Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: zucchini

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Tips On Grilling Shellfish

The flavor of shellfish benefits significantly from grilling. Removing the shellfish from the grill before they become too well done and rubbery is the biggest challenge. Watching closely for shellfish to turn opaque (non-transparent), removing them from the grill and serving them immediately are key to delicious tasting fish.

Prepare scallops for grilling by cutting off the curved shaped appendage that is attached to the side of the body, if still intact.

Prepare shrimp by removing the shell and the vein that runs along the back. Personal preference dictates whether to leave the tail on or off.

Marinating shellfish in a flavorful oil will help to prevent the tendency of the scallops and shrimp to dry out.

Two skewers work best to prevent the seafood from spinning or turning on the grill.

Grill shrimp on each side for 2-3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the shrimp. Cook scallops for 2-3 minutes on each side, depending on their size.

Tips On Grilling Vegetables

Make room on the grill for vegetables. The caramelized, smoky flavor that comes with grilling does wonders for vegetables. A lot of veggies do well on the grill, but some really stand out — asparagus, corn, eggplant, squash, mushrooms, peppers and onions.

Most vegetables cook better and are less likely to stick if they’re marinated first or brushed lightly with vegetable oil.

For added flavor, sprinkle grilled vegetables with chopped fresh herbs. Cut the vegetables all about the same size for even cooking.

If you use wooden skewers, soak them in warm water for 20 minutes.

Marinade for the Shellfish and Vegetables

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

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Whisk all the marinade ingredients together in a measuring cup. Divide in half. Use one half for the shellfish and one half for the vegetables.

Grilled Shellfish Skewers

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For 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 medium sea scallops
  • 6 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Marinade, recipe above
  • 2 double skewers
  • Green Goddess Dressing, recipe below

Grilled Vegetable Skewers

For 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/4 of a Fennel bulb, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1/3 of a Red Bell Pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 small Zucchini, cut into 2 inch slices
  • Marinade, recipe above
  • 2 double skewers
  • Green Goddess Dressing, recipe below

Directions

Marinate the shellfish and vegetables separately for 30  minutes. Drain and thread the scallops on one double skewer and the shrimp on a second double skewer.

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Do the same with the vegetables. Save any marinade left in the bowl to use as a basting sauce.

Preheat an outdoor grill to high and grease the grill grates with oil.

Place the vegetable skewers on the grill first, since they will take longer to cook. Cook until the vegetables are tender, turning and basting them with the olive oil mixture occasionally, about 15 minutes.

After the vegetables have cooked for 10 minutes, place the shellfish skewers on the grill.  Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side.

Serve the grilled shellfish and vegetables with the Green Goddess Dressing.

Green Goddess Dressing

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This may be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. This dressing is also delicious drizzled over hard-boiled eggs.

Makes 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup snipped chives
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Place the chives, parsley, anchovy fillets, tarragon and vinegar in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine.  

With the motor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream, scraping down the sides, and process until pureed. Add the sour cream and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Store in the refrigerator until serving time.

Brown and Wild Rice with Pecans and Thyme

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup brown and wild rice mix, without seasoning. (I use Lundberg rice)
  • 3/4 cup chopped, toasted pecans
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken stock

Directions

In heavy saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, saute the onion in oil until softened. Add rice and saute 2-3 minutes, stirring so it does not get too brown.

Add the bay leaves, thyme, salt, pepper and chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Turn the heat to very low, cover and cook for about 50 minutes. (Check your rice package to see what the recommended cooking time is.)

After 50 minutes, check the rice. It should be slightly chewy with all the liquid absorbed when it’s done. Stir in the toasted pecans.

Turn off the heat and let stand, covered, 10 minutes. Serve hot.

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Yellow Watermelon

 

Julydinnermelon

Crenshaw Melon

 

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July has an abundance of vegetables and fruits available, so I try to incorporate as many as I can into my weekly menu. I made a few dinners last week that utilize these seasonal fruits and vegetables and I hope you like them as much as we did.

Veggie Packed Frittata

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Serve with a mixed green salad and some hot biscuits.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 lb parboiled potatoes, sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 links pre-cooked Italian chicken sausage, sliced thin
  • 1 bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • Half of a small onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 mushrooms, sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil
  • 6 asparagus, cut into 2 inch lengths
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese

Directions

Heat an oven broiler.

Heat oil in an ovenproof 12″ nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the sliced sausage, garlic, bell pepper, mushrooms and onion until the vegetables are soft, 3–4 minutes. Add asparagus; cook until wilted, about 1 minute.

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Stir in the sliced potatoes and salt and pepper. Stir in half the basil and the eggs and reduce heat to medium; cook until golden on the bottom, 8–10 minutes.

Sprinkle the cheese on top and place the skillet under the broiler. Broil until set and the cheese is melted, about 3 minutes. Garnish with remaining basil before serving.

Summer Melon Salad with Grilled BBQ Shrimp

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Last week my CSA had melons aplenty. I received two Crenshaw and one yellow watermelon. So I came up with a few recipes to make. The melon salad is in this post and next week, I will share the melon soup recipe I made. When you make the salad try to use two different types of melon for contrast. I also like the balance of the tangy grilled shrimp with the sweetness of the fruit salad. I also served this salad dinner with some homemade cornbread. See the recipe for Cheddar Cornbread here.

For the salad

  • 4 cups Crenshaw melon, peeled and seeds removed
  • 4 cups yellow watermelon, peeled and seeds removed.
  • 2 cups red grapes, halved
  • 1 cup toasted pecans, toasted

For the shrimp

  • 12 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1/4 cup Peach BBQ sauce, see recipe here
  • Lemon quarters for garnish

Basil Honey Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons chopped basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Combine the salad dressing ingredients in a blender. Set aside in a serving bowl.

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For the melon salad

In a mixing bowl combine the two types of melon with the grapes. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Just before serving, mix the melon and grape mixture with the toasted pecans and a little of the basil dressing. Serve additional dressing with the salad.

For the grilled shrimp

Prepare an outdoor grill for medium hot heat or heat an indoor stove-top grill.

Thread the shrimp onto skewers and brush them lightly with BBQ sauce. Place the shrimp skewers on the grill directly over the heat. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

Turn the skewers and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Take care not to overcook. Remove them to a plate and serve with lemon quarters, the melon salad and cornbread.

Stuffed Zucchini with Fresh Basil Pesto Spaghetti

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Basil is so plentiful this time of year, so I try to think of different ways to use it in my summertime cooking. Of course, freezing basil pesto for the winter months is also another option. It is also a great addition to salad dressing and omelets, as in the recipes above.

2 servings

For the eggplant

  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for baking
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 link pre-cooked Italian chicken sausage, finely chopped
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped plum tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoon dried Italian bread crumbs
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese

For the spaghetti

  • 8 oz spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup prepared basil pesto, see recipe here
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cut a thin slice off the top of each zucchini. With a small spoon (I like to use a grapefruit spoon) remove most of the flesh from the zucchini without cutting into the outside. Chop the cut slice and the flesh.

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Heat the 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a medium skillet and add the chopped zucchini, chopped sausage and the garlic. Saute until the zucchini is completely cooked and has lost its moisture.

Add the onion, bell pepper and tomatoes, cook until soft. Add enough breadcrumbs to hold the mixture together, about 2 tablespoons.

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Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool, about 30 minutes.

Stir in the cheese and fill the hollowed out zucchini shells with the mixture.

Place the stuffed zucchini in a small baking dish. (The zucchini can be prepared in advance up to this point and refrigerated until baking time.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Drizzle the zucchini with olive oil.  Pour about 1 inch of water into the bottom of the baking dish.

Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for about 40-45 minutes or until the filling is golden brown and the zucchini shells are tender.

For the spaghetti

While the zucchini are baking, cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the spaghetti.

Return the drained pasta to the cooking pot and add the pesto with a little of the cooking water to thin the sauce a bit.

Add the Parmesan cheese and black pepper. Mix well and serve alongside the stuffed zucchini.


Summer Cooler Dolan Zolan’'s painting 2011

Summer Cooler – Dolan Zolan’s painting 2011

Getting together with friends doesn’t need to be something that’s planned for days. Keep it simple and enjoy the evening. You also want to cook easy, but delicious food with a minimum of fuss. I try to make up menus that do most of the cooking on the grill and much of the preparation in advance. That way I can spend time with my guests. Make dessert easy by serving fresh fruit. It is much more refreshing than a heavy dessert and add a little frozen yogurt, if desired.

Menu One

Serve this dinner with a tray of vegetables and a creamy dip.

Pesto Flounder Packets

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This recipe is easy to adapt to seasonal ingredients. When basil is not available, use a spinach or red pepper pesto. Baking in parchment during cold weather is quite successful, but use the grilling method when the weather cooperates.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 (6-ounce) flounder fillets or any white fish fillets available in your area
  • 1/4 cup prepared pesto
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Lime slices

Directions

Prepare  an outdoor grill.

Cut aluminum foil into 4 pieces large enough to enclose the fillets. Drizzle 1/2 tablespoon olive oil on each piece of foil. Place fish on top of the oil.

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Lightly spread 1 tablespoon pesto over each fillet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with tomato and lime slices.

Seal foil packets and place on the grill. Grill 8-10 minutes or until fish are cooked.

Summer Vegetable Gratin

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This casserole can be prepared in advance and cooked when the guests arrive or cooked in advance and reheated. Tastes just fine reheated.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium yellow squash, diced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 3 cups fresh corn kernels, divided
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 small handful of fresh parsley, washed, dried and coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil a 2-quart gratin or baking dish.

Set aside 1 cup of the corn kernels.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over low heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until it begins to soften, about three minutes.

Add the bell pepper, squash and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender, about five minutes.

Add the garlic and 2 cups corn kernels, stir together and add another generous pinch of salt and some pepper.

Stir together for a minute or two and remove the pan from the heat.

Place the remaining 1 cup corn kernels in a blender and add the eggs, milk and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Blend until smooth. Combine with the vegetables in the skillet.

Add the parsley and the cheese, and stir together. Pour into the prepared gratin dish.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is browned and the gratin is firm to the touch. Serve hot or warm.

Menu Two

Add some crusty bread to this dinner and you are all set.

Zucchini Pasta with Ricotta Cheese

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4 servings

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sweet onion, finely diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced,
  • 8 oz rigatoni or other dry pasta
  • 8 ounces ricotta, about 1 cup
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup sliced basil leaves

Directions

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta.

In the same pan heat the olive oil and saute the onion and garlic. Reduce the heat as necessary to keep the onions from browning.

Add zucchini, season generously with salt and pepper and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until tender, about 5 minutes.

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Add the lemon zest, juice and crushed red pepper. Stir. Add the cooked pasta and the pasta cooking water. Add the grated cheese and mix thoroughly.

Turn into a serving bowl and place tablespoons of ricotta cheese on top and scatter the basil over all. Serve immediately

Garden Salad

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Ingredients

  • 1/4 of a red onion, sliced
  • 2 small tomatoes, diced
  • Half a cucumber, diced
  • Sliced radishes and black olives to taste
  • 4 cups torn garden lettuce
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Italian Vinaigrette, recipe below

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a salad bowl. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Drizzle some of the dressing over the salad and mix well. Taste and add a little more dressing, if necessary.

Italian Vinaigrette

Yields: ¾ cup

  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian mixed herbs
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Directions

Whisk the first seven ingredients together. Whisk in the olive oil, a little at a time, until it is all incorporated.

Menu Three

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Add a Tomato Salad to complete this menu.

Grilled Italian Sausage

Grill the sausage over indirect heat and the potato packets over direct heat. Saves lots of cleaning up in the kitchen.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ lbs Italian Sausage
  • Olive oil

Directions

Heat the grill for both direct and indirect cooking. Brush the sausage lightly with olive oil. Place the sausage on the indirect side of the grill and close the cover.

Cook for 15 minutes and turn the sausage over. Cook for 15 more minutes. Slice and serve with the potato mixture

Potatoes, Bell Peppers and Onions

5-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 medium red potatoes, cut into wedges, boiled until barely tender
  • 1 medium green pepper, cut into chunks
  • 1 medium onion, cut into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients. Place the mixture on a piece of heavy-duty foil (about 18 inches square). Fold foil around the potato mixture and crimp the edges to seal.

Grill directly over high heat, rotating the packet several times, until the vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes


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I look forward to this time of year because the CSA I belong to (Jeta Farms) begins its distribution of shares to its members. As you can see from the cover photo, my share contains beautiful produce.

CSAs (community supported agriculture programs), provide a direct link between local farmers and consumers by allowing members to purchase a share of a farmer’s crop before it’s produced each season. This allows the farmer to pay for seed, water, equipment, etc., up front.

Each week of the share season, the farmers deliver great tasting, healthy food to predetermined locations or members pick up their shares at the farm. CSA members share in the harvest and everyone benefits. This type of arrangement helps people to connect back to the earth and the food they eat.

Here are recipes for how I used some of the produce in my first share.

Corn Stock

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Did you know that you can make delicious vegetable stock with corn cobs? The stock can be used to add flavor to soups, risotto or any recipe calling for vegetable stock.

Ingredients

  • 12 corn cobs (corn kernels removed)
  • 2 chive stalks
  • 2 stems fresh parsley
  • 2 stems fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf

Directions

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Put corn cobs, chives, parsley, thyme, bay leaf and cold water to cover in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium, cover the pot and simmer for 1 1⁄2 hours.

Strain, discard solids and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use the stock.

Grilled Corn on the Cob

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For each ear of corn:

  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • ½ tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • One ice-cube
  • Heavy duty aluminium foil

Directions

Remove the husks and silk from the corn. Center the corn on a piece of foil large enough to enclose the entire cob.

Dot with the butter and sprinkle on the chives. Add an ice-cube.

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Bring up the foil sides. Double fold the top and ends to seal making one large foil packet, leaving room for heat circulation inside.

Grill, turning frequently, until the corn is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove the corn from the grill. Be careful opening the foil and wear oven mitts as the corn will be very hot!

Green Bean Salad

green beans

3-4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

To make the vinaigrette: whisk together the vinegar, oil, garlic, salt and pepper in a serving bowl; set aside.

Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil; add the beans and cook until just tender, about 3 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beans to a bowl of ice water. Drain well and toss with the vinaigrette, oregano, feta and onion. Chill before serving.

Stuffed Summer Squash Boats

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 medium yellow squash
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup marinara sauce, heated (see recipe link here)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • Olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Directions

Cut off the stems on the squash and cut a slice off the top of each squash. I used the top and the scooped out flesh in the relish recipe below.

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Using a small spoon, scoop out the seeds and enough flesh from each squash to create room for the stuffing.

Place the squash in a greased baking dish or in individual baking dishes and brush the cut sides of the squash with olive oil.

Season the squash lightly with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

To make the stuffing:

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In a small mixing bowl, combine the panko breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon olive oil, minced basil and Parmesan cheese. Set aside.

Combine the ricotta and mozzarella in another mixing bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Evenly distribute the ricotta cheese mixture in the squash boats.

Evenly sprinkle the breadcrumb topping mixture on top of the ricotta filled squash.

Bake the squash for 30 minutes or until the squash is tender and the topping is golden brown.

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Remove the baking dish or dishes from the oven and pour some warm marinara sauce over the squash boats before serving.

Small Batch Summer Relish

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Sweet-and-sour squash relish is a great condiment for burgers and summer sandwiches. You won’t believe how delicious summer squash is in this relish.

Makes: 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (chili)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 lbs zucchini and/or yellow squash
  • Half a medium onion
  • Half a red or yellow bell pepper

Directions

Finely dice the vegetables with a knife. I don’t like using the processor for relish because it makes the squash watery and a grater makes them too fine for relish.

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In a large saucepan, heat vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, crushed red pepper and salt to boiling on high, stirring. Stir in squash, onion and bell pepper.

Simmer 60 minutes or until very tender and very soft, stirring occasionally.

Transfer to airtight containers and refrigerate until cold. Store up to 1 week in the refrigerator or freeze in small containers.

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Grilled Lamb Chops

For the steak seasoning, I like Pensey’s Chicago Seasoning, but use whatever seasoning you like.

For 2

Ingredients

  • 4 loin lamb chops, 1 ½ lbs and 1 ½ inches thick, fat trimmed
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon steak seasoning
  • 2 lemon quarters

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Directions

In a zip-lock bag combine the lamb chops, oil, lemon juice and steak seasoning. Close the bag and mix well. Refrigerate the lamb chops overnight.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat and oil the grill rack. Remove the lamb from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking.

Transfer the lamb chops to the grill. Cook 5 minutes,; turn and cook 5 minutes. Remove to a plate, cover with foil and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve with the lemon quarters.

If making the potatoes on the grill leave continue to cook them while the lamb chops rest.

Grilled Potatoes

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For 2

Ingredients

  • 2 Yukon Gold Potatoes, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper

Directions

Boil the potatoes in water for 6 minutes, until slightly cooked but firm in the center. Drain potatoes in a colander. Dry on paper towel.

Place the olive oil, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Add the potatoes and mix well.

Place a piece of heavy-duty foil on the opposite side of the grill from the lamb chops. Spread the potatoes in a single layer on the foil. Cook for 15 minutes, turning once halfway through cooking..

Cucumber Tomato Salad

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For 2

Ingredients

  • 1 cucumber, peeled if bitter, sliced thin
  • ¼ cup chopped red onion
  • ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 medium tomato, halved and sliced
  • Ranch Dressing, recipe below

Directions

Place the cucumber slices in a bowl and sprinkle with the kosher salt.  Toss to distribute the salt evenly around the cucumber.  Let sit for 20 to 25 minutes while the salt helps pull excess moisture out of the cucumbers. Then rinse off the salt, drain the cucumbers and dry them with paper towels

Combine the cucumbers, tomatoes and red onion. Refrigerate until serving time. When ready to serve, dress the salad with some of the ranch dressing.

Homemade Ranch Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 small clove garlic, grated
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives, finely chopped
  • Pinch of onion powder
  • Pinch of paprika
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

Directions

Combine the buttermilk, mayonnaise, vinegar, garlic, chopped herbs, onion powder, paprika, sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste. Mix until well combined then cover and place into a refrigerator for at least 30 before serving so the flavors have time to mingle.

Swordfish and Zucchini Kebabs  

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For 2

Ingredients

Swordfish

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil olive oil
  • 1 Swordfish Steak, 1 inch thick (about 12 oz)
  • 1 large clove garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • Black pepper

Kebabs

  • 1 medium zucchini, trimmed
  • 10 squares of red onion
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 skewers

Directions

Place swordfish in a glass dish, sprinkle with lemon zest and black pepper, scatter garlic over the fish and pour olive oil over all. Cover and refrigerate for several hours.

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Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Cut each half into 1 inch pieces. I had 10. Remove 2 red onion rings from a large onion. Cut each ring into 5 –  one inch pieces.

Remove the garlic from the fish and cut the fish into 10 – one inch pieces.

Tread 2 skewers, alternating fish, zucchini and onion. Pour the dripping from the fish marinade over the skewers.

Heat an outdoor grill to high and oil the grill grates. Place the skewers on the grill and close the cover. Lower the heat to medium. Cook about 12 minutes until the fish is cooked through, turning the skewers halfway through the cooking time. Serve the kebabs over spaghetti.

 A New Way To Cook Pasta

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Angel Hair Pasta 

I have read several articles about cooking pasta in a skillet with less water. I made a full pound of spaghetti for this recipe to test this non-traditional procedure for cooking pasta. The leftovers will not be wasted. It worked very well. The pasta cooked quickly and was perfectly cooked. You do have to stir it often to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. It is definitely an energy and time saver, without loss of flavor.

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Ingredients

Pasta

  • 16 oz thin spaghetti
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 cups cold water
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (1 oz)
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Directions

Place pasta in a dry 12 inch skillet (if pasta is very long, such as spaghetti, break the stands in half). Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 6 cups cold water.

Place over high heat and cook uncovered, stirring frequently to keep pasta submerged, until pasta is almost al dente, about 7-8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the pasta.

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Tilt the pan and spoon off the liquid that pools at the edge of the pan into a bowl, so that very little is left in pan. Add remaining ingredients to the pasta.

Return just enough cooking liquid to the pasta, tossing them with the spaghetti. Serve with the swordfish kebabs.

Homemade Marinara Sauce

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Use this sauce for the meatballs and eggplant recipes.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (28-ounce) containers Italian Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 large basil leaves

Directions

In a large saucepan, sauté the onion in olive oil, until soft over medium to low heat. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute; be careful not to overcook.

Add tomatoes, oregano and crushed red pepper to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and cover with a lid.

Cook for 25 minutes on medium heat. Stir in parsley. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and mix in the fresh basil.

Makes about 7 cups of sauce.

Neapolitan Meatballs

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I call these Neapolitan meatballs because this is how my grandmother made them. She grew up in northern Campania before moving to America.

Makes 16 meatballs

Ingredients

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 4 thick slices firm, hardy white bread, crust removed, cut into cubes
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Add the bread to a medium mixing bowl and pour in the milk. Add the onion and garlic, stir and let sit for about 10 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients to the bread mixture. Gently combine all the ingredients with your hands until just mixed together. Don’t overwork the mixture or the meatballs will be tough.

Divide the mixture into 16 equal pieces and shape them into meatballs.

IMG_0011 (1)

You can brown the meatballs in a skillet in olive oil until brown. Or, you can put them on a foil lined baking pan and bake in a 350 F oven for about 25-30 minutes until brown.

Place the meatballs in a medium-large sauce pan or skillet and cover with some the homemade marinara sauce. Simmer for about 30 minutes before serving.

Eggplant Parmesan

IMG_0018 (1)

This is not a dish that can be prepared quickly, but with some of my make ahead tips, you can enjoy this entrée for dinner and have several leftovers for future use without spending all day in the kitchen. Eggplant freezes very well in all stages of its preparation. Additionally, I do not fry the eggplant, but bake it in the oven to reduce the calories.

For each one pound of eggplant, you will need:

  • 1 pound eggplant, peeled
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute (such as Egg Beaters) or egg whites
  • 1 cup Italian style bread crumbs
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat two large baking sheets with nonstick olive oil cooking spray.

Cut peeled eggplants crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (no thicker).  You want them to be thin.

Place the egg substitute in one shallow dish and the bread crumbs mixed with the cheese in another.

Dip the eggplant slices into the egg substitute, then coat with the breadcrumb mixture. Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, turn the eggplant slices over, and bake until crisp and golden, about 10-15 minutes longer.

To assemble the casserole, you will need:

Spray an  8 inch or 9 inch or 8-by-11 1/2-inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Preheat the oven to 375 °F.

  • 2 ½ cups Marinara sauce (see recipe above)
  • 8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 recipe breaded and baked eggplant

Directions

Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange half of the eggplant slices over the sauce, overlapping slightly. Spoon 1 cup of sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with half of the cheese. Add the remaining eggplant slices and top with the remaining sauce and cheese. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake until the sauce bubbles, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Italian Romaine Salad

IMG_0016 (1)

For 2

Ingredients

  • 1/2 head of romaine lettuce, sliced, washed and dried
  • ¼ of a small red onion, cut into rings

Dressing

  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic , minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

Directions

Place the greens and onion in a medium salad bowl. In a jar, combine the dressing ingredients. Shake well and pour over the greens. Toss and serve.


IMG_0012

This time of year is great for baking. Spring has its own flavor profiles. Winter is a time for cinnamon, nutmeg, spice and chocolate. Spring is the time to shed those heavy flavors and transition to lighter flavors such as citrus, herbs and berries. This is the time to lighten up desserts and have a little fun trying out new flavor combinations. I do all our baking – breads and desserts- but I don’t like very sweet things, so our breads and desserts tend to be on the savory side or fruit based.

Fig Scones

IMG_0016

These are not your typical scones. Instead of butter, the recipe uses cream. I serve them with lemon curd. You can also dust them with powdered sugar before serving.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 10 ounces dried figs, diced small
  • 2 cups heavy cream, cold
  • ¼ cup honey

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the diced figs.

In a small bowl, whisk together the heavy cream and honey.

Using a wooden spoon, stir the heavy cream mixture into the flour mixture, stirring just until the ingredients are moistened.

Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently until a soft dough forms, sprinkling more flour in if needed. Divide the dough into two equal balls.

Working with one at a time, pat each one into an 8-inch circle and cut into 8 triangles. Transfer the triangles to the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Pecan Sourdough Bread

IMG_0013

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (about 8 ounces) fed sourdough starter, room temperature
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup pumpernickel flour
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2 cups chopped pecans

IMG_0003

Directions

Mix all of the ingredients (except the nuts) in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment until the dough comes together. Switch to the dough hook attachment.

IMG_0001

Add the nuts, kneading until they’re evenly incorporated and the dough is smooth and elastic.

IMG_0002

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise for 2 hours.

IMG_0009

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a long loaf. Place the log into a long stoneware baker that has been lined with parchment.

IMG_0010

Cover the loaf, and let it rise for 1 hour, or until it springs back very slowly when lightly pressed.

Place the covered stoneware baker into a cold oven, set the oven to 400°F and bake for 40 minutes. Take the cover off and cook an additional 10-15 minutes.

Check the bread. The internal temperature should be about 190°F when measured on an instant-read thermometer. If not, bake for a few minutes longer.

Remove the bread from the oven and cool it on a rack. Yield: 1 loaf.

Blackberry Galette

IMG_0007

Ingredients

1 (9″) refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature or make the cream cheese pastry recipe below

Dough

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 8 ounces cold cream cheese, diced
  • 1 tablespoon cold milk

Filling

  • 3 cups blackberries
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 egg lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Directions

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, sugar, salt and thyme and pulse about 5 times to evenly distribute the thyme. Add butter and pulse until it is the size of peas.

Add cream cheese and pulse until a dough begins to form. Add milk and pulse until the dough comes together. Form the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat an oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out into a 12-inch round. Fold the round in half, transfer to the prepared baking sheet and unfold the round.

In a bowl, lightly stir together the berries, lemon juice, ¼ cup sugar and flour.

Spoon the filling onto the dough, leaving a 2-inch border uncovered around the edge.

Fold the edge up and over the filling, forming loose pleats.

Brush dough with the egg wash and sprinkle with the  remaining 1 teaspoon sugar.

Bake until the filling is bubbling and the pastry is golden brown, about 25 minutes.

Transfer the galette to a wire rack and let cool. Cut into wedges and serve with whipped cream or frozen yogurt.

Lemon Rosemary Zucchini Bread

IMG_0014

This savory bread goes very well with scrambled eggs or an omelet.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups (390 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt (omit if you use salted butter)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 3 cups grated zucchini (from about 1 pound of zucchini), squeezed dry

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Coat a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray and dust the bottom with flour.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and rosemary.

Beat the eggs in a mixer until frothy. Beat in the sugar. Beat in the melted butter, olive oil and milk. Stir in the lemon zest and grated zucchini.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, a third at a time, stirring after each incorporation.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 60-70 minutes. If you gently press down on the surface of the loaf, it should bounce back and a bamboo skewer or toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.

Remove the pan from the oven. Let cool for a few minutes and then remove the loaf from the pan to cool on a rack.

Healthy Fruit and Oat Bars

IMG_0011

These easy-to-make granola bars are lower in fat than many commercial snack bars and don’t have any of the additives or preservatives. I store them individually in zip-lock snack bags in the freezer. My husband is a golfer and he loves to put one in his bag on golfing days.

12 bars

Ingredients

  • ½ cup refrigerated egg substitute or 2 eggs
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups oats
  • 1 cup dried fruit (apricots, berries, cranberries, etc.) chopped
  • 1 cup walnuts or nuts of choice, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips

Directions

IMG_0004

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Use a silicone dessert bar pan and coat with cooking spray. Place the pan on a cookie sheet

In a large bowl, whisk the egg substitute, brown sugar, oil, cinnamon, salt and vanilla extract.

Stir in the oats, dried fruit, nuts and flour.

Divide the mixture evenly in the pan and flatten each slightly with a spatula.

IMG_0006

Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool; turn out.

Put each bar in a zip-lock snack bag and place bags in a larger freezer bag to store in freezer.


maydinnerschicken

In the US, we waste roughly 40 percent of all the food we produce. Food production is a resource-intensive process, requiring water, energy, land, soil, human labor and an elaborate web of production, processing and distribution. When we throw away food, all these resources are squandered.

Fortunately, the food waste dilemma is solvable. While the problem must be addressed at every sector of the food system, as individual food consumers, there are plenty of ways we can all help reduce waste – especially since there’s so much room for improvement. If you are interested in embracing a more sustainable lifestyle, eliminating food waste is an important and easy way to start. Reducing your food waste is actually very simple; all you need to do is buy what you need and eat what you buy.

If you buy more food than you can eat, you’ll eventually have to throw some away. Avoid waste by shopping smarter. Make a plan of what to cook for the next week based on what is available seasonally. Write a shopping list based on that plan.

Make a conscious effort to keep track of the food you have – and then remember to eat it.

Learn to store foods properly to keep them fresh as long as possible. Use this chart to learn this information: http://www.savethefood.com/food-storage

The dinners this week will highlight my frugal nature. If you recall last week, I made several toppings for grilled steak and those leftover toppings can become the star in a new dish.

The leftover topping recipes can be found here.

Pizza with Peppers and Onions

maydinnerspizza

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pizza dough, at room temperature
  • 1 cup leftover Tomatoes, Red Onion and Balsamic Sauce (see link above)
  • 2 cups leftover Peppers and Onion Topping (see link above)
  • 1 lb mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place an oven rack in the lowest position in the oven.

Spread the pizza dough to the edges in a greased pizza pan.

Top the dough with the mozzarella slices.

Spread the tomato sauce over the cheese. Top with the peppers and onions and then with the oregano. Sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese.

Place the pizza on the bottom oven rack and bake 15-20 minutes.

Chicken Cutlets with Mediterranean Salad

maydinnerssalad

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 thin chicken cutlets
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • Olive oil

Salad

  • 1/2 cup leftover olive topping (see link above)
  • 1 small head of romaine lettuce, sliced
  • Half a cucumber, sliced
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 1/4 of a red onion, sliced
  • 1 cup crumbled Feta cheese

Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1 medium lemon)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

For the chicken

Add enough oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat.

Set up the dredging stations: one rimmed plate for the beaten egg, one plate for the flour and one plate for the bread crumbs.

Using a fork, coat the chicken first in the flour (shaking off any excess), then in the egg, then in the crumbs, pressing the chicken into the crumbs to thoroughly coat.

Saute each breast in the oil for about 2 minutes on each side. The cutlets are cooked when chicken is firm to the touch but not rock hard.

Remove and drain the chicken on a paper-towel-lined dinner plate.

For the salad:

In a large salad bowl, combine the Romaine with the other salad ingredients.

Whisk together the olive oil, oregano, lemon juice and black pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad, toss and serve alongside the chicken cutlet.

Grilled Sausage

maydinnerssausage3

Extra sausage may also be used for pizza or as an addition to pasta. See recipe below.

4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Italian pork sausage
  • 1 cup leftover cooked peppers and onions (see link above)

Directions

maydinnerssausage

maydinnerssausage1

Prepare an outdoor grill for cooking over medium-hot charcoal (moderate heat for gas). If using a charcoal grill, open vents on the bottom of the grill, then light the charcoal.

When the charcoal turns grayish white about 15 minutes after lighting, the grill is ready. If using a gas grill, preheat the burners on high, covered for 10 minutes.

On a charcoal grill, spread the coals over the rear two-thirds of the firebox and leaving the front third coal-free. On a gas grill, turn off all but one burner. Sausages should be grilled over indirect heat.

There’s no need to prick sausages with toothpicks or a fork before grilling. Perforating the casing only releases flammable fats, juices and flavor.

Lightly brush or rub the casings with olive oil. This prevents sticking and makes them extra crisp.

Handle with care. The key to a juicy sausage is to keep the casing intact. Use tongs and don’t break the sausage skin when turning.

Grill the sausages over the indirect part of the grill until crusty and golden brown on the outside and cooked through, about 30 minutes, turning them over after 15 minutes.

Rotini Pasta with Creamy Pesto and Zucchini

maydinnerspasta2

We planted basil last week and within a few days I had enough leaves to make pesto for this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 12 oz rotini pasta
  • 1/2 cup homemade or store-bought basil pesto
  • 1/4 cup half & half
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Pinch of salt and black pepper
  • 2 grilled Italian sausage links, diced, if using
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

maydinnerspasta

Boil a pot of water and add salt and rotini. Cook the pasta al dente. Drain.

In the same pot, heat the olive oil and add the diced zucchini and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook about 2 minutes and add the diced sausage. Cook another 2 minutes.

Turn off the heat and add the pesto and half & half. Stir well. Add the grated Parmesan cheese and cooked pasta. Mix well and serve.



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