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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!

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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.

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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.

Pasta Cortona

Serves 3-4 or 4-5 as a side


1 lb of fresh linguine or homemade (fresh quality pasta tastes best in this dish)

1 small to medium head Napa cabbage, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

2 cups sliced mixed seasonal mushrooms (I used a mixture of chanterelle, cremini and shiitake)

2 cloves garlic, finely diced

2-4 tablespoons butter (start with 2tblsps and add as needed)

2-4 tablespoons olive oil (start with 2tblsps and add as needed)

¼ cup white wine

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

Drizzle of black truffle oil (optional, but it’s really good!)

Fresh grated parmesan or pecorino


Prepare the pasta according to package directions.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  When the butter/oil is hot add the mushrooms and sauté to your preference.  Mushrooms quickly absorb liquid but will eventually release the liquid when they’ve finished cooking.

Just before the mushrooms are done, add the garlic to the mushrooms and season with salt, pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper.

Then stir in the wine letting it simmer for a few seconds. Next toss in the thinly sliced Napa cabbage, and continue to toss with the mushrooms and garlic, adding additional olive oil if needed, until the cabbage is wilted, or crisp tender.

Take the skillet off the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper and add a pat of additional butter if needed.

Drain the linguine and toss with the mushroom cabbage mixture and plate immediately.

Drizzle each plate of pasta with black truffle oil and shaved pecorino or grated parmesan.

Buon Appetito!



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  🙂

Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Pasta Seafood

Crawfish Fettuccine

Crawfish Fettucine - Karista's Kitchen

Late winter and early spring I always get a craving for crawfish.  It’s in season around this time of year and paired with Mardi Gras, these two events always remind me of several delicious years living in Louisiana.

My time in Louisiana were pre-culinary school.  My lack of culinary skills back then were sorely evident.  Especially when I brought home a delectable dish made for me by one of my patients.  Usually a Cajun chicken stew, gumbo or etouffee; and once a divine Crawfish Fettuccine.

I’d dance happily into the kitchen of our little pink house and plant my gift of food on the bright green counter.  Ranger Craig and I would carefully, almost ceremoniously, open the plastic containers filled with food and stare at amazement.

crawfish fettuccine with white wine bechamel sauce

Crawfish Fettuccine

This makes me smile now.  We were so enthralled with the deliciousness bestowed upon us by the kindest, sweetest Cajun women.  All with hearts of gold, wanting to feed two young people who had no idea how to cook.

Maybe this is why I love to give the gift of food.  Brings back memories of the kindness shown to Ranger Craig and I many years ago when we were just starting our careers… and hadn’t given a second thought as to how we might eat.

Unfortunately, I never got the recipe for the crawfish fettuccine.  And that’s ok.  Although I would have loved Mrs. Breaux’s recipe, several years ago I re-created this slightly decadent dish.

Rather than a traditional heavy cream sauce I’ve prepared this dish with a béchamel laced with white wine, a hint of lemon and of course a dash of Tabasco.  This keeps the dish a little lighter but with all the unique flavors of Cajun cuisine.

Tastes like Mardi Gras in a pasta bowl.  🙂

Crawfish Fettuccine

Serves 6-8


1 lb fettuccine, prepared according to package directions (I often sub with gluten free fettuccine)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup finely chopped onions

½ cup finely diced green pepper

2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups warm milk

½ cup white wine

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chive, plus more for garnish

Spritz of lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

1 lb cooked crawfish tails (or cooked shrimp or lobster pieces)

Grated parmesan for garnish

Lemon wedges for serving


In a large sauce pan, heat the butter on medium high and when the better is melted add the onions and green peppers.  Once the onions and green peppers are wilted add the garlic and sauté for a minute longer.

With a whisk, add the flour, stirring for a minute or two, just don’t let the flour brown.  Turn the heat to medium low and then slowly whisk in the warm milk.  Once incorporated and smooth add the white wine.  Continue to whisk until the béchamel has thickened.  Adding additional milk if the sauce is too thick.

Stir in the fresh chive and spritz of lemon and then season to taste with salt and pepper. I love using fine sea salt to season this dish.  Last, add a dash or two of Tabasco to taste.

Place the cooked fettuccine on a large platter or in a large pasta bowl.  Fold the crawfish tails into the sauce and pour over the fettuccine.  Garnish with grated parmesan cheese and additional chopped chive.  Serve with extra lemon wedges.

Beef Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Life Around My Table Pasta Pork

Hearty Winter Bolognese

Hearty Winter Bolognese // Karista's Kitchen

When I was little, I remember my Grandmother standing at the stove top stirring her homemade tapioca pudding.

I stood close by, waiting, asking to help, so I could somehow sneak a sample of her delicious recipe.

Grandma smiled and with a twinkle in her bright blue eyes, she said “little one, I think you should dip your finger in the pudding”.  I said “why Grandma?”  She replied “because it will make the pudding taste better”.


Food memories are often the most enduring. Filled with moments of kindred spirit, sanctuary… love.

These days, nothing says Sunday love better than a big bowl of Hearty Winter Bolognese over pasta – a pleasure for the palate.

Hearty Winter Bolognese isn’t just a meat sauce. It’s a slow braised Italian meat sauce with deep, satisfying flavors ready to blanket your favorite pasta.

Like every Italian Nonna, traditional Bolognese recipes vary from chef to chef.   Typically, Italian Bolognese is prepared with pancetta, soffritto (onions, carrots, celery) white wine, minced beef, pork or veal and milk.

However, many American versions of Hearty Winter Bolognese are prepared with olive oil, red wine and a mixture of ground beef and pork. I have several versions myself, depending on what I have on hand, or what flavors I’m in the mood to use.

However you decide to prepare your Bolognese, allowing the sauce to simmer stove top for several hours will create a most delicious experience.

And… don’t forget to dip your finger in the sauce.  It’ll make it taste better. 🙂

Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,



Hearty Winter Bolognese

Serving Size: 6-8


  • 1 lb ground beef (local and grass fed beef tastes best)
  • 1lb Hot or mild Italian pork sausage (if you don’t eat pork, sub with Hot Italian chicken sausage)
  • 2 medium carrots, finely diced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup dry red wine ( I use DaVinci Chianti for a perfect sauce)
  • 2 sprigs oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 28 ounce jar crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste


In a Dutch oven or stock pot add the oil and heat over medium heat. Once the oil is hot add the carrots, onions and celery. Sauté until the vegetables are wilted. Then stir in the garlic and sauté a minute longer.

Next add the ground beef and sausage and let the meat cook through. Once cooked and most of the liquid has evaporated, stir in the wine.

Let the wine decrease by half and then add the oregano, bay leaf, crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Bring the sauce to a simmer and season with a little salt and pepper.

Let the sauce simmer stove top uncovered on low for about 2 hours.

Before serving, remove the oregano and bay leaf. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and then stir in the ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley.

Serve with your favorite pasta and garnish with a handful of grated parmesan.

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