Barefoot Bloggers: Pesto Pasta & Chicken

What a fabulous meal! This was my first time making homemade pesto and the smell of it brought me back to my childhood and images of my grandfather tending to his garden. This was a great break from our usual dinners and something that I will definitely make more often. Thank you to Barefoot Blogger Elizabeth of Ugg Smell Food for choosing this recipe!

I adapted this recipe a bit to suit what I could find in the store, my allergies, and the inability for us to eat a meatless meal. First things first, my allergies. I am allergic to all nuts, so I had to venture out and make my own pesto sans the nuts. Quite easy, actually, and Nick said that it tasted no different than the traditional pesto he has eaten. Next, I couldn’t find much basil at our store and knew I wouldn’t have enough, so I supplemented what I had with baby spinach. I thought it added a great dimension of flavor! However, since I did this I eliminated the frozen chopped spinach (as well as the mayo and lemon juice). And since we like to incorporate protein in the form of meat in most of our dinners, I added some sauteed chicken breast to the dish. So in the end you get a bow tie pasta dish with chicken and a spinach-basil pesto. Honestly, it was fabulous and I really enjoyed it!

See how the other Barefoot Bloggers liked this dish here.

The original recipe as well as my spinach-basil (no nut!) pesto after the break…

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Spaghetti & Meatballs


The ultimate in Italian comfort food.

Growing up, our extended family would gather at my Grandma’s every Sunday for the traditional Sunday dinner (which, in contrast to common nomenclature, is actually eaten by Italians at what is typically lunchtime). While there was always some type of meat on the table, some potatoes and vegetables, the star of dinner was always pasta. It may have been ravioli, gnocchi, manicotti, lasagna, spaghetti (all homemade, of course), or some other variation of pasta, but without a doubt, you could always count on a great pasta dish. Forty miles south, Nick was growing up in an equally Italian household, with the tradition of spaghetti and meatballs every Sunday. So what else would naturally occur when we’d get married and move two hours away from our families than our own tradition of pasta each Sunday? In our house it usually takes the form of spaghetti and meatballs, accompanied by homemade marinara sauce. It feels warm, comfortable, cozy, and just like home to us. And for that reason I am submitting my spaghetti and meatballs into What’s For Lunch Honey’s Monthly Mingle Comfort Foods blog event.


Meeta asked fellow bloggers to celebrate the foods that pick us up when we are down, warms us when we are feeling lost, and blurs out the bad mood. This is what spaghetti and meatballs represent in our house… the warmth of family, memories of childhood, and a connection to our heritage.

I hope you enjoy these simple and classic recipes – the meatballs are an adaptation of the recipe that my mother-in-law uses, and the spaghetti sauce is one I have developed over time through trial and error.

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Homemade Gnocchi


(pardon the steam in my picture!)

I have had homemade gnocchi on my ever-growing list of things to try for quite some time now, and finally got the necessary nudge after I saw them on Joelen’s blog last week. A quick confession – I have never actually eaten non-homemade gnocchi. A spoiled little Italian girl, you may say? Well, I suppose you would be right. Many Sunday dinners at my Grandma’s have left me partial to homemade pastas of all variety. Last spring I began my homemade pasta journey with ravioli and have now added gnocchi to my list of accomplishments. I’m earning my green, white, and red stripes 🙂

I was somewhat nervous to tackle gnocchi because I know it has the possibility of coming out too dense and tough. I followed this recipe to a “T” and I think they came out just perfect. They were plump and soft and slightly firm to the bite – perfect homemade gnocchi! I made these yesterday and froze them as directed in the recipe, then cooked them today and had no problems whatsoever. I would definitely recommend this recipe, as I didn’t need to make any modifications.

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Pasta Carbonara Florentine

Hold the florentine.

I grew up eating pasta carbonara, as both my mom and grandma make it often, but I had never attempted the dish myself. I saw this recipe in a recent Cooking Light issue and saved it for a night when I just wanted to throw something together. This was one of those nights.

The only reason that the spinach is missing is because we only have half a bag left in the fridge and I know Nick will want a salad with it for lunch tomorrow. The spinach would be a great addition to this dish, but it was fabulous without it as well! The texture was perfectly creamy and the combination of onion and black pepper gave it a nice bite. Thumbs up 🙂

Pasta Carbonara Florentine
(from Cooking Light)

1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 (6-oz) package bagged prewashed baby spinach
6 slices center-cut bacon, chopped
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 T. dry white wine (I omitted this)
8 oz. uncooked spaghetti (I used fettuccine)
1/2 cup (2 oz) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
1 large egg white
3 T. chopped fresh parsley

1) Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add 1/4 tsp salt and spinach; cook 1 minute or until spinach wilts, stirring constantly. Remove spinach from pan; place in a bowl.

2) Add bacon to pan; cook 3 minutes or until crisp, stirring frequently. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 2 tsp drippings in pan; set bacon aside. Add onion to drippings in pan; cook 2 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add wine; cook 1 minute or until liquid is reduced by half. (I omitted this step.) Remove from heat; keep warm.

3) Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain well, reserving 1 T. cooking liquid. Immediately add pasta and the reserved cooking liquid to onion mixture in skillet. Add spinach and bacon; stir well to combine. Place skillet over low heat.

4) Combine remaining 1/4 tsp salt, cheese, pepper, egg, and egg white, stirring with a whisk. Add to pasta mixture, tossing well to coat. Cook 1 minute. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately.

Baked Pasta

I had never made a baked pasta dish before this weekend, but I thought it was something that my Italian in-laws would love, so I decided to give it a shot. I looked through tons and tons of recipes before deciding to make up my own. I also used a new recipe for sauce that I made by combining my favorite parts of different recipes. I definitely think this will be my new sauce recipe! I added the recipe for the sauce at the bottom of this post.

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Baked Mac n’ Cheese

Nothing can you make you feel cozier than a big bowl of warm and creamy mac n’ cheese. I’ve had my eye out for a great homemade baked mac n’ cheese recipe for awhile now and I finally found one that I wanted to give a shot.

My review of the recipe is that it was extremely tasty – Nick and I both loved it.

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