Parmesan Garlic Shells with Spinach, Zucchini and Ham
This is a super easy and tasty dish that I whipped up one night with some of the ingredients I had on hand. It’s a light and savory pasta dish made with large shell pasta, sauteed spinach, zucchini and ham with garlic and a creamy parmesan alfredo sauce, with a few sprinkles of red pepper flakes, sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Perfect dish for a weeknight dinner, with some crusty French or Italian bread, a green salad and glass of wine. You can also substitute whole wheat pasta in any shape or size you please. Cooked diced bacon or prosciutto are also delicious in place of the cooked ham. If you want to experiment with the veggies, try broccoli or peas or yellow squash, what ever your heart desires!
Parmesan Garlic Shells with Spinach, Zucchini and Ham
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
1 bag of medium-large shell pasta (fresh or dried)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thin and halved
1 bag of fresh spinach (leaves), chopped
1-2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 cup of cooked Virginia ham, diced (can sub cooked prosciutto or bacon)
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
PARMESAN GARLIC SAUCE:
1 tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons flour
Sea salt, to taste
1 cup low-fat milk
2 tablespoons neufchatel or cream cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese
Fresh parsley, chopped for garnish
1 green onion, sliced for garnish
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta shells and cook according to package directions until al dente (about 8 minutes dried, 3 minutes fresh). Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of cooking water and set aside.
Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a medium-large saute pan and add zucchini. Sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper to taste and cook for about 8-10 minutes until zucchini is soft. Add 1 tablespoon of garlic and saute for another minute or so until garlic starts to brown. Remove zucchini-garlic mixture from saute pan and set aside in a medium-large mixing bowl.
Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the saute pan and heat for a minute or so. Add the fresh chopped spinach, salt and pepper to taste, and red pepper flakes, stirring through. Saute spinach about 3-5 minutes until wilted. Add the cooked diced ham and saute another few minutes until browned. Remove spinach and ham from saute pan and add to cooked zucchini in mixing bowl.
To make the Parmesan Garlic Sauce:
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add the garlic and cook until soft and lightly browned, about 1 minute.
Add in the flour and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, another minute.
Whisk in the milk, a sprinkle of sea salt and cook, whisking constantly, until just thickened, about 3 minutes.
Add the Neufchatel and parmesan cheese; whisk until melted, about 1 minute.
Combine the cooked pasta shells, 1/2 cup cooking water from pasta, sauteed zucchini, spinach and ham to the alfredo garlic sauce, stir thoroughly to mix ingredients for another minute or so.
Sprinkle additional salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste into the pasta mixture. Remove from saute pan and place in a large serving bowl. Top pasta with chopped fresh parsley and green onions, and top with more parmesan cheese to taste.
Serve the pasta with some crusty bread, a green salad and glass of wine.
You can also substitute whole wheat pasta in any shape or size you please. Cooked diced bacon or prosciutto are also delicious in place of the cooked ham. If you want to experiment with the veggies, try broccoli or peas or yellow squash, what ever your heart desires!
I always look forward to the season change to Autumn – there’s something calming to the beautiful colors of the leaves, the cooler temperatures, and sunny skies. It’s a time of harvesting and celebration of autumnal fruits of the earth mixed with a sadness for the upcoming cold Winter months.
I love the heartier, warming foods Autumn brings, and there’s nothing better than a delicious bowl of homemade soup. It reminds me of when I was a kid – my Mom would always have a big pot of soup simmering away on the stove to warm us up after a day outside romping in the leaves in the brisk, cool weather. Mom’s soup was always something to look forward to and a safe haven to come home to.
This recipe for Italian White Bean, Vegetable & Pasta Soup is a simple and nutritious soup chock full of fresh vegetables and herbs, pasta and Italian Great Northern white beans. It’s great topped with some freshly grated cheese, served with crusty bread and a leafy green salad.
The good news with vegetable soup is you can substitute just about any veggies you want – throw in some kale or spinach, zucchini, green beans, peas, corn; whatever your heart desires. It’s healthy and filling and warming to the soul.
And it’s definitely worth taking a romp in the leaves if you know there’s a pot of goodness on the stove waiting for you.
Freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (for garnish)
In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil and sauté onions, tomatoes, carrots, celery, bell pepper and zucchini over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and sauté another 1-2 minutes.
Add the pasta, white beans, salt and pepper to taste, paprika, fennel seed, chopped fresh herbs, water and vegetable stock; cover and simmer over medium-low for 30 to 40 minutes until cooked through and vegetables are tender. Add additional salt and pepper to taste, and extra stock or water to adjust desired consistency and thickness.
Garnish with fresh thyme leaves and freshly grated cheese; serve with crusty Italian bread and a leafy green salad.
Feel free to substitute or add any veggies you like to the soup: Zucchini, Green Beans, Squash, Corn, Peas, etc.
Adjust thinness or thickness of soup by adding more or less broth and/or water to the soup while it cooks down.
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There’s a great little place in my neighborhood called Todaro Bros. – a small, locally-owned deli and grocery store that sells fresh and imported Italian food and other gourmet groceries. I usually stop in at least once a week to peruse their cheese department and sample some of their fresh house-made mozzarella, just for kicks (it’s that good!).
It’s impossible to walk in there and just buy one thing – I’m like a kid in a candy store! So I found these gorgeous sun-dried tomatoes marinated in herbs and oil and picked up some fresh basil, oregano, chives, tomato sauce, cream and pasta to make a fresh, tasty summer pasta dish. I made it with spaghetti but you could serve this tasty Vodka Sauce with virtually any pasta you wish. It’s tangy, velvety and full of flavor, and the fresh basil gives it a peppery flavor which is rounded out by the creamy fresh mozzarella and sweet sun-dried tomatoes. I also threw in a few pieces of crumbled cooked bacon into the sauce to give it an extra layer of flavor (which is totally optional but also totally worth it!)
6-8 marinated sun-dried tomatoes, cut into halves or quarters
1 quart tomato sauce (store bought or homemade, pureed smooth)
1 cup of vodka
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced
1 teaspoon fresh chives, chopped
Coarse sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
fresh unsalted mozzarella, torn into medium pieces, for garnish
fresh basil leaves, whole or torn, for garnish
red pepper flakes (optional), for garnish
1 pound package of cooked and drained pasta (spaghetti, linguine or penne)
Cook pasta in a large saucepan according to package directions (until al dente) and drain (reserving a few tablespoons of the pasta water for later); set aside. Meanwhile, cook the bacon over medium heat for about 15 minutes until crispy, drain and crumble.
Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan or pot. Add garlic and shallots, saute until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add crumbled bacon and sun-dried tomatoes, add salt and pepper to taste. Saute for an additional 5 minutes and turn heat down to medium-low.
Stir in tomato sauce and vodka into the same saucepan and let simmer (approximately 20 minutes) until the sauce thickens and cooks down. Stir in the heavy cream, fresh oregano and chives and let simmer on low for another few minutes until sauce is heated through.
Return the pasta back to the large saucepot and ladle some of the sauce into it, along with a few tablespoons of reserved pasta water and toss to coat.
Ladle coated pasta into serving dishes and top with additional vodka sauce. Garnish with fresh basil leaves, mozzarella, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste.
The temperatures are rising and the sun is shining which means one thing – Spring is finally here. For me, that means lighter flavors, fresh herbs, fruits and veggies from the farmers market, and seafood, seafood, seafood.
My photographer friend, Maike Paul and I decided to partner up together and shoot a pasta dish together in her studio. I made a lovely Sauteed Shrimp Fettucine in Lemon Butter Sauce that was fresh, light and fairly simple to make (not to mention absolutely scrumptious!) I found some fresh, succulent jumbo shrimp and sautéed them in butter and olive oil with garlic, making a bright, velvety lemon butter sauce by adding lemon juice, lemon zest, and some white wine. I added a little extra butter into the sauce, threw in a few scallions and fresh garlic, and topped it off with some fresh parsley and a pinch of cayenne and red pepper flakes to give it some extra flavor and kick. If you want to make the sauteed shrimp and skip the pasta for a lighter dish, go for it – it’s totally amazing on it’s own or with a salad and some crusty bread (and a glass of white wine to accompany, of course!) Enjoy.
Sauteed Shrimp Fettucine in Lemon Butter Sauce
1 tablespoon kosher salt plus 1 1/2 teaspoons for sauce
3/4 pound fettucine (or linguine, angel hair, spaghetti)
4 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound jumbo shrimp (about 12 jumbo or 16 large shrimp), peeled and deveined, tails intact
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 large scallions, sliced
1/2 lemon, zest grated for sauce plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 lemon, thinly sliced in half-rounds
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
pinch of cayenne
Garnish: parsley, lemon zest, red pepper, salt and pepper
Drizzle the vegetable oil in a large pot of boiling salted water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the linguine, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or according to the directions on the package.
Prep all ingredients (chop garlic, parsley, green onions, zest and halve the lemons and squeeze juice, measure out oil, lemon juice, wine, salt and pepper and red pepper flakes).
Sauteed Shrimp in Lemon Butter Sauce
Melt butter and olive oil in another large pan over medium-low heat and add the garlic. Saute for 1 minute, being careful not to burn the garlic.
Add the shrimp, salt, and pepper and saute until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 3 minutes, stirring often. Add parsley, lemon zest, wine, lemon juice, lemon slices, scallions and red pepper flakes; cook for 1-2 additional minutes. Stir and remove from heat.
When the pasta is done, drain the cooked pasta and then put it back in the pot. Immediately add the shrimp and sauce, toss well, and serve with additional chopped fresh parsley, lemon zest, salt and pepper to taste, cayenne and red pepper flakes, if desired. Serve with a glass of white wine (Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc) and a green salad or crusty bread.
Adapted from Linguine with Shrimp Scampi by Ina Garten, Food Network
Kristen Hess is a NYC-based food stylist and photographer, writer.
Her professional background is in advertising, design and creative direction, marketing and social media for many well-known food and beverage brands.
She is passionate about food and travel, art and design, photography, theatre and film and all things creative.
Food Styling & Photography Portfolio: http://www.kristenhess.com