intestines, which in turn can have an impact on our weight and risk for some diseases.
Probiotics and prebiotics are the words associated with this topic….
I wish I had a fascinating origin story for this weeknight-dinner dish, but in reality, it’s been a busy year, and this is just the kind of dinner I’ve been feeling like putting together after work. It’s a good standby for when mental and physical energy are sapped. It’s got a lot of enjoyable components (goat cheese + sausage + veggies) to give you something to really look forward to at the end of a busy day. It’s not overly complex, but it’s perfectly satisfying.
I’m hoping it’s the start of more successful pasta dishes that use goat cheese as the base for a creamy pasta sauce. I’ve made several attempts at goat-cheese-based pasta recipes, all of which served as passable dinners for David and me, but none worth sharing or repeating. I keep thinking it should be simple to put together a basic pasta dish using goat cheese as the base for the sauce, but my attempts so far have been off: the goat cheese lends either a weak or funky flavor or I overthink the combination of ingredients. This is the first time I’ve found the effort worthwhile, and it’s so exceeded my expectations. It’s in the realm of regular rotation for dinner recipes.
As the days get darker the pull of comfort food gets stronger. For me, more often than not, that means making pasta for dinner after trekking home from work. This pasta dish, which gets its flavor from onions, garlic, and bell peppers (one of the only vegetables that still manage to look bright, fresh, and appealing as the year swings away from summer), is a good bridge to some of the heavier meals I’m sure will come, along with the snow, in a few weeks. It’s flavorful and filling, and using a dry white wine like a chardonnay as the base of the sauce (instead of heavy cream) keeps it from going overboard.
It’s become a dish I cook often on those days when time is tight and we haven’t planned anything else for dinner. The ingredients are easy to find, and we often have a lot of them on hand in the fridge or pantry. But I think it’s also one I’ll keep in mind as the seasons change and I have access to a wider variety of fresh ingredients to swap in place (or in addition to) the peppers.
What to make for dinner isn’t always an easy question to answer. As a dietitian, I think cooking at home is one of the best (and really, easiest) ways to help meet your nutrition goals. Whether you need to watch your intake of specific nutrients or ingredients, or you’re looking to improve your health or reach and maintain a healthy weight, it’s much easier to control what you put in your body if you make it yourself. But I also know there are many challenges to deal with between the thought “I want to cook something healthy for dinner” and getting it on the table.
This is a pasta dish I’ve been making recently. I like it for a number of reasons:
1. First, and most important, it tastes good and is a satisfying weeknight meal.
2. It’s just a two pot meal: one to cook the vegetables, one to cook the pasta. This definitely helps make cleanup easier.
3. The ingredients aren’t hard to prep (as I mention below, there are even pre-chopped vegetables that you can buy to save time)
4. The meal isn’t expensive to make. Cabbage and pasta, in particular, are on the inexpensive end of the spectrum. Brussels sprouts, when in season, are reasonable. Pancetta can be pricey, but you can also substitute bacon or omit the meat altogether.
5. It’s a one-and-done kind of meal: it’s a vegetable-packed pasta dish that is so appropriate smack in the middle of winter and the sluggish weeks leading up to spring. The vegetables are mixed right in to the pasta, so you don’t have to make a side dish or salad along with it. Feel free to add it if you want to, but the cabbage and Brussels sprouts combo go a long way all on there own towards making sure you get plenty of vegetables at dinner.