Browsing Category


Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Pasta vegetarian

Broccoli and Orecchiette Lemon Ricotta Bake

Broccoli and Orecchiette Lemon Ricotta Bake // Karista's Kitchen

Even when I was a little kid I adored broccoli and would have loved this Broccoli and Orecchiette Lemon Ricotta Bake.

When most kids were sporting frowns and squishy faces at the sight of the green florets, I was beaming with giddiness.  I would eat it raw with ranch dressing until my belly was so full I couldn’t eat another bite.  I’d eat it steamed or boiled, and plain with salt and pepper or slathered in cheese sauce.  No one could possibly ruin broccoli for me.

Today, I still love broccoli raw with ranch dressing, but I also like this hearty veggie in salads, slaws and fried.  Although, Roasted broccoli seems to be my favorite method of cooking, laced with a bit of truffle salt and pepper and maybe a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.  Or gently steamed and then tossed in a garlic brown butter and sprinkled with shredded gruyere.  Oh, and then of course, there is the classic steamed broccoli with a rich and creamy cheddar cheese sauce.  What’s not to love?!

I use broccoli not only as a side dish but also as an entree.  It makes such a fabulous addition to stir fry’s and pastas and I’ve even been known to puree it into a gorgeous filling with ricotta, garlic and lemon for ravioli.  Which led me to this recipe – Broccoli and Orecchiette Lemon Ricotta Bake.

Orecchiette, meaning “little ears”,  is a little “ear” shaped pasta that is perfect for pasta recipes with rich or delicate sauces and other delicious ingredients.  It’s a smaller shaped pasta, and for me, it gives the perfect mouthful of ingredients to pasta.

Broccoli and Orecchiette Lemon Ricotta Bake // Karista's Kitchen

Some pasta bakes feel heavy and the pasta seems to overwhelm the dish and can dry out if there isn’t enough liquid.  So when I prepare a pasta bake it’s usually with a smaller variety of pasta like orecchiette.

Often I’ll use a béchamel in pasta bakes, but for this Broccoli Ricotta Pasta Bake I found the ricotta and lemon to be perfectly complimentary both in flavor and texture.  Keeping the over all dish a little lighter in texture and bright in flavor.  Perfect for the spring table.

Although broccoli can now be found in the markets year round, it’s season is October through April making it a grand “go to” green veggie for winter and spring. We have several farms here in the valley harvesting broccoli right now, in fact, I pass one every time I drive into town.  They are the funniest looking plants right before harvest. Tall cabbage looking at first; and then at a closer view, it looks like the flower of a cabbage.  Which is what it means in Italian, Broccolo  “flowering top of a cabbage”.

However you prepare broccoli it won’t disappoint. Especially when it’s prepared in this lovely and light dish of Broccoli and Orecchiette Lemon Ricotta Bake.  I’ve made this three times in the last few months, usually right before my oldest gal comes home for a visit.  We always have leftovers for her to take back; which now makes her beam with giddiness.

Wishing you a most delicious week!


Broccoli and Orecchiette Lemon Ricotta Bake

Serving Size: 6-8

Broccoli and Orecchiette Lemon Ricotta Bake


  • 12 ounces orecchiette
  • 1 pound broccoli, diced into bite size pieces
  • 14-15 ounces whole milk ricotta
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
  • 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 lemon zested
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • Serve with pasta sauce on the side if desired


  • Lightly butter a 9x11 or 9x13 baking dish.
  • Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • Whisk together the ricotta, dried herbs, Italian parsley, lemon zest, minced garlic, parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper. Season the ricotta mixture with salt and pepper to taste. About 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper.
  • Then mix in the egg with the seasoned ricotta. Reserve.
  • Heat a large pot of water for the pasta and cook the pasta according to package directions. Five minutes prior to the pasta being done, add the broccoli to the pasta. When the pasta is done the broccoli should also be done. Drain the pasta and broccoli.
  • Gently toss the pasta and broccoli with the seasoned ricotta until it's well blended. Be sure to keep a light hand when tossing so the broccoli doesn't break up too much.
  • Pour the broccoli pasta mixture into the baking pan and then top with mozzarella cheese.
  • Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 15 minutes. Then remove the foil and let the pasta bake for another 10-15 minutes until the sides are a bit bubbly and the cheese is golden on top. If the cheese doesn't brown on top you can turn on the broiler and broil for a few minutes for the additional color.
  • Serve warm.
  • Notes

    Serve with a side of pasta sauce if desired.

    Recipe Management Powered by Zip Recipes Plugin

    Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Pasta Risotto vegetarian VRAI Magazine

    Roasted Pumpkin Risotto

    Roasted Pumpkin Risotto // Karista's Kitchen and VRAI Magazine

    Risotto is true comfort food.  Just the act of preparing risotto feels comforting, soothing somehow.  Maybe it’s because when I make risotto I like to turn on old Italian music and channel my inner Italian; or maybe it simply reminds me of time spent in Italy with the most wonderful and delightful people.

    Although risotto feels like comfort food, it also feels lush.  A bit decadent and a bit indulgent.  That could be another reason I love preparing risotto for my family – tossing in and adding seasonal ingredients like roasted pumpkin to create an even greater indulgent experience.

    If you’ve never prepared risotto or you’ve prepared it and it didn’t quite turn out the way you anticipated, you are going to love this Roasted Pumpkin Risotto post.  I’ve created this post for the October issue of  VRAI Magazine.  Head on over and check out this easy and fun pictorial as well as all the fabulous articles about lifestyle, travel, DIY, fashion and more food!  Click HERE for the recipe.

    Roasted Pumpkin Risotto // Karista's Kitchen

    I just want to say a HUGE thank you for reading Karista’s Kitchen and following Karista’s Kitchen on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.  I truly appreciate and value your time spent browsing and reading – and my hope is that each and every recipe inspires you.

    As well, thank you so much for following and reading VRAI Magazine!  I am so proud and feel so honored to be part of such a talented team of professionals.

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,



    Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Pasta vegetarian

    No Cook Sun Dried Tomato Sauce with Pasta

    No cook Sun Dried Tomato Sauce over Pasta

    Recently I came across an opinionated article about dinner posted on Social Media. It left me speechless. It read more like whining rather than a valid concern or issue. When I shared the article on my social media expressing my inability to find words to respond to this article, I was bombarded with passionate comments from friends.  Dinner is a touchy subject.

    As I began to respond to the comments, I soon realized it would take more than a few words to describe why I held utter disdain for the article.

    Today, I’ve decided to stir the pot. This is a subject to important not to discuss and its near and dear to my heart.

    We all face the dinner hour every single day. It will always be there, it will never change or go away.  We have to eat. Right?  So why do so many of us want to bury our “dinner making” heads in the sand?  Because it’s one more thing to do after a very long day.  I get it. I really do get it.

    Friends, I’ll begin by saying… the weeknight meal does not have to be Sunday dinner.  Even though I’m a chef and food is my job and I post lots of fun and intriguing recipes on my website… my family doesn’t always get a five course meal for dinner.  In fact, many evenings dinner is something fresh and quick or leftovers.

    With that being said, I do believe dinner is important. It isn’t just about the food. It’s about the time of day – the feelings and emotions the dinner hour evokes in our family.  It’s a time when my kids talk about their day;  their proud moments or their worries.   Whether we’re eating dinner in shifts because of school activities or work, my family finds dinner the most comforting moment of the day.  Dinner gives children a sense of security – and whether it be sandwiches and soup or pasta with jarred pasta sauce, dinner says a great big I love you.

    Do I ever complain about making dinner?  Yes. There are days when I feel like I drag myself into my kitchen after a very long day or I’ve been sitting at my desk for hours and my head is nowhere near the subject of dinner. That’s when I pull the soup out of the freezer, ask my daughter to make a few grilled cheese sandwiches or my husband to throw together a quick bowl of greens for a salad. The point is – we all meet at the table.

    Quick No Cook Sun Dried Tomato Sauce over Pasta

    Although dinner isn’t just about the food, studies have shown we eat healthier when we eat dinner at home. Not only is our physical health impacted by the dinner hour, our children’s mental and emotional health are impacted as well.

    I found an excellent article from Forbes Contributor Katie Kelly BellAccording to The Family Dinner Project website, “Recent studies link regular family meals with the kinds of behaviors that parents want for their children: higher grade-point averages, resilience and self-esteem.  Additionally, family meals are linked to lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, eating disorders and depression. We also believe in the power of family dinners to nourish ethical thinking.”  “What I find personally traumatizing is the fact that we even have a grassroots campaign dedicated to preserving the family meal. How far we have strayed.” 

    Let’s also chat about the financial impact of dinner. If you know me, you know my monthly food bill is higher than most. Yes, some of that cost is due to my occupation, and some of that cost is because I refuse to purchase fake or toxic food.  It is a crying shame that we as Americans are forced to make the choice whether or not we spend our money on quality food or a vacation. It’s a travesty.

    However, keeping my food purchases as close to home as possible helps cut my food bill by one third.  I try to purchase all my produce, meat and poultry  at my local farm market, co-op market or local farmers.  Even our local Costco has started stocking local grass fed beef and chicken, as well as many Oregon organic food products. And I’m there for bath tissue anyway.  Then, all I need are the basics from my local grocery store.  If I don’t have time for that many stops, we divide and conquer.

    My children are no longer children. One is in college and the other in high school. Did we have glorious idealistic dinners each night? No. But we did have dinner.  My girls may not remember the food they ate, but they will always remember the time spent together.  They still love to gather around the table for dinner.  I see it in their beautiful faces, the comfort, the internal joy found by sharing a meal. The sense of security and unconditional love.  Isn’t that what it’s really about?

    Friends I want you to know I will try my very best to post more dinner friendly recipes here at Karista’s Kitchen.  I will adhere to my personal nutritional values, but I promise to make the meals achievable. I’d love your feedback!  What types of meals are easy for you to prepare? Are there cooking techniques you would like me to demonstrate that would make it easier to achieve dinner?

    Until then, today I’m posting a no cook Sun Dried Tomato Sauce over your Favorite Pasta. It can easily be prepared in under 20 minutes tops. As well, I’m listing a few of my favorite quick dinner websites. Remember, the weeknight meal does not have to be Sunday dinner.

    If you’d like to read the article that got me so wound up, click here.  But please read Joel Salatin’s response.  It’s excellent and I couldn’t agree with him more.


    Jamie’s 15 minute meals – What is not to love about this chef or website?!

    The Nourished Kitchen – I love this as a nutritional resource as well as traditional recipes

    Foodista – an excellent resource for all types of recipes from quick and easy to holiday dinners

    Farmstr – For those of you living in Western Washington, this is an excellent resource for local produce, meat, fish and poultry!

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,


    No Cook Sun Dried Tomato Sauce with Pasta

    Serving Size: 4-6

    No Cook Sun Dried Tomato Sauce with Pasta


    • One 8 ounce jar sun dried tomatoes in olive oil (with herbs if you can find it)
    • 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
    • ¼ cup heavy cream (omit if you eat dairy free)
    • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan, plus more for garnish
    • 1 bunch fresh basil leaves, chopped chiffonade or just chopped if you’re in a hurry
    • ¼ - ½ cup reserved pasta water
    • Drizzle extra virgin olive oil
    • Squeeze of fresh lemon
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 1 lb of your favorite pasta, cooked according to package directions, reserving at least ½ cup of pasta water (I love Strozzapreti pasta or something similar. I think pappardelle would be great with this sauce as well)


  • In a food processor or blender add the sun dried tomatoes with oil (and herbs if included), smashed garlic, grated parmesan and ¼ cup pasta water. Pulse to a puree. If needed, add additional pasta water. Add the heavy cream and pulse one or two times just to blend, you don’t want to whip the heavy cream.
  • Toss the pasta with the sauce, chopped fresh basil, squeeze of lemon and plate. Drizzle each plate with a splash of extra virgin olive oil and garnish with extra parmesan cheese. Serve hot.
  • For a heartier dish serve with Sweet or Hot Italian Sausages. And don’t forget the DaVinci Chianti 🙂
  • Buon Appetito!
  • Recipe Management Powered by Zip Recipes Plugin



    Karista's Kitchen Life Around My Table Pasta Risotto Sassy Side dishes

    Chianti Risotto

    Chianti Risotto with DaVinci Chianti

    Chianti Risotto tastes like one giant food hug.

    Fall of 2013, I was in a whirlwind of excitement and slowly coming down off my travel and culinary cloud after being in Italy for two weeks.  I think in all that excitement I failed to post this lovely dish.

    I originally created this gorgeous Chianti Risotto for DaVinci Wine . I was one of four very lucky bloggers to join the DaVinci Wine team in Vinci, Italy to learn all about Chianti wine-making. It. Was. Glorious.

    Naturally, I had to pair these two ingredients together, making one very cozy and gorgeous looking dish.

    This Chianti Risotto is one of those special recipes I reserve for a weekend when everyone is home and gathered in the kitchen.  We take turns stirring the risotto, chatting, sipping wine, nibbling on bruschetta and savoring the precious moments together.  You can certainly make this on a weeknight (and I do that as well) but it’s such an indulgent and rich dish I love to sit and relish the dish over a long weekend evening.

    Risotto is a staple in most Italian kitchens and it’s served in many forms. Which is truly the beauty of risotto.  It travels through seasons adapting to a multitude of ingredients, never wearing out its welcome on the dinner table.

    I adore the subtle fruitiness of the DaVinci Chianti and I thought it would make a lovely addition to risotto. Top with crispy fried sage, fresh grated parmesan or shaved pecorino and this is comfort food at its most delicious.  For a heartier version of this deeply colored risotto, I topped it with a farm fresh fried egg.

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,



    Chianti Risotto

    Serving Size: 2-3 as an entree, 4 as a side dish


    • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 medium shallot, finely diced (about 2-3 tablespoons)
    • 1 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice
    • 1 cup DaVinci Chianti
    • 4 -5 cups beef broth, warmed
    • Knob of unsalted butter
    • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 6-8 large sage leaves
    • Shaved pecorino
    • Optional: top each serving with a fried egg


  • In a large pot over medium high heat add the olive oil. When the oil is hot but not smoking add the shallots and sauté for just a minute or two and then add the rice. Stir the rice for about 2 minutes and then add the cup of DaVinci Chianti and stir until the wine is absorbed.
  • Turn the heat down to medium or medium low and stir in 1 cup of the warm beef broth. Simmer until the broth is absorbed, stirring frequently. Repeat this process with about ½ cup of broth at a time and continue to cook until the rice is almost tender.
  • Be sure to allow each addition of broth to be absorbed before adding the next. This takes about 20 minutes. When the rice is done, add additional broth if you feel the risotto is too thick. I like a thinner risotto.
  • Stir in the parmesan cheese and a knob of butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Let the risotto rest while you prepare the sage leaves and/or fried eggs.
  • In a small sauté pan heat some olive oil and when the oil is very hot add the sage leaves, turning them in the oil as they brown. Once crispy, take the pan off the heat and set the fried sage on a paper towel lined plate.
  • Place the risotto in individual serving bowls and garnish with a fried sage leave, shaved pecorino, and if you wish, a fried egg.
  • Recipe Management Powered by Zip Recipes Plugin


    Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Pasta vegetarian

    Spicy Pasta Puttanesca with Loads of Fresh Herbs

    Spicy Pasta Puttanesca with Loads of Fresh Herbs

    Summer is winding down and I find myself in a mad dash to use every last summer tomato I can get my hands on.  Which is absolutely why this spicy little pasta dish happened.

    I whipped this up on the fly the other day, trying to use up all my baby tomatoes before they went bad.  Normally I can’t keep tomatoes around due to all the “tomato snacking” that goes on in my house.

    Spicy Pasta Puttanesca with Loads of Fresh Herbs

    Pasta Puttanesca is one of my favorite pasta dishes.  Onions, garlic, anchovy, a bell pepper from the garden along with a handful of chopped fresh summer herbs, salty capers and olives and last but not least, summer baby tomatoes.  All nicely sautéed and warmed in my favorite extra virgin olive oil and then splashed with a hearty handful of fresh grated parmesan.  For extra spice,  I sneak in a few sliced pickled jalapeno.

    Ahhh… food just doesn’t get any tastier.

    Spicy Pasta Puttanesca with Loads of Fresh Herbs

    I’m going to miss the sweet little red beauties when they’re gone. I rarely purchase them out of season and only when my family feels they need a cherry tomato fix.  Hands down, fresh tomatoes taste best in summer.  However, in the fall and winter months I use organic canned tomatoes.  They’ve been canned at the peak of ripeness and infuse a sweet tomato flavor in the winter version of this dish.

    During the winter months, I often fold in some cooked ground Italian sausage for a hearty one dish meal.

    What I love most about Pasta Puttanesca is it’s many versions and interpretations swimming around recipe land.  Many chefs and home chefs prepare cherished versions of this dish.  It’s one of those lovely recipes that lends itself so beautifully to the variety of the season.

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,


    Spicy Pasta Puttanesca with Loads of Fresh Herbs

    Pair this lovely dish with my fave DaVinci Chianti

    serves 4-6


    1 lb thin spaghetti or linguine, cooked according to package directions

    1 small red onion, diced

    1 small red, orange, purple or yellow bell pepper, thin sliced

    3-4 anchovies

    2 cloves garlic, finely diced

    1 tablespoon sliced pickled jalapeno (or more to taste) or a pinch or two of crushed red pepper flakes

    1 heaping tablespoon of capers

    Handful of assorted olives, sliced

    Handful of fresh Italian parsley, chopped

    Handful of fresh basil, chiffonade sliced

    1-2 sprigs oregano, leaves removed and finely diced

    1 pint cherry or baby heirloom tomatoes, sliced

    2-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.  I use California Olive Ranch Arbosana Olive oil

    Squeeze of lemon

    Handful of fresh grated parmesan cheese

    Fresh cracked black pepper

    You may or may not need any additional salt, so be sure to taste for seasoning


    Prepare your pasta according to package directions.

    In a large skillet over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Sauté the onion, peppers and anchovies until onions and peppers are soft.  The anchovies will melt into the oil.  This creates lovely, deep and rich flavors.

    Next, stir in the garlic and sauté for one minute longer.

    Turn the heat to medium low and stir in the jalapeno or crushed red pepper flakes, capers, olives and fresh herbs.  Let the mixture heat and simmer for a few minutes, allowing all the delicious flavors to meld together.

    Fold in the tomatoes, add a squeeze of lemon and then sprinkle with fresh cracked black pepper and taste for salt.  You may or may not need any additional salt due to the anchovy, capers and olives.

    Add the cooked pasta to the skillet of veggies tossing to coat.  Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and then pour the pasta onto a platter, ladling all the stray olives and tomatoes on top.

    Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese and serve.





    Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Pasta vegetarian

    Fettuccine Caprese

    Fettuccine Caprese with fresh cherry tomatoes, basil and mozzarella balls

    Pasta seems the perfect medium for fresh seasonal produce.  It allows the complex flavors of fresh ingredients to shine, while gently caressed in pillows of soft pasta.

    Pasta is one of my family’s preferred meals.  And although I indulge them once in a blue moon with honest to goodness fresh homemade pasta, often,  I use a high quality prepared gluten-free pasta.  I’ve always had one particular favorite brand; now I have two.

    Typically, I don’t post product reviews unless it’s one of my few absolute faves; and it meets my quality ingredient standards.  But when Cappello’s asked me to review their line of gluten-free, grain free pastas and cookie dough, I happily agreed.

    Fettuccine Caprese with Cherry Tomatoes, Fresh Basil, Mozzarella Balls and lemon

    Fettuccine Caprese

    Not only is each Cappello’s products delicious in every way, the company itself is impressive.  I received a custom eco-cooler of product and immediately thought to myself, what can I do with this box? I didn’t have to do anything except attach the return shipping label that was included and then drop it off at the post office.  What a fabulous way to re-use and re-purpose!

    Here is a short review of each product:

    Gnocchi:  Earth friendly, gluten-free and grain free, Cappello’s has produced a most tantalizing line of products.  I prepared the Gnocchi with a classic Italian herb brown butter.  The Gnocchi are soft and fairly pillow like, just as you would expect.  They’re made with almond flour and potato which gives a smooth and creamy texture, but feel a bit more dense than conventional Gnocchi.  They were a huge success in my house.  I now have requests for more Cappello’s Gnocchi.

    Lasagna:  The lasagna sheets are easy to use, especially once they’ve warmed to room temperature.  No need to boil these noodles, just assemble your ingredients and bake.  The ease of preparation is impressive, as is the finished product.  Made with mostly almond flour, the pasta is a bit more dense than conventional pasta but it doesn’t feel too heavy.  It also held up well to my spinach ricotta base and I think would be fantastic for meat sauces and squash lasagna’s as well.

    Cookie Dough:  The cookie dough is tastefully flavored and the cookies bake in 10-13 minutes.  A gluten-free, grain free cookie that tastes delicious?  Now there’s a novelty!  I’m completely in love with these little treats and aim to get my hands on a few more packages.

    Fettuccine:  Last but certainly not least, the Fettuccine is every bit as delicious and easy to prepare as the other products.  Again, an almond flour base that is more dense than conventional pasta but still light enough in texture be enjoyed in a pasta dish.

    It held up beautifully to my Fettuccine Caprese with lovely bite that feels like conventional pasta and the chew was delicious. My pasta test has always been “how good does this pasta taste with butter and grated parmesan alone?”  This fettuccine passed the butter and cheese test with flying colors.

    Gnocchi in Herbed Brown Butter

    Cappello’s Gnocchi in Herbed Brown Butter

    Although an outstanding product, it is priced higher than most gluten free pastas. That being said, I’m all about quality and flavor.  As well, one must remember Cappello’s products aren’t just gluten free, they are grain free.  For those of us who cannot eat grain of any kind on a regular basis, or for those who prefer to consume a paleo or mostly paleo diet, this is the perfect alternative.

    And I suppose I could also make the argument that if we left out a few of those $4 latte’s each week, we could certainly afford to use a higher quality pasta for the stellar meals we create.  “Ahem”… my little soap box speech for the week.

    Cappello’s products are carried in a variety of markets, mostly in Colorado, however, I’ve found them here in Oregon and Washington State.  Check your local natural market, co-op market or Whole Foods.  If you can’t find them there, you can order on the Cappello’s website.  Better yet, ask your favorite market to stock Cappello’s products.

    I know this was an extra long post. Thanks for reading!  I’m usually not this chatty, unless of course you’re sitting across from me at the table.  My friends can tell you this is true.

    Enjoy this lovely seasonal dish for dinner or lunch.  I think it’s best when it’s served warm – when the fresh mozzarella balls become a little melted and gooey.

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,


    Fettuccine Caprese

    Serves 3-4


    1 package Cappello’s gluten-free, grain free Fettuccine, cooked according to package directions

    1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

    1 15 ounce container Bocconcini or Ciliegini Mozzarella balls (the small size)

    1 good size bunch fresh basil, cut chiffonade or torn

    Handful of fresh herbs, finely chopped (oregano, Italian parsley, sage)

    2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced

    ¼ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil ( a little extra for drizzling)

    Pinch of red pepper flakes

    Squeeze of lemon

    Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

    Fresh grated parmesan for garnish if desired


    Heat a sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil.  When the oil is hot but not smoking, toss in the handful of fresh chopped herbs and pinch of red pepper flakes.  Let them cook for about thirty seconds to one minute. You want the herbs to release their gorgeous scented oils.

    Next stir in the garlic and let it cook for about one minute.  Take the pan off the heat and toss in the cherry tomatoes.  You don’t want to cook the tomatoes, you just want to warm them in the herb and garlic olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.

    Prepare the pasta.  It doesn’t take long to cook the pasta, only about 45 seconds to one minute.  I cooked it a little longer, maybe two minutes.  Mostly because I forgot to set my timer. It turned out beautifully.

    Once the pasta is done, drain it, put it back into the pasta pot and toss it with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper.

    Gently toss the pasta with the tomato, herb and garlic olive oil, mozzarella balls and half the fresh basil.  Squeeze with fresh lemon and then turn the pasta onto a serving platter or bowl.  Garnish with the remaining fresh basil.

    Serve warm with fresh grated parmesan.  I adore this pasta served with fresh green salad or lettuce wedge and a crisp dry pinot grigio or chianti.

    Buon Appetito!

    Beef Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Pasta

    Tuscan Lasagna al Forno

    Tuscan style lasagna with bechamel and sugo

    Tuscan Lasagna al Forno

    Due to legalities you have to promise you’re 21 or older before proceeding to read this post.  Yes, we are talking wine and food.  But it’s the wine that’s the tricky part.  Thanks!


    Nothing could have prepared me for the magic and beauty of Tuscany.  Although I’ve read about Tuscany for years, viewed what feels like a million photographs and watched several films, it didn’t even begin to compare to the moment I stepped onto the gloriously beautiful landscape.

    Now, never a day goes by that Tuscany doesn’t come to mind. The lovely memories of decadent food and wine, beautiful landscape, warm and hospitable residents and our DaVinci Wine team… seem to linger and cause my heart to long as if I’ve lost a true love.

    Glorious Tuscan Cuisine and Franco the Sous Chef

    Glorious Tuscan Cuisine and Franco the Sous Chef

    Sounds dramatic I know.  But as my sister said to me after her trip to London – I feel forever changed.  Traveling abroad and experiencing life in a new land is an enlightening feeling.  Probably because I’ve always been so intrigued by people and their food.  Our own food culture here in the states is beautifully diverse as well and possibly some of the most intriguing.  But to experience Tuscany was indeed a highlight that makes me feel forever changed.

    My trip was full of little surprises – like when Ranger Craig and I were in search of breakfast.  Eggs?  I think not. A pastry and espresso is found on every corner.  Ask for an egg and you just might be tossed out of the pastry shop.  Honestly , I didn’t mind.  Who wouldn’t mind having a gorgeous pastry and espresso for breakfast.  Nothing terribly sweet, just a little something to start the day.    Or when my fellow Storyteller, Jim O’Donnell asked for an Americano at a little establishment just outside Monteriggioni. He promptly received a “no”; with an espresso instead. A hilarious moment that you can read all about it here.

    DaVinci Wine Storyteller Experience

    Harvesting the Sangiovese grapes and Photographer Leela Cyd catching the action.

    While dining at a restaurant in Florence, I was surprised by the lasagna I ordered.  Not at all the version we prepare here in the states.  Although our Italian American version is divine, this thing of beauty included layers of lush and buttery lasagna pasta sheets with rich béchamel, parmesan, pecorino and rich Bolognese sauce, or as they call it here, sugo.

    The absence of ricotta and mozzarella was startling. But I must say it wasn’t missed.  So when I arrived home, I simply had to re-create this lovely dish I so vividly remember.

    Because this Tuscan Lasagna al Forno was created for my friends at DaVinci Wine, you can find it on the DaVinci Wine Facebook page.   To check out the websites of our other two Storytellers, just click on their names… Kristina Laurendi Havens and Leela Cyd.

    I wish you all Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love!


    Tuscan Lasagna al Forno


    For the Sugo:

    ¾ – 1 lb ground beef or ground Italian sausage

    1 red onion, diced

    1 carrot, small diced

    1 rib of celery, small diced

    1-2 cloves garlic, minced

    ½ cup DaVinci Chianti

    2-3 cups tomato sauce

    Pinch dried oregano

    Pinch of allspice or pumpkin pie spice (I know  this seems unusual but a kind Trattoria Chef told me this ingredient is always included in his Sugo for Lasagna al Forno)

    Salt and pepper to taste


    In a heavy bottom skillet, heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil over medium high heat and sauté the onion, carrot and celery until nicely golden brown, almost caramelized. Add the ground meat and garlic to the soffrito (diced veggies) and cook until done, breaking up any big pieces.  The meat should be small and somewhat minced.

    Take the skillet off the heat and stir in the wine, scraping up the bits of good stuff (fond) on the bottom of the pan.

    Stir in the tomato sauce, oregano and allspice or pumpkin pie spice and a pinch or two of salt and pepper.  Put the skillet back on the heat and bring to a low simmer.  Let the sauce simmer while you prepare the béchamel.

    Bechamel or White Ragu:


    6 tablespoons unsalted butter

    6 tablespoons flour

    3 cups warm whole milk

    Pinch of nutmeg

    Salt and pepper to taste


    In a large sauce pan melt the butter over medium heat.  When the butter is melted whisk in the flour.  Then slowly whisk in the warm milk.

    Continue whisking until your milk comes to a simmer and begins to thicken.  Turn the heat down so you don’t burn the sauce and continue whisking until the sauce thickens.

    Stir in the pinch of fresh grated nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper.

    You will want this béchamel (white ragu) thicker than a béchamel that you might toss with pasta.  So if it feels heavy or thick that’s ok.  It’ll be perfect for the lasagna.

    For the Lasagna:


    Fresh lasagna sheets, cooked – enough to fill a lasagna baking dish or a 9×13 baking dish.  I love a deep baking dish for this lasagna.

    3-4 cups Sugo

    3-4 cups Béchamel

    ½ cup grated parmesan

    ½ cup shaved pecorino Toscana

    Chopped fresh Italian parsley for garnish


    Pre-heat the oven to 350F.

    Ladle a little Sugo in the bottom of the baking dish and line with pasta sheets.  Ladle the pasta sheets with béchamel, sprinkle of parmesan and pecorino. Continue alternating the béchamel and Sugo until you’ve created 5-6 layers or used all your pasta sheets.  Be sure to save a cup of Sugo for the top of the lasagna.

    Sprinkle the lasagna with the remaining cheese, cover with foil and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the sides are bubbly.

    Raise the heat to 400F.  Remove the foil and cook the lasagna until the top is toasty and cheese is golden brown, another 10 minutes or so.  Sometimes I put it under the broiler for extra color.

    Let the lasagna rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.  This will allow the béchamel and cheese to firm for slicing.

    Serve with a side of extra Vinci sauce and grated parmesan if desired.



    Beef Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Pasta Pork Sauces, Salsas and More

    Vinci Sauce and Italian Meatballs

    Tomato sauce prepared with DaVinci Chianti over Italian Meatballs/Karista's Ktichen

    When I serve a Chianti wine, it has always been a DaVinci Chianti.  My absolute favorite Chianti for years, long before I so proudly became the 2013 DaVinci Wine Culinary Arts Storyteller.  And, might I add, DaVinci Chianti has always been an important ingredient in my tomato gravy, or as my family calls it, my Sunday sauce.

    I mentioned this to Jenna, one of our lovely DaVinci Reps, during a conversation about the Chianti – when Jenna quickly said “it’s Vinci sauce!”.  And that was that.  My family’s favorite Sunday sauce is now Vinci Sauce.

    Vinci Sauce is magnificent all on its own – smothering fresh pastas, gnocchi or polenta.   However, I also adore this sauce paired with Italian meatballs that simmer in the Vinci Sauce before serving.

    Vinci tomato sauce and meatballs collage

    Because I created these recipes for DaVinci Wine they can be found on the DaVinci Wine Facebook page.  Click here to download the recipes for Vinci Sauce and Italian Meatballs.

    Buon Appetito!

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,


    Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Pasta Pork

    Jovial Pasta with Italian Sausage and a Smoky Tomato Cream Sauce

    pappardelle with italian sausage and a smoky tomato cream sauce

    Jovial Pappardelle with Italian Sausage and a Smoky Tomato Cream Sauce

    I can truly say I found Jovial pasta before they found me.  I like to admit this.  I became a huge fan years ago when I found this delightful pasta sitting on the shelves of my natural market.

    I had been looking for a whole grain pasta that wasn’t whole wheat, which can be heavy and tasteless and difficult to digest.  Jovial Einkorn pasta was the alternative I was looking for.  Boasting a high amount of protein and lower gluten content per serving, this nutty delicious pasta became my new favorite.  Until of course they introduced their line of brown rice pasta that is gluten-free.

    Pappardelle, lasagna sheets, fusilli and more.  Deliciously light and silky in texture with a taste similar to traditional pasta.  When I first served the pappardelle, my family hadn’t a clue it was brown rice pasta instead of traditional.  In fact, I never mentioned it and no one seemed to notice.  They gobbled it up and there wasn’t a speck of food left in the serving bowl.

    Jovial Brand Pasta and Products

    Unless I prepare my own fresh pasta, Jovial is the brand that is always in my pantry and it’s the only brand of pasta I use for my clients.  I always hear rave reviews about the taste and the texture of Jovial pasta.  Which makes this Mom and Chef very happy.

    This delicious little recipe is a new version of a recipe I’ve been preparing for years.  I call it Pasta Bennett most of the time but this new version deserved a new title.  Jovial pasta of your choice tossed with Italian sausage and laced with a smoky tomato cream sauce, prepared with loveliest Jovial diced tomatoes.  I love that Jovial organic diced tomatoes are in glass jars and not cans, which keep the tomatoes fresh, sweet, and perfectly delicious.  Tastes like summer in a jar!

    I use the entire line of Jovial products and I’m never disappointed.  The highest quality, freshness and love go into each product and the results are delightfully delicious.

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,


    Jovial Pasta with Italian Sausage and a Smoky Tomato Cream Sauce

    This dish is easy enough for a weeknight meal but tasty enough for dinner guests.  I used the brown rice egg pappardelle, which happens to be one of my favorite Jovial pastas.  But I’ve prepared this dish with the Jovial penne, fusilli and torn lasagna sheets.

    It’s important to use high quality ingredients for the best flavor.  Home canned tomatoes are divine but if you don’t have any in stock, the Jovial brand diced tomatoes are fresh and delicious.  Truly impressive.

    Serves 4


    1 package Jovial brand Pappardelle (or your favorite Jovial brand pasta)

    ¾ – 1lb Sweet Italian Sausage links (either a pre-cooked or fresh link sausage. I like Isernio’s Sweet Italian Sausage links or Aidells pre-cooked traditional Italian sausage)

    2 cloves garlic, finely diced

    1 cup heavy cream

    1 18 oz jar Jovial diced tomatoes

    ½ teaspoon smoked paprika

    ½ teaspoon dried Italian herbs or dried oregano

    Pinch of red pepper flakes

    2 lemon slices, each sliced in half to make four pieces

    Handful of fresh basil leaves, either chiffonade or torn

    Handful of torn prosciutto (optional)

    Fresh grated parmesan

    Salt and pepper to taste


    Prepare the pasta according to package directions. If using brown rice pasta, toss with a splash of olive oil when the pasta is done.

    Add a little olive oil to the bottom of a large sauté pan or skillet and heat over medium high heat.  When the oil is hot, brown the sausage links, either cooking through or re-heating.

    Once the sausage is browned and/or cooked through, let them cool a bit and then thinly slice. Set aside.

    In the same pan, heat a little oil (if needed) over medium heat and sauté the diced garlic for about 30 seconds.  Then whisk in the heavy cream and let the cream simmer and reduce by about half.  It will thicken just a bit.

    Stir in the diced tomatoes, smoked paprika, dried herbs, red pepper flakes and lemon slices. Season with a little salt and pepper.

    Bring the sauce to a very slow simmer and then add the sausage back into the sauce.  Let the sauce simmer for a few minutes, incorporating all the flavors.  Add additional salt and pepper to taste.

    Place the prepared pasta in a large pasta bowl or platter.  Gently toss the torn basil and torn prosciutto with the sauce and then ladle over the pasta.  Garnish heavily with fresh grated parmesan and serve immediately.

    I love this pasta served with a balsamic vinaigrette dressed spinach and arugula salad with sliced cremini mushrooms and toasted almonds.  Sprinkled with cracked black pepper and sea salt.

    Dinner is done!

    ** Full Disclosure: Jovial Brand Pasta’s sent me a lovely box of pastas for this post. Although I have it always stocked, I’m deeply grateful for their generous donation and I cannot say enough good things about this company and their products.   ~Karista Bennett/Karista’s Kitchen




    Karista's Kitchen Pasta vegetarian

    Pasta Cortona

    linguine with napa cabbage and mixed mushrooms drizzled with truffle oil

    Pasta Cortona

    How could I travel to Italy and not visit the mountain top village of Cortona?  I resisted.  Truly I did.  I didn’t want to be one of those blurry eyed, dreamy looking tourists on a quest to visit a place they’ve read about in a novel or seen on television in a movie.

    With a clever grin and knowing eyes, my darling husband kindly dispelled my silly notion by telling me I’d already been walking around for days like a blurry eyed tourist with eyes the size of saucers.  Hmmm… and I thought I was being rather cool and collected.

    Early one morning, my husband, who is a sport, no – he’s a super sport,  kindly obliged my longing to see Cortona. We hopped a train and arrived at the small, more modern town of Camucia Cortona which lies at the bottom of the mountain where Cortona is so beautifully is perched.

    Camucia Cortona Train Station

    Camucia Cortona Train Station

    Once inside the walls of the medieval city I felt myself becoming the blurry eyed tourist, eyes wide with amazement of this ancient city.  The architecture so unique with steep narrow streets and views of the surrounding countryside.  Breathtaking.

    Nonni's of Cortona

    Nonni’s of Cortona walking home from mass.

    Ranger Craig and I spent the day walking the steep and narrow streets, talking to the locals, snapping more pictures than I thought was possible, touring the churches and viewing art of the Renaissance.  A magical day that ended with food.  Actually, I think we ate our way through Cortona.  Pasta, soups, salumi, pastry, wine, more wine and then caffe.

    Trattoria in Cortona

    Trattoria in Cortona

    One of the most delicious meals I dined on in Italy was in Cortona.  A dish of fresh handmade linguine tossed with savoy cabbage in a light wine and butter sauce, topped with shaved truffle and fresh pecorino.  A little heaven in a bowl.

    dog in cortona,Italy

    A furry friend in Cortona saying hello as we passed by

    mountain garden in Cortona, Italy

    Mountain garden in Cortona

    Piazza Garibaldi in Cortona, Italy

    Piazza Garibaldi in Cortona

    Now that I’m home, I wanted to create a lovely version of that dish.  Something fresh, simple but flavorful.  We don’t have an abundant of truffles here in the states so I decided to make this an easy dish to prepare with local mushrooms and my favorite Napa cabbage.  And of course, if you wish, a drizzle of black truffle oil over the top.  A tribute to the lovely day in Cortona.

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,


    Pasta Cortona

    Serving Size: 3-4


    • 12 oz. linguine, cooked according to package directions
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
    • 1-2 oz dried porcini mushrooms (I love porcini mushrooms so I use 2 oz)
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 leek, white part only, root trimmed, halved and then thinly sliced
    • 1 medium shallot, finely diced
    • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
    • ½ cup white wine
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • 3 cups sliced Napa cabbage (about ½ a medium cabbage)
    • ¼ cup grated parmesan
    • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • Squeeze of lemon
    • Drizzle of black truffle oil (optional, but it’s really good!)
    • Shaved aged Pecorino for garnish


  • Prepare the pasta according to package directions. When draining the linguine, reserve ½ cup of pasta water.
  • Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a sauce pan and pour boiling water over the dried mushrooms. Give them a stir, cover and let them sit for about 20 minutes. When they are soft, drain the liquid, let them cool for a moment and then lightly chop the mushrooms.
  • While the pasta is cooking, heat the butter and 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  When the butter/oil is hot, add the shallots and leeks and sauté until wilted and fragrant.  Add the garlic and saute one minute longer.
  • Stir in the chopped porcini mushrooms and Italian parsley. Let them cook for about 1 minute and then add the white wine. Let the wine reduce by half and then stir in the heavy cream, grated parmesan and pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.
  • Next toss in the sliced Napa cabbage, and gently toss with the mixture, adding the additional olive oil as needed.
  • Take the skillet off the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon.
  • Add the linguine and ½ cup of pasta water to the cabbage and mushrooms. The sauce will thicken as it cools. However, if the sauce seems a bit thin, place the skillet back over medium heat and let the sauce cook for a few minutes which will thicken the sauce.
  • Transfer the pasta to a platter or individual serving bowls and drizzle with truffle oil if desired and shaved aged pecorino cheese. Serve immediately.
  • Recipe Management Powered by Zip Recipes Plugin


    Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Pasta vegetarian

    Artichoke, Lemon and Hazelnut Tagliatelle

    artichoke, lemon and hazelnut pasta

    I bet you thought I’d gone missing.  There have been moments, this past summer of chaos, I often entertained the thought of going missing.  Or hiding under a rock somewhere. Maybe hiding at my sister’s house, poolside, sipping a pretty pink cocktail while enjoying solace and sunshine.

    Alas, no poolside sipping pretty cocktails for me this summer.  It was full on, serious, wrap-up-business, prep a house to sell, pack up that house and move down the road to Oregon.  Phew!

    I’m happy to say, all has been accomplished.  Lists completed (well, the old lists anyway) and life in a new town is proving most interesting.  And delicious.

    My morning run with Tank.  I found my solace and sunshine.

    My morning run with Tank. I found my solace and sunshine.

    I’m soaking up the abundance of fresh produce, grass-fed and naturally raised meat and poultry here in the Willamette Valley.   I walk through the farmer’s market and our local co-op salivating at the brightly colored and freshly picked harvest; while my brain is racing with ideas of new and delicious recipes.

    One of the first dishes I tossed together not long after we arrived, is this lovely Artichoke, Lemon and Hazelnut Tagliatelle.  Now residing in the hazelnut capital of the U.S., I thought it appropriate to include Oregon hazelnuts, lightly toasted, making a beautiful and tasty addition to this dish.  I also paired this pasta with pan seared scallops but it would be equally as divine with grilled shrimp or roasted chicken.

    I’ve got more stories to tell, exciting news to reveal and a newly re-designed web site to share… along with new and delicious recipes perfect for the emerging Autumn season.

    From Oregon with Love!

    Delicious Wishes,


    Lemon, Artichoke and Hazelnut Tagliatelle with Pan Seared Scallops

    Serves 4-6

    This makes a lovely side dish sans the scallops or even a light summer meal served with a crisp summer greens salad.  Serve with grilled chicken breast or shrimp for variation or even grilled fresh artichoke hearts and pair with your favorite Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio or dry Chardonnay.


    1 jar artichoke hearts, drained but not rinsed (7.5fl ounce jar) (I like the grilled artichoke hearts from Napoleon Brand or Cucina and Amore Brand)  If you can’t find the grilled chokes, regular is fine.

    1 lemon, zested and juiced

    ¼ – 1/3 cup whole skinned hazelnuts

    ¼ cup grated parmesan, plus extra for garnish

    1 clove garlic

    Splash of good quality red wine vinegar (about a teaspoon or two) I used a garlic and basil infused red wine vinegar and it was delish. Use your good stuff in this dish.

    ½ cup extra virgin olive oil (I used Everyday Fresh from California Olive Ranch)

    ½ cup fresh basil, chiffonade or torn

    Salt and pepper

    1 lb Tagliatelle, cooked according to directions (or any other heartier pasta) (I used Jovial Brown Rice and Egg Tagliatelle and it was divine!)

    1 lb pan seared or grilled scallops or larger Gulf Shrimp (even grilled chicken would be yum)


    In a food processor, blender or vitamix, blend together the artichoke hearts, lemon juice only, hazelnuts, parmesan cheese, garlic clove and red wine vinegar.  Once the ingredients are combined add the olive oil and puree until almost smooth.

    Stir in the lemon zest and season to taste with salt and pepper.

    Toss the pesto with the cooked Tagliatelle and fresh basil and garnish with extra parmesan.  Serve on a platter and top with pan seared or grilled sea scallops, shrimp or chicken.

    * If you adore artichokes,  add an extra jar of drained, grilled artichokes in the pasta.  When artichokes are in season I steam them and use fresh artichoke hearts in this dish.

    Chicken Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Pasta vegetarian

    Sweet Baby Peas and Mushroom Pappardelle tossed in Sherry Cream

    Sweet baby peas and mushrooms over pappardelle

    Assorted lush shades of green encompass the landscape this time of year.  Spring, a time of revival, renewal and start over’s.  Yes, start over’s.  As in something keeps eating the spring greens in my garden, so now I have to start over.

    At least the chicken gals are the beneficiaries of the demolished plants.  They’re loving the lush stems of what was to be a delicious leaf that would grace my pasta or salad recipes.

    sweet baby peas and mushrooms in a sherry cream sauce over pappardelle

    So it was timely that Ranger Craig and I decided to head over to Eastsound Farmer’s Market on Orcas Island a few weeks ago.  I found a bounty of spring produce that made me almost giddy.  Spring onions, asparagus, leafy greens and some small sweet baby peas.  Not to mention slurping fresh shucked oysters and dining on freshly cooked Carni Asada with homemade corn tortillas.

    If that wasn’t spectacular enough, I ran into two good friends and fellow food and farm bloggers, Janelle of Talk of Tomatoes, and her newest baby,; and Wendy of Chez Chloe and her newest adventure, a gourmet food store called “Chez Chloe”.  A must visit when staying on Orcas Island.  Wendy stocks an impressive selection of salts and oils and books and chocolates… the deliciousness goes on and on.

    orcas island washington

    Wendy of Chez Chloe on Orcas Island

    What a brilliant day.  Sunshine, warm breezes off the bay, food that caused a most soul filled joy and two friends to make the day even brighter.

    Sweet Baby Peas and Mushroom Pappardelle tossed in Sherry Cream

    Serves 2-3 (recipe can be doubled)


    8-10 ounces Pappardelle or any wide hearty pasta, cooked homemade or according to package instructions

    2 tablespoons butter (plus extra if needed)

    1 tablespoon olive oil

    1 shallot, finely diced

    2 cloves garlic, minced

    2 cups thin sliced cremini or assorted local mushrooms

    3 sprigs fresh thyme

    ½ cup dry sherry

    1 pint heavy cream

    Salt and pepper to taste

    1 cup cooked fresh spring peas or thawed organic sweet peas (look for a brand that is locally grown)

    ¼ -1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

    ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

    Options: Grilled/Roasted Chicken or Grilled Shrimp (sometimes I like to toss in some cubed cooked chicken or place a grilled chicken breast cutlet on top of the pasta before serving)


    In a medium sauce pan heat the butter and olive oil over medium to medium high heat.  Once the butter has melted and is frothy add the shallots and thyme.  Sauté for just a minute or two and then add the mushrooms.  Continue to sauté the mushrooms, adding an additional tablespoon of butter or oil if needed to help soften the mushrooms.

    Once the mushrooms are cooked the way you like them, add the garlic (I like my mushrooms slightly golden). Continue to cook for another minute and then whisk in the sherry.  Let the sherry simmer until slightly reduced and then whisk in the heavy cream.

    Let the heavy cream come to a lively simmer and then season with salt and pepper to taste.  For a little heat, add in a pinch of red pepper flakes.

    Let the sauce simmer for a few minutes.  Add the peas to the sauce and then pour the sauce over the pasta.  Remove any remaining thyme sprigs.

    Toss the pasta with the sauce and add the parmesan cheese. Let the pasta cool so the sauce can thicken slightly and then plate the pasta and garnish with chopped Italian parsley.

    Serve immediately or serve warm.  This is even delicious straight out of the frig  🙂