Bucatini with Roasted & Fresh Tomatoes

This is a wonderful seasonal dish to make with summer tomatoes. It was especially fabulous with my new favorite pasta, bucatini, too. We ate it warm but it could also be enjoyed at room temperature. The crunchy, cheesy croutons really added something special.

I used store-bought ricotta as a shortcut, but included a link to freshly made ricotta below. This recipe was (very slightly) adapted from Martha Stewart Living. Quick and delicious!

Yield: Serves 4
  • 1 pound grape or cherry tomatoes (3 cups)
  • 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 slices rustic bread, crusts removed, torn into small pieces (1 1/2 cups) (I used Trader Joe’s Tuscan Pane)
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano (1/2 ounce), plus more for serving
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cut into a 1/2-inch dice (2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup packed shredded fresh basil, plus sprigs for serving
  • 3 tablespoons shredded fresh mint, plus sprigs for serving (I omitted the mint)
  • 12 ounces bucatini, spaghetti, or linguine
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. In an 8-inch square baking dish, toss cherry tomatoes with 3 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast until bursting and charred in spots, 20 to 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, on a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet, toss bread with 2 tablespoons oil and Pecorino Romano; season with salt and pepper. Roast, tossing halfway through, until golden brown and crisp, about 12 minutes.
  4. Toss diced tomatoes, basil, and mint (if using) with remaining 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper.
  5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta; cook according to package directions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup liquid; drain.
  6. Return pasta to pot; toss with roasted tomatoes, their oil, and 1/2 cup reserved pasta water. (Tomatoes should coat pasta but not create much of a sauce.) Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Divide among plates, then give each a dollop of ricotta, a spoonful of fresh-tomato mixture, and a sprinkle of croutons.
  8. Serve, garnished with a sprig or two of herbs, a generous drizzle of oil, and some cheese and pepper.

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Weeknight Pork & Bean Soup with Cornbread Croutons

This rustic soup was described as a “delicious cross between baked beans and tomato soup.” It was quick to prepare and very flavorful. We ate it over rice, like a chili.

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Grace Parisi. I increased the onions and garlic and used freshly made cornbread instead of a corn muffin for the croutons. We ate it with green salad and warm cornbread on the side. Great.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 7 slices (9-10 ounces) thickly sliced bacon, cut into 1-inch strips
  • 1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 3 15-ounce cans pink beans with their liquid
  • 4 1/2 cups chicken stock (I used homemade Turkey Stock)
  • coarse salt
  • cayenne pepper
  • 8 ounces cornbread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • chopped scallions, for garnish, optional
  • rice for serving, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°, preferably on convection.
  2. In a medium saucepan, cook the bacon strips over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until they are browned and crisp, about 7 minutes. Transfer the crispy bacon to a plate and pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the saucepan.
  3. Add the onion and garlic to the fat in the saucepan and cook, stirring, until they are softened, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the tomato paste and maple syrup and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until thick, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add the beans and their liquid and cook until slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Add the stock and bacon strips, season lightly with salt and cayenne pepper and simmer the soup over moderate heat until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, spread the cornbread cubes on a small baking sheet and bake for 7 to 8 minutes, until they are golden and crisp. Let the croutons cool slightly.
  8. Ladle the soup into deep bowls, garnish with the cornbread croutons and chopped scallions, as desired, and serve. (Serve over rice, if desired.)

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Simple Caesar Salad

No anchovies… No raw egg… This Caesar salad dressing is made with everyday pantry staples and is absolutely delicious!

My friend brought this salad for a special lunch at my house and I have made it several times since. My family is addicted. 🙂 The recipe is from RealSimple.com. I added salt and pepper to taste. I usually double the recipe as it keeps well in the refrigerator in a jar- always ready for the next salad!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 4 to 5 slices sourdough bread, cut into cubes
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for shaving or grating over the finished salad
  • 1 (12-ounce) package romaine hearts (3 hearts)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. (I used my toaster oven!)
  2. Toss the bread cubes with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Spread the cubes on a baking sheet and bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining olive oil, mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and Parmesan until well blended. Taste an adjust seasonings as desired. (I place it in a jar and shake to combine.)
  4. Remove any wilted outer leaves from romaine hearts and slice. Wash and spin dry.
  5. Toss washed romaine with croutons and dressing. Top with Parmesan shavings (or grated Parmesan) and season with freshly ground pepper.

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Rick Bayless’ Roasted Poblano Gazpacho

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Gazpacho is an essential summer soup in my world. Because my husband disagrees, I usually make a humongous batch when my gazpacho-loving family will be around to enjoy it with me. 🙂 This summer, along with my bounty of CSA tomatoes, I bought all of the remaining ingredients to make it when my family came to visit. Unfortunately, I was too busy to throw it together… 😦

When life returned to normal (sans visitors), with all of my ingredients on hand, I had to make it. Lucky for my husband, I had a new version in mind. This Mexican twist on the classic Spanish soup pleased even my non-gazpacho-eating husband! The multiple toppings made it fun and even more fabulous. This recipe was adapted from Fiesta at Rick’s and Season 6 of Mexico—One Plate at a Time by Rick Bayless, via RickBayless.com.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 2 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, preferably vine-ripe heirloom tomatoes, divided
  • 2 large poblano chiles
  • 4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1 medium (10-12 ounce) seedless European cucumber
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 small yellow onion or 1/2 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1 thick slice bread (I used whole wheat)
  • 1 T vinegar, preferably sherry vinegar
  • 2 T olive oil
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups croutons, for serving (I used Trader Joe’s garlic-cheese croutons – amazing!)
  1. Chop the cilantro in a food processor. Remove half of the cilantro and place into a serving bowl (which will hold the remainder of the chopped vegetable topping ingredients).
  2. Preheat the broiler. Spread half of the tomatoes and both of the poblanos onto a baking sheet, and roast 4 inches below the broiler until blistered and blackened in spots, about 6 minutes per side. The poblanos may blacken before the tomatoes – remove them as soon as they are done.
  3. Cool the tomatoes and poblanos, then pull or rub off the blackened skins. For chiles, pull out the stems and seed pods, then quickly rinse off seeds and stray bits of skin.
  4. Scoop the roasted tomatoes into the bowl of a food processor, along with any juices on the baking sheet, and the remaining half of the cilantro which was left in the bowl.
  5. Roughly chop half of the poblanos and add to the roasted tomatoes in the food processor.
  6. While the tomatoes and chiles are roasting, roast the garlic directly on a dry griddle or heavy skillet over medium heat, turning occasionally, until soft (they’ll blacken in spots, too), about 10 to 15 minutes. Cool, peel off the papery skin, roughly chop and add to the roasted tomato mixture in the food processor.
  7. While the tomatoes, chiles, and garlic are roasting, bring the eggs to a boil in heavily salted water. When the water comes to a boil, remove from the heat and cover. Let sit for 12 minutes. Drain the hot water and fill the pan with cold water to stop the cooking process. When the eggs are cool, peel and finely chop the eggs. (I use an egg slicer and cut through each egg twice, rotating the egg 90 degrees between presses.) Scoop into a small serving bowl, cover and refrigerate.
  8. Finish the chopped vegetable topping: Chop the remainder of the poblanos into 1/4-inch pieces and place into the topping serving bowl along with the reserved cilantro. Chop enough of the remaining unroasted tomato into 1/4-inch pieces to yield 1 cup; add to the serving bowl with the poblanos and cilantro. Chop half of the cucumber into 1/4-inch pieces and add them too. Stir everything to combine.
  9. Scoop the finely chopped onion into a strainer, rinse under cold water, shake off the excess moisture and add to the vegetable topping mixture in the serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate the topping until you’re ready to serve the soup.
  10. Roughly chop the remaining unroasted tomatoes and cucumbers, and add them in the food processor to the roasted tomato, poblano, garlic, and cilantro mixture. Add the wine, bread, vinegar and olive oil. Process to a smooth puree. Stir in about 1 to 1 1/2 cups water to give the mixture the consistency of a light cream soup. Taste and season with salt, usually about 2 teaspoons. Add freshly ground pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, usually about an hour to overnight.
  11. Ladle the soup into chilled soup bowls. Sprinkle the eggs and chopped vegetable topping generously with salt, stir, then pass them separately with the croutons for each guest to add al gusto.

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Chicken, Spinach, & Mushroom Casserole with Parmesan Croutons

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This dish is a quick and creamy comfort meal utilizing a store-bought rotisserie chicken. I lightened the recipe by substituting half of the half & half with milk. I also modified the original recipe by using red wine instead of white, significantly increasing the amount of spinach, and adding cremini mushrooms to the filling as well as Parmesan to the crispy bread topping.
This recipe was adapted from Everyday Food. We ate it with a green salad on the side. Great! 🙂
This week I am bringing this cozy and delicious casserole to Fiesta Friday #8 at the Novice Gardener. Hopefully it will bring some warmth to others experiencing a cold early spring. 🙂
Yield: Serves 6 to 8
  • 4 cups torn bread (I used a baguette and kept the crust)
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to taste (about 2-3 tablespoons)
  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds flat-leaf spinach, washed
  • 2 large yellow or sweet onions, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I used whole milk)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine bread with 2 tablespoons of oil; season with salt. Add freshly grated Parmesan, if desired. Set aside. In a medium pot, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high. Add spinach; season with salt. Cook, stirring, until wilted, about 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a colander, let cool, then squeeze out water. Coarsely chop.
  2. Wipe pot clean and heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium. Add onion, garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add mushrooms; season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook until mushrooms are lightly browned, about 5-8 minutes longer.
  3. Add wine to pot and cook until almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Gradually whisk in half-and-half and milk. Add lemon juice and bring mixture to a boil over high.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in chopped spinach and chicken; season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a 6-quart baking dish.  (The dish can be assembled and refrigerated up to this point, uncooked, a day ahead.) Before baking, top with bread pieces. Bake until bread is golden brown and mixture is bubbling, 8 to 10 minutes.

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