Easy Breezy (And Oh So Tasty) Pasta Dishes

One pot, one pan, little fuss, simple ingredients, all bring about these delicious pastas!  So, if you’re pressed for time, and you don’t have a taste for any takeout, try making one of these pastas that are great for lunch or a light dinner.

Well, we’re just now starting the week of Thanksgiving!  If you’re anything like me, you’ve been prepping for at least a few days (making shopping lists, chopping and freezing veggies, making space in the fridge and freezer for the food items marked for the big day, etc).  If that’s the case, you may feel the way I feel about cooking any sort of meal for yourself or your household, and think that you’d much rather keep your kitchen ready to go as soon as the moment comes to start cooking for the holiday.  For me, I try to avoid any and all unnecessary traffic in my kitchen, to ensure that everything is clean and in place for the big push.  It just seems to be a bit much, to prepare a big meal for the holiday and still cook meals during the week up until that day.  Also, in the event that you need a little something to eat, fast food or takeout of any kind isn’t always very appealing. So, if all of that be the case, what am I supposed to eat?

Well, may I suggest a simple pasta dish, that will leave you satisfied and nourished at the same time!

Now, to be honest, I love pasta!  I do, however, abstain from eating it too often, normally just once or twice a month is good with me.  When I do make pasta, the sauces are always from scratch, the meats or seafood a good quality, and I absolutely love the use of fresh herbs.  Also, there are certain items that I keep on hand–staples–in order to make a simple dish when the mood suddenly hits me:

  • Grated Parmesan and Pecorino Romano Cheeses
    Favorite pasta noodles
    Minced or fresh garlic
    Lemons or Lemon Juice
    San Marzano Tomatoes
    Pancetta or Bacon
    Frozen easy peel shrimp
    Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Let’s talk about 3 of my absolute favorite quick and easy pasta dishes.

Shrimp Piccata

This bright and buttery pasta dish is so easy and so delicious that it’s bound to satisfy anyone’s belly!  A Piccata dish may have shrimp, or chicken or veal.  However for a quick and easy Piccata I always choose to go with shrimp, mainly because quick to thaw and even quicker to cook.  Part of the ease that makes this dish a great go-to is the fact that it can be made for one or many.  Normally a box of pasta can feed about 8 people, and possibly more, depending on how you prepare it.  But, whether you’re cooking for your family or just yourself, you can be ready to eat in about 10 to 15 minutes , depending in whether or not you’re using shrimp that has already been peeled and deveined.  Here’s what you’ll need for this pasta:

  • Capers
    Lemon Juice
    Grated Parmesan
    Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    Your choice of pasta
    Salt and Pepper
    Red pepper flakes (optional)

While your water is boiling you can season your shrimp, chop some parsley and garlic (that is if you don’t already have minced garlic) and grab your skillet and turn it on low.  Once the water is boiling add a pinch of salt to the water, drop your pasta (I used spaghetti for this pictured dish), crank up your skillet to medium high, add a few tablespoons of a good olive oil, then add your shrimp.  Once the shrimp is just about done, add your capers, butter, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, garlic and parsley.  Toss everything together, add a pinch of salt and pepper, then check your pasta.  The perfect texture is just above al dente (it may look a little too stiff, but you’re going to finish cooking the pasta in the skillet with the shrimp and butter sauce).  Take the pasta out of the boiling water and into the skillet, adding a ladle of the pasta water, and toss together.  Add another ladle of the pasta water, until the sauce is silky and covering the noodles.  As you toss the pasta together, it will continue to cook.  Once the noodles are a perfect al dente, remove from the heat, add a little bit of grated parmesan cheese, and give it one more toss.  If your pasta looks too dry, add a little bit of the water to smooth it out.  Once it’s to your satisfaction, plate it up and enjoy!

Pasta Puttanesca


As much as I love this pasta, I absolutely hate the name!  There are a few theories as to what the name “puttanesca” means, but the most troubling one to me is related to what some would call one of the world’s oldest professions (prostitution, not farming!)  A legend says that this dish is what the prostitutes used to make.  Some say because the aroma would draw in customers, others say that because of the hours they worked they were unable to get to the market to get fresher ingredients.  And, seeing that these elements kept well, they were easily accessible.  Regardless, the name may be unpleasant, but the flavors are FABULOUS!  For his pasta dish, you’ll need the following:

  • San Marzano tomatoes
    Pitted Kalamata Olives
    Red Pepper flakes (optional)
    Your choice of pasta (I used bucatini noodles)
    Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Now, undoubtedly somebody read this list and turned their lip up at the anchovies.  Let me say this: if you like a good Caesar dressing, you like anchovies!  Some of your seafood pastas could also have anchovies in it, because it yields a salty flavorful layer to the dish.  To make it, drop your pasta into a pot of salted boiling water.  In a heated skillet, add a few tablespoons of olive oil, your anchovy fillets (or anchovy paste, whichever you prefer), capers, olives, then the garlic.  After adding the garlic immediately add the tomatoes (if you wait too long you will run the risk of burning your garlic), red pepper flakes, and some chopped parsley.  Mix together, add a pinch of salt and pepper, and check your noodles.  They should be just before al dente.  Add them to your skillet, with a couple of ladles of the pasta water.  Toss together for a couple of minutes, and check to make sure that your pasta is al dente.  Once it is you can plate and eat!  If you want, top your serving off  with a drizzle of olive oil and more parsley if you’d like.

Pasta Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara: what I call “grown folks mac and cheese!” A quick and yet luxurious pasta dish.  Even though this pasta is quick, the process can be very delicate.  The reason: the egg.  When making this dish, the egg is not precooked or scrambled, but rather is used raw in the sauce itself.  Don’t panic: the residual heat from the pasta, the skillet, and the pasta water will cook the egg without scrambling, if it’s done right, that is. The sauce is made of the following items:

  • Chopped pancetta (or bacon)
    Minced garlic
    Chopped parsley
    Grated Parmesan or Pecorino romano Cheese
    Beaten eggs or beaten egg yolks
    Salt and pepper to taste

In the picture above I used angel hair pasta, which of course doesn’t take long to cook.  In a separate bowl, crack your eggs and scramble it with grated cheese, parsley, and black pepper.  Set it aside for later, because this will be the last thing you add to the pasta.  So, while your water is boiling, put a little bit of extra virgin olive oil into a heated skillet (no higher than medium heat) and add the chopped pancetta.  Once the pancetta is starting to brown, drop the pasta.  Note: if you are using a thicker noodle, drop your pasta before you start cooking your panchetta.  Once the noodles are just before al dente, and the edges of the panchetta is browned, add the minced garlic and then take the noodles from the pot to the skillet.  Add some pasta water, a ladle or two, to continue cooking the pasta.  Toss the noodles in the panchetta oil, garlic and water, and add some parsley.  Once the noodles are closer to al dente, remove from the heat.  While whisking your egg and cheese mixture, temper the eggs by adding a little bit of the pasta water to it, then slowly pour it into the skillet with your pasta.  Quickly toss the pasta to ensure that it’s all coated, then add a pinch of salt, a little more cheese, a little more pasta water if your pasta is too dry, and the remaining parsley.  Note that your sauce should be silky, velvety, smooth and without any lumps or scrambled egg bits. Once it’s all tossed, plate your pasta and enjoy!

And so, there it is, three of my favorite simple pasta dishes!  One pot, one pan, little fuss, simple ingredients, all bring about these delicious pastas!  So, if you’re pressed for time, and you don’t have a taste for any takeout, try making one of these pastas that are great for lunch or a light dinner.

Enjoy the big flavors, smooth sauces, and the warm comforts that come from a bowl of great pasta!

Happy Eating, and Smooches!


Super Soups

Making soup for me is doing something quick, just to get something hot and delicious on the table.  Building a soup involves layering and balancing flavors in order to elevate the simple dish of broth, veggies and proteins into a pot or bowl “O… M… G!!!”

Building vs. Making A Pot of Soup

Anyone that has called or texted me within the last few weeks that has asked me, “what are you doing,” my answer was either, “I’m doing some food prep,” or “I’m building a pot of soup.”  The reason why I just didn’t say something like “making” a pot of soup is because to me there is a big difference.  Making soup for me is doing something quick, just to get something hot and delicious on the table.  Building a soup involves layering and balancing flavors in order to elevate the simple dish of broth, veggies and proteins into a pot or bowl “O… M… G!!!”

I know, I sound a bit pretentious, or a bit like a soup snob, but let me explain what I mean.

In building most of my soups, I start out by cooking or just browning my meat proteins in the pot in which the soup will go into.  The meat has to be at the very least preseasoned (just simple salt and pepper) if not marinated for anywhere from an hour to 24 hours, depending on the soup and the time allotted.  After the meat is browned or cooked to my satisfaction (after a good fond–the brown bits or carmelization from cooking the meat proteins–builds up) I’d take it out of the pot, add a tablespoon or two more of the oil I used (if necessary), and add in my aromatics and/or other herbs and veggies: onions, celery, ginger, carrots, tomatoes, fennel, mushrooms, bay leaves, chopped herbs, garlic, etc.  While cooking the aromatics and these veggies (seasoned with a pinch of salt and pepper) the natural waters that are in these elements will begin to appear and give a little moisture to the bottom of the pot, thus loosening up those browned bits and remnants from the meat protein that was cooked and extracted from the pot earlier.  Next, if needed for the soup, I’ll add a paste of sorts, whether it be tomato paste, or a bit of a concentrated stock paste, such as Miso or chicken.  After a minute or two, I can add my broth, stock or water, stir, simmer, and later add in any other additions, such as any veggies, dried herbs, beans or any legume, and the meat that started the whole pot of soup.

Building a soup simply means layering flavors while bringing out natural flavors,  balancing them from the foundation–browned elements–to the last addition (usually for me it’s a bright fresh herb, again depending on the soup).  Making a soup can make your family say, “Yummy!” But, building a soup makes them say, “Giiiiirrrrllll…… SLAP YOURSELF!  THIS IS SO SOOO GOOOOOD!”  That last one was direct quote from my mother, by the way!

So, here’s what I worked on within the last few weeks:

White Bean Chicken Tortilla Soup

white bean chicken tortilla soupOne of the things that I love to do is to eat a great meal or dish from a restaurant, and then replicate it at home, based on the taste and textures that I experience.  This soup was inspired by a chicken tortilla soup I had in the prior week.  Going online to see about finding a recipe, I found that one of the elements (heavy cream) was used, and for the people who I was cooking for, this was a no-go!  And so, I decided to tweak a few things in the collection of recipes that I found online, and made this chowder-like tortilla soup with pureed as well as whole white beans (NOTE: if you desire a thinner broth, simply add more water or chicken stock).  With the addition of marinated chicken, black beans, nopales, chicken stock, corn and other aromatics and personal blended seasonings, what we have is a smooth and creamy soup without the cream.  The soup itself can be topped with cheese, extra nopales, avocado, sour cream, green onions, tortilla strips, or anything you’d like.

Minestrone with Italian Turkey Sausage and Ditalini Pasta

Minestrone soup with Italian Chicken SausageMost of the versions of Minestrone that I have seen did not have any sort of meat in it.  However, I made this one with Italian Turkey Sausage (ground turkey, personally seasoned with Italian seasoning and a sausage seasoning from a city market in St. Louis, MO), due to the fact that my father needed a little bit more than a vegetable soup.  Instead of making a separate protein to accompany this soup, why not add a little seasoned meat?  This made it a complete meal, good enough to satisfy my father and the entire family.  To build this soup, cook the meat first, then take it out and set it to the side.  After sauteing the veggies, add the garlic, then the tomato paste (both times making a little opening in the midst of the veggies, allowing them to come in contact with direct heat, blooming the flavors even more).  Personally, I use 2 parts beef stock to 1 part chicken stock, however either stock can be substituted with veggie stock.  Add in the beans and meat, and either collards or chard, top it with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and chopped parsley, and you have yourself a fabulous soup!

Miso and Chicken Ramen Bowl

I absolutely love using authentic ingredients, especially when it comes to my Asian dishes!  What I personally do not care for are the pre-packaged, just add water, instant, ready anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes type of replicated Asian type cuisine.  And so, I made a special trip to Chinatown to get exactly what I needed to make this delicious bowl.  For the broth itself I cooked my marinated chicken breast tenders in the pot itself, then took them out, then added in the minced garlic, onions and ginger from the marinade.  Add in some miso paste, then the water.  The broth is brought to a boil, then poured the already cooked noodles (not the packaged styrofoam type noodles that we’ve been warned to never eat) and veggies, such as carrots, Bok choy, sautéed shiitake and oyster mushrooms, bean sprouts and a little bit of nori (seaweed) strips.  I know that the thought of seaweed may be off-putting to some, especially when there’s chicken involved.  If it makes you feel any better, use shrimp instead.

So, these soups have been nourishing to myself and my family.  Since it’s Autumn I will be making plenty of pots of soup.  In the future I will be posting about those as well as other foods that I make.  If you’d like to know more about how to make these soups, leave a comment below!

Be blessed in Jesus’ Name!

Happy Eating!


*Featured image by Be.YOU.Tiful Photography, by J. Motley

For Life, For Love, For Leisure.

“… I absolutely love to cook!  When my body is able to physically handle it, you can then find me in the kitchen, cooking dishes that are my take on what I grew up with, trying out new found recipes…”

Cooking for most people is just a necessity of life, a way to feed yourself and to make sure that you don’t perish alone in your apartment from starvation or malnourishment.  For others it’s a way to connect to the people around them.  The example of a Sunday dinner is fitting to this vein of cooking, because people in a family  come together and put their best foot forward when cooking for others.  And, if done right, you can taste the love in every bite (unless you’re eating your auntie’s famous green beans, and she’s notorious for using too much salt!).  However, oddly enough, cooking is a form of leisure, a way to disconnect from the stressful grind of everyday living.  Now, it may not seem to be all that relaxing, with the chopping and measuring, the onions and the bacon grease spatters that always hit you on your skin and not on any clothed or protected part of your body, but trust me when I say that it is relaxing!

These are the reasons why I cook.  I don’t have the story of most (home) chefs and caterers, who cooked alongside their parents or grandparents.  I didn’t grow up in the kitchen at all, but I was fortunate to grow up around great cooks.  And anytime I tried to assist my Mom in the kitchen she would always tell me no and that she had everything under control.  So, I didn’t start cooking until I moved into my first apartment when I was about 23 or 24.  I started out by cooking dishes that were familiar to me, and I would often ask my Mom for the recipes, to which she would always say, “Girl I don’t know!  I don’t use recipes!”   She may give me an approximate of this ingredient or that, but the rest was up to me.  Eventually I got into a groove, going off of the tastes that I was familiar with, mixed with the approximations of Mom and reading recipes that I would find online when I had access to a computer.  From there I started to create my own versions of these foods.  And thus, I learned how to cook.

At first I just cooked for myself.  Eventually a friend or two would randomly stop by during a meal time and I would offer to them some of what I cooked.  If they liked it, they told other mutual friends.  After a while I was being asked to cook at impromptu gatherings and holidays, all with the promise to “help out” by the people who would only help me by cheering me on from the living room while I put on an apron and work like Geoffrey or Benson, or Mr. Belvedere!  I complained, but only jokingly.  The truth was that I loved the fact that people enjoyed my cooking more than I disliked being promised assistance by those who were just giving lip service.


Now, at this point in my life, I absolutely love to cook!  When my body is able to physically handle it, you can then find me in the kitchen, cooking dishes that are my take on what I grew up with, trying out new found recipes, and creating my own concoctions and trying them out on my loved ones (Yeah, that’s right! Y’all were eating experimental foods and you didn’t even know it because it was so good!)  Food is a way to feed myself and others nutritious and delicious dishes that are beneficial to the body.  It is also a love language for me.  So, if I’ve ever offered to cook for you it’s because you are special to me.

Finally, cooking is relaxing to me.  There’s nothing better than tuning out the world while I chop and sauté, and then cap my relaxation off with a plate of Spaghetti Carbonara and a crusty piece of bread with a personally blended compound butter (my absolute favorite go-to pasta dishes when cooking for myself).

On this blog, there will be posts about food and related topics.  Tips, hints, stories behind a dish, and even the occasional recipe will be posted.  Prayerfully this will inspire you to get into the kitchen and cook something amazing!  So, until then…

Be Blessed (and stay tuned) in Jesus’ Name!