Tomato and Sausage Risotto

I am an Italian foodie at heart.  In that spirit, I should make a Sunday sauce – a delicious red gravy that simmers on the stove all day.  But Sundays are lazy days for me.   So, instead, I whipped up this delish risotto, an almost one-pot dish, that gave me my Italian fix without the early prep work.  In other words, no work (or getting out of bed) til 5 p.m.  Netflix marathon, per favore.


Another thing I loved about this dish is you don’t need any sides.  You put a lot of spinach in it, so you get your veggies that way, and it contains your carbs, protein, etc…

As I said, this dish is ALMOST a one-pot dish. The other small pot just heats up your tomato juices so you aren’t adding cold liquid to your risotto to cook.

The original recipe, a Martha Stewart one, called for white wine.  I just didn’t feel like including this in my grocery budget, so I left it out.  I also added garlic and garnished heavily with more parmesan and a bit of red pepper flakes.

Tomato and Sausage Risotto

  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 – 1 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf spinach (10 to 14 ounces), washed well, tough stems removed, chopped (about 7 cups)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons butter

In a small saucepan, combine tomatoes (with their juice) and 3 cups water. Bring just to a simmer; keep warm over low heat.

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add sausage, onion, and garlic.  Cook, breaking up sausage with a spoon, until sausage is opaque and onion has softened, 3 to 5 minutes.


Add rice; cook, stirring until well coated, 1 to 2 minutes.


Add about 2 cups hot tomato mixture to rice. Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until absorbed, 4 to 5 minutes. Continue adding tomato mixture, 1 cup at a time, waiting for one cup to be absorbed before adding the next, stirring often, until rice is creamy and just tender, about 25 minutes total (you may not have to use all the liquid).


Remove pan from heat. Stir in spinach, Parmesan, and butter. Season with salt and pepper.


Serve immediately, sprinkling with additional parmesan and some red chili pepper flakes, if desired.


Aglio e Olio Pasta

And the pasta train continues…  I can NOT resist Rio Bertolini’s Fresh Pasta, the fresh pasta station at the Charleston Farmer’s Market, as you can tell by all my pasta posts.  They have everything an Italian-at-heart could want – pizza dough, flavored pastas, lasagna, ravioli with various stuffings, a few kinds of gnocchi, flavored butters, gelato, and more.

This time, I bought porcini ravioli.  So, I had to go on a search for a basic sauce for it.  Something that wouldn’t require me to go to the grocery.  Again, Ina to the rescue.  Aglio e Olio sauce – aka garlic and oil sauce.  It was perfect on the ravioli.  Feel free to use any type of pasta with this sauce.  I halved the recipe for my ravioli for two.

Aglio E Olio Pasta

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound favorite pasta
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 8 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (I used more, but we like spice)
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package.  Set aside 1 1/2 cups of the pasta cooking water before you drain the pasta.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a pot large enough to hold the pasta.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until garlic begins to turn golden on the edges – don’t burn it!  Carefully add the reserved pasta water to the garlic and oil and bring to a boil.

Lower the heat, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by about a third.  (This is half the salt Ina calls for – I found it overly salty.  Feel free to add more salt at the end if you think it needs more.)  Remove the pot from heat and add the parsley and parmesan.


Add the drained pasta immediately and toss to combine.  Allow the pasta to rest off the heat for 5 minutes before serving for the sauce to be absorbed. Taste for seasoning and serve warm with extra Parmesan on top.


Basic Marinara Sauce

So I still have a lot of leftover pasta (in different flavors) from the Farmer’s Market.  I wanted to make a basic sauce that I could refrigerate for the week and serve with the different pastas, varying it up with different proteins and such.  So I went on a search for a basic marinara sauce.  I stumbled upon Ina Garten’s recipe, and she’s kind of my go-to chef for the basics, so I went with this one.  I varied it slightly with what I had in my pantry.  But, that’s the greatest thing about this recipe.  Use it as a base, and add what you have on hand – any type of wine (red or white), add basil or oregano or red pepper flakes, use various types of canned tomatoes or fresh tomatoes, etc…  I do recommend doubling or even tripling this recipe and freezing leftover sauce – I wish I had done that.

Basic Marinara Sauce

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup white wine (I used a sauvignon blanc)
  • 28 ounces canned whole peeled tomatoes (use San Marzano if available, low sodium so you can control salt) – if you don’t have an immersion hand blender, chop up tomatoes coarsely.
  • 1 or 1.5 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil on medium heat in a medium sized pot.  Add the onion and heat until onions are translucent, around 5 mins.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute – don’t burn.  Add the wine and cook on high heat until almost all liquid evaporates, around 3 minutes, while scraping all brown pits in the pot.  Stir in the tomatoes.  Use an immersion blender sparingly to chop up the tomatoes – you don’t want to turn your marinara into soup, so keep it a litttttle bit chunky, like so – before and after:


Next, stir in parsley, salt, and pepper.  Cover and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes.   Season more to taste.  At this point, it can be eaten.  But, the longer the sauce sits on low, the better it’ll taste.  If you have the time, let your sauce simmer on low for an hour or two or three…

Serve it as you like!  I put my sauce over squid ink pasta and added grilled shrimp and red pepper flakes.  I served it with my homemade bread to catch all the sauce!  It was seriously yummy.


For the next pasta meal, I think I’ll add a touch of cream to the marinara and serve it over the black pepper pasta.  Have fun and be creative!

Cacio e Pepe

Ok I have another super simple basic pasta recipe.  If you caught my Cheesy Garlic Pasta post, you’ll notice a trend.  I like cheese.  I promise I make things other than pasta, but it’s such an easy cheap meal to make.  And these pastas are like a hug in your tummy.  Kind of my version of mac and cheese.  Also, I needed to use up some of the pasta I bought at the Farmer’s Market.


This pasta is bucatini – similar to spaghetti but with a hole running through the center to give it an extra bite.  Another similar pasta is pici pasta.  When I showed my brother Jimmy a picture of my pasta, he replied with, “You are making cacio e pepe, huh?”  See how well he knows me?  We had this pasta when we were in Italy with the family.. By family, I mean the extended Jones family, around 20 of us.  Quite the adventure!  I fell in love with this simple cheese and pepper pasta.

Ok, first I will get all Ina Garten on your butt (whom I love, but is ridiculous about requiring only the BEST ingredients).  You MUST use freshly ground black pepper and good cheese (parmigiano reggiano or pecorino romano – or both).  So do not use pre-ground black pepper in that McCormick spice container or that waxy cheese in the shaker that I’m pretty sure doesn’t even require refrigeration.  🙂

Cacio e Pepe – originally from  Serves around 3 (depending if you have a side), but it’s really easy to adjust. I divided the recipe when making it just for Geoff and me and served with sauteed veggies.

  • 3/4 pound of spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons freshly ground pepper (depending on how spicy you want it)
  • a bit of the pasta cooking liquid (just save some of it in a cup and set aside after boiling pasta)
  • Cheese – 1 cup.  Can be 1 c. of pecorino or 1 c. of parmigiano or 1/2 c. of each.  This time I went with 1 c. of the pecorino, but I switch it up depending on what I have

First, boil your spaghetti until al dente.  Remember to reserve some liquid from pasta before draining.  After draining, return your (now empty) pot to the pan.  Try to keep the pasta warm in the meantime. On low-medium heat, add butter, oil, and half the pepper.  Let butter melt.

Add a bit of the cooking liquid to the pot and swirl the pot.  Start by adding a little cooking liquid (around 1/2 c) – you can add more later if the pasta is too thick.  Put the heat on low and add the spaghetti and toss just until warm – you don’t want to overcook your pasta.

Next, turn the heat off.  Add all the cheese and the rest of the pepper and toss the spaghetti again in the pot.  Plate the pasta, garnishing with a little extra grated cheese and grated pepper, if desired.  I’ll take any excuse to add more cheese.



Honey Semifreddo with Pistachios

I went on a search for a dessert recipe that would feature the awesome honey I just bought at the Farmer’s Market.  I found the perfect candidate.  It has simple flavors of honey and cream, is pretty much ice cream (no ice cream maker needed), and is topped with salty roasted pistachios. Mmmmmm.  Also, it has few ingredients and is easy to make.  Here it is!

Honey Semifreddo with Pistachios – adapted ever so slightly (one ingredient) from Nigella Lawson.


  • 1 large egg
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 100 grams of honey (1/3 cup) plus extra for garnishing
  • 300 ml heavy whipping cream (1 1/4 cup)
  • a few tablespoons of chopped roasted salted pistachios

Line a loaf pan with saran wrap.  If you don’t have a loaf pan, just find something with that type of shape.  You aren’t baking anything, just molding it.  Next, beat the egg, egg yolks, and honey in a glass bowl.  Rig up a double boiler – have a simmering saucepan of water on the stovetop to then place your glass bowl in.  Once the glass bowl is in the saucepan, constantly whisk the honey mixture.  This picture is only blurry because I am so crazy fast at whisking that it cannot be clearly photographed.


Continue whisking until the mixture turns a light color and thickens a little.  It’ll then look like this.


Remove the mixture from the heat.  Now, in a separate bowl, use an electric hand whisker and turn that heavy cream into whipped cream!  Whip until there are peaks in the cream. Do not overwhip – I do it often.

Next, you will combine the two separate bowls – but hold up! You need to fold it in carefully.  Basically, you don’t want to cancel out the lightness and airiness of your whipped cream.  Add the honey mixture to the whipped cream in batches.  To fold, I like to use a spatula or something flat.  With spoons, my hands naturally “stir,” which you don’t want to do.  The final product should look something like this.


Next, pour the mixture into your lined loaf pan.  Cover the top of the mixture with saran wrap – have it touching the mixture.  Put in freezer for 2-3 hours.


From reviews I read, they suggested it tastes better when in the freezer longer.  I love any excuse to cook earlier in the day and then relax.  So mine sat in the freezer many hours.

When ready to eat, turn the loaf pan over onto a plate and remove the saran wrap.  Drizzle the top with some honey, and then top with the chopped roasted pistachios.


Slice, serve, and devour.  This is even better than it looks.  It is light and refreshing.  The honey shines.  Now go make it before it gets too cold to make ice cream.

Cheesy Garlic Pasta

I made my go-to pasta tonight.  Actually, it’s my go-to dish.  You know, the dish that usually doesn’t require you to go to the grocery, is easily adaptable, is quick and easy, and – of course – is delicious.  I have never complained that a dish is either too cheesy or too garlicky.  This dish stars these two delicious ingredients.  I serve this dish with a simple veggie side.

I found the original recipe on Pinterest.  This is the original link.

Besides how yummy this pasta is, my favorite things about it are: minimal dish cleaning and minimal prep.  This pasta is a one pot dish.  Yes, the pasta cooks in chicken stock until the stock has evaporated.  No draining pasta and cleaning extra dishes!  Also, cooking the pasta in chicken stock gives it a richer flavor than cooking it in water.  As for preparation, I hate having to chop things forever before even beginning to cook.  Here, you chop garlic and parsley – otherwise, the ingredients are ready-to-cook, as is.

Here is the recipe!

Cheesy Garlic Pasta

  • 2 t. olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T. butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • ½ lb spaghetti
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 T. chopped fresh parsley

In a stockpot, heat the olive oil over low-medium heat.  Add the minced garlic and stir until aromatic.  Don’t burn the garlic!  Next, mix in the butter until melted. Add salt and pepper to taste – keep in mind you are adding a lot of salty cheese in later, so don’t oversalt.  You can always salt more later if needed.  Add the chicken stock and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.

Once the mixture is at a boil, add the pasta and cook until al dente.  By the time the pasta is at this stage, most or all of the stock should have evaporated.  If the stock evaporates before the pasta is done, simply add more stock (or even water if you have no more stock).

Once the pasta is done, reduce the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese until melted.  Then, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cream and parsley.  The original recipe called for 3/4 c of cream, so feel free to add more.  I think all that cream takes the focus from the garlic.

Next, scarf down this pasta.  We like to add a healthy dose of red pepper flakes for some kick but this is optional.


Another thing I love about this dish is how adaptable it is.  You can use chicken broth if that’s all you have –  even vegetable broth or stock is fine.  Water would take some richness out of the dish, but that could be acceptable as well.  Oftentimes, I don’t have heavy cream, so I will just add a heavy dash of whatever dairy is on hand, like milk or half and half.  If you don’t have parsley, no worries – it’s still delicious, though less colorful.