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pasta recipes

Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Life Around My Table Pasta vegetarian

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Vodka Sauce


Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Vodka Sauce

I am having the biggest love affair with Spaghetti Squash right now; especially when its Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Vodka Sauce. 

Typically, I don’t prepare spaghetti squash until the fall months roll around. However, I spotted one in my co-op market the other day so I bought it. I knew I was making a Vodka Sauce that week and I thought it would taste divine over roasted spaghetti squash.

Well I was right! It was divine. Just like many other squash, when spaghetti squash is roasted, the roasting process caramelizes some of the squash, which makes it slightly sweet to taste. That slightly sweet flavor balances the vibrant flavors in my Vodka sauce.

Vodka sauce is basically a traditional tomato based pasta sauce with a splash of vodka and heavy cream. Some recipes add roasted red peppers and/or crushed red pepper. Why vodka? Just like most tomato sauce recipes, adding a bit of alcohol enhances the flavor of the tomatoes. Most people add wine to their pasta sauce which enhances flavor, but also adds a bit of flavor. Vodka is flavorless (unless you use a flavored vodka which I don’t recommend) so it enhances the flavor of the tomatoes without adding flavor to the sauce. If you want a more lengthy explanation of why we add vodka to a tomato sauce, you’ll find this ARTICLE interesting.

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Vodka Sauce

There are also several methods to roasting spaghetti squash. Typically, I slice it lengthwise down the center and scoop out the seeds. Brush it with olive oil, salt and pepper and then place it flesh side down and roast it for about 35-45 minutes depending on the size. You’ll get spaghetti like noodles out of the squash but they won’t be quite as long as a traditional spaghetti noodle. I read about a hack for getting longer spaghetti squash noodles which I haven’t tried yet, because honestly, it looked like more work than I was willing to do at that moment. Here is the ARTICLE. I’m sure I’ll try it at some point, however, if you do try this method, let me know your thoughts. Thanks!

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Vodka Sauce is my new “go to” meal. Although, I may have served it one too many times over the last few weeks, or so I’ve been told. 🙂 My family likes diversity in their menu. 

You’re going to love this combination of flavors and you’ll probably want to use the Vodka sauce on other kinds of noodles as well – like Zucchini noodles, lasagna, pasta and buckwheat soba noodles.

I hope you’re enjoying the season and the warmer temperatures!

Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,


Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Vodka Sauce

Serving Size: 2-4

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Vodka Sauce


    For the Spaghetti Squash
  • 1 or 2 Medium sized spaghetti squash
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
    For the Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 tablespoons vodka
  • 1 28 ounce can of tomato sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil for garnish
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan for garnish


  • To roast the spaghetti squash, pre-heat the oven to 425F.
  • Cut the squash lengthwise down the center and scoop out the seeds. Then brush the flesh side of the squash with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the squash flesh side down on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 35-45 minutes or until soft to the touch. Remove them from the oven and let them cool before shredding.
  • To make the sauce, add the olive oil to a sauce pan and place it over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and saute until soft. Then stir in the garlic, red pepper flakes, fresh herbs and smoked paprika and saute about 30 seconds longer. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the vodka and tomato sauce.
  • Bring the sauce to a slow simmer and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Then slowly stir in the heavy cream and simmer for about five more minutes.
  • As with any sauce, it will be more flavorful the longer it sits. It's even better the next day.
  • Carefully scrape the inside of the spaghetti squash with a fork and add to individual bowls. Top the squash with some sauce and then garnish with fresh basil and grated parmesan. Enjoy!
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    Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Life Around My Table Pasta vegetarian

    Food Segment on KATU Afternoon Live

    Food Segment with Tra'Renee Chambers of Afternoon Live and Karista Bennett

    I had so much fun yesterday! But I always have fun when I’m filming a food segment with Host Tra’Renee Chambers at Portland’s KATU Afternoon Live. 

    I’m sure you can tell I was having a good time by the many expressive faces I made during the 7 minute segment. 🙂 I’ve been told I speak with my eyes. Ha!

    Karista and Tra KATU 1 Karista and Tra KATU 2

    Yesterday we cooked up my famous Pasta Cortona which is one of my favorite spring and summer pasta dishes. Check out the video HERE for a step by step tutorial on how to bring this lovely dish together. Let me know what you think! 

    Sad news… someone has hacked my Instagram account. So if you follow me on Instagram, my account is down and I’m working hard to bring it back to life. We shall see. It’s not an easy fix apparently. 🙁 But you can still keep up with all the deliciousness on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. And here on the blog of course.

    Wishing you a most delicious week!


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

    Broccolini and Sausage Cavatappi

    Broccolini and Sausage Cavatappi // Karista's Kitchen

    I adore a a simple and flavorful meal that comes together easily like my family’s favorite Broccolini and Sausage Cavatappi.

    This rustic and uncomplicated recipe uses fresh ingredients with a few pantry staples to make dinner nearly fuss-free and satisfying.

    This Broccolini and Sausage Cavatappi uses ground sausage or ground chicken sausage but you can use whatever you like, or keep it vegetarian.  We have a fabulous sausage house in our little town that makes the most incredible and creative sausages from locally sourced ingredients. So it’s a treat for me to scoot-on-down (my Southernism for the day) to the sausage house and pick up some unique sausages for this recipe.

    I’ve used the traditional Italian sausage, Swedish potato, andouille, cheddar and jalapeño, sun-dried tomato and feta and probably a few more. It’s ridiculously difficult for me to make a decision when I visit our local sausage house – and it doesn’t help if I’m hungry when I’m shopping for the sausages.

    This recipe is paired with one of my favorite types of pastas, Cavatappi. Cavatappi, meaning corkscrew in Italian, feels heartier and a little fancier than macaroni but with a delightful texture that holds up to broccoli, cauliflower, ground meats and sauces.  When I can’t find broccolini or what some call broccoli rabe, I use the garden variety of broccoli.

    I’ve been known to throw other veggies into the pot as well, especially if I have vegetables that are on their last days of shelf life.  I’ve used collard greens, mushrooms, Swiss chard, kale, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant; leftover cooked veggies that easily pair with this cozy recipe.

    Broccolini and Sausage Cavatappi works beautifully as a quick weeknight meal but it’s also ideal for a cozy fall or winter weekend meal paired with a glass of Chianti.

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love!


    Broccolini and Sausage Cavatappi

    Serving Size: 4-6

    Broccolini and Sausage Cavatappi


    • 12 ounces Cavatappi pasta
    • 1 tablespoon salt
    • 1-2 lbs Broccolini (broccoli rabe), chopped
    • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
    • ½ cup chopped red onion
    • 1 lb ground sweet or spicy Italian sausage
    • 1 cup of prepared basil pesto
    • Squeeze of fresh lemon
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • ½ cup grated parmesan


  • Fill a pasta pot with water and heat over high heat. When the water boils, salt the water with one tablespoon of salt. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. About five minutes before the pasta is done, add the broccolini to the pasta. Continue to cook and when the pasta is done, the broccolini should be done as well.
  • While the water is coming to a boil, prepare the sausage. Heat one tablespoon of oil in a medium or large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, sauté the onion until wilted and then add the Italian sausage and cook until done.
  • When the pasta is done, drain the pasta and broccolini and place it back into the pasta pot. Toss the pasta and broccolini with the pesto and then fold in the sausage and onions. Stir in the squeeze of fresh lemon and then season to taste with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
  • Pour the pasta into a serving dish or individual dishes and garnish with grated parmesan and serve.
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    Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Life Around My Table Pasta vegetarian

    Linguine with Brown Butter, Parmesan, Peas and Mint

    Linguine in Brown Butter with Parmesan, Peas and Mint for a delicious light and spring season meal // Karista's Kitchen

    The title of this recipe sort of makes me giddy – Linguine with Brown Butter, Parmesan, Peas and Mint.  

    I threw it together yesterday for lunch as I was shooting two other recipes and it was so completely delicious – I once again wondered why I’d never posted it.

    If you’re not a huge fan of mint, you might question adding the sassy herb to this lovely pasta dish.  However, there is just something so fanciful about the combination of peas and mint.  It’s as if they were meant to be together.  They work deliciously together with the toasty flavor of the brown butter and parmesan cheese and gives a nice contrast to the flavor profile of the pasta – making a most enchanting dining experience. Even when it’s lunch!

    Linguine in Brown Butter with Parmesan, Peas and Mint for a delicious and spring filled meal! Karista's Kitchen

    Though if you like peas, you’ll love this Linguine with Brown Butter, Parmesan, Peas and Mint.

    Spring peas will be in season soon and they will inevitably find their way into a multitude of my recipes.  Sweeter and more tender in texture than summer peas, I adore their flavor and they make a fantastic addition to spring pastas, salads, sauces and pestos.  Until they arrive however, I keep a stash of frozen spring peas in my freezer.

    Linguine in Brown Butter with Parmesan, Peas and Mint // Karista's Kitchen

    I feel a little indulged as my co-op market carries frozen, local spring peas in bulk and I keep them on hand for soups, stews and veg dishes during the winter.   Ahhh… the beauty of living in a farming community; even when I’m stuck behind a tractor or a hay truck on the only road to the market, I still marvel at the luxury of having so many gorgeous farms and ranches at my finger tips.

    Simple pleasures are often found in the fresh, clean flavors of the season – like this lovely Linguine with Brown Butter, Parmesan and Peas.  I promise, it’ll make you giddy too.

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,


    Linguine with Brown Butter, Parmesan, Peas and Mint

    Linguine with Brown Butter, Parmesan, Peas and Mint


    • 12-16oz linguine or fettuccine, cooked according to package directions (I often sub with my fave gluten free pasta)
    • 8-10 tablespoons of unsalted butter (1 stick)
    • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
    • 1 cup spring peas, frozen or fresh
    • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped


  • In a large, light colored saute pan, so you can see the butter turn brown, heat the butter over medium heat.
  • Move the pan around a bit as the butter melts and just before it browns it will become frothy. Once the foam dissipates, you'll be able to see the milk solids start to brown and become brown butter. Once you see them begin to brown, stir in the garlic. Sauté just a few seconds, until the garlic is fragrant, being careful not to burn the garlic or the butter and then add the pasta, swirling the pasta to soak up all the butter and garlic.
  • Take the pan off the heat and toss the pasta with the peas, parmesan and fresh mint. Season to taste with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
  • Serve immediately.
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    Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Pasta Salmon

    Smoked Salmon Fettuccine

    Smoked Salmon Fettuccine with a light white wine cream sauce

    I’m back from a brief hiatus (well, somewhat brief) with a brand new blog, a new website along with a brand new recipe. And who knows… maybe even a brand new me. 😉

    It’s been an interesting and busy few months. It’s been so busy that when I was walking past a mirror the other day, I glanced, and then wondered “who is the strange woman staring back at me?”. I haven’t gotten as much sleep as I should due to late nights and early mornings, my roots need a touch up, I have man hands from cooking so much and Tank looks like a mop exploded.

    Life is crazy. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I cherish all the work during the busy times and when things slow down, I savor the moments and breathe deeply.

    A few months ago, I felt the need to step away; get back to my culinary roots and remember why I started this journey in the first place. During that time I was constantly reminded how food brings us together, how it mends a broken soul, cures a heartache, brightens a day and nourishes a body.

    Food is the element that brings us to the table, where life is lived and memories are made.

    I worked on some fun projects that challenged and recharged my creative juices and another larger project that made me realize I’m not super woman and I can’t change people or change the rules in which they play the game of life. I’m forever the optimist and when these things happen, I take it as a gentle reminder to firmly plant my feet on the ground and move on.

    I met some amazing young people who will forever be in my heart. Young people who displayed talent, confidence, compassion and a sense of justice for all. I will forever remember these young adults, for not only the hard work they displayed but the lessons they’ve taught me.

    smoked salmon fettuccine with a light white wine cream sauce

    With so many recipes and photos stacked up just waiting to be shared, I thought I’d begin with this Smoked Salmon Fettuccine.

    The lush and perfectly smoked salmon was sent to me by one of my favorite farm to table companies, Barn2Door. As you might have guessed, I completely adore the CEO of the company and consider her one of my dear friends. Janelle Maiocco started Barn2Door out of love and passion for local farm food. Barn2Door is a marketplace where you can buy sustainably grown meat, fish, fruits, vegetables & items like raw honey and real maple syrup right from producers and growers. Farmers, fishers, ranchers and gardeners have their own store – like Etsy for farms – where they showcase the food they have for sale, and manage direct communications, sales and fulfillment (local delivery, national shipping or both).  Farm food online

    Janelle was kind enough to send me seafood, which she knows I love, from Two If By Seafoods which is one of the many companies that sells local product through Barn2Door.

    smoked salmon from Two If By Seafoods

    Two If By SeaFoods is a direct source of Wild Alaska Salmon brought to you by a 4th generation Bristol Bay fisherman. Like the Founding Fathers, we believe in Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness . . . which, of course, means fishing! We are dedicated to bringing you the quality of one of the world’s best maintained, pristine and protected salmon runs. This involves the whole process, from the operation of the fishery to delivering the fish to you. We are passionate about promoting the history and culture of this unique part of the world, protecting it for future generations. On board the F/V Paul Revere, we select premium fish to be processed within hours: fileted, vacuum packed and flash (blast) frozen to preserve the ultimate in quality. From our boat to your table!” – from their B2D store

    I couldn’t have been happier with the smoked salmon that graces this delectable Smoked Salmon Fettuccine. Gorgeous, rich color with a subtle smoked flavor and a perfect texture that melted in my mouth.

    Because I know you’re going to want to make this Smoked Salmon Fettuccine, the fantastic crew at Barn2Door has generously offered $15 off any Barn2Door purchase over $50. Just use the promo code KARISTA15 which is valid until 11/30/2015. Perfect for the Thanksgiving holiday! They also have a edible holiday gift guide that will make gift giving simple and delicious for the holiday season:

    My deepest thanks to you for continuing to visit the blog while I was away and for sharing recipe links from Karista’s Kitchen Facebook, Instagram and Pinterst. I couldn’t ask for a lovelier and more loyal group of friends who support great food and a delicious life around the table.

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love!

    Smoked Salmon Fettuccine

    Serving Size: 4

    Smoked Salmon Fettuccine


    • 1 lb fettuccine, cooked according to package directions
    • 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 large shallot, diced
    • 3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced
    • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme or lemon thyme, chopped
    • 1 teaspoon Italian parsley, chopped
    • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
    • 1/2 cup dry white wine
    • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
    • 10-12 ounces smoked salmon, shredded
    • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
    • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
    • Lemon wedges for serving


  • Add the olive oil to a large skillet or sauté pan and heat over medium heat.
  • Add the diced shallot and cook until translucent or wilted, about 2-3 minutes. Then add the garlic, herbs and pinch of crushed red pepper and sauté for a minute longer.
  • Next, stir in the dry white wine and let the wine reduce by half. Once the wine is reduced, stir in the heavy cream and bring to a simmer.
  • Simmer the heavy cream until it begins to thicken.
  • Once the heavy cream begins to thicken, stir in the parmesan cheese and season to taste with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
  • Gently fold the smoked salmon into the cream sauce and toss with the pasta. Garnish with additional parmesan cheese, chopped Italian parsley and serve with lemon wedges.
  • Serve immediately.
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    Chicken Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Pasta

    Isernio’s Ground Chicken Pasta Primavera

    Isernio's Ground Chicken Pasta Primavera with red and green peppers, peas, asparagus fresh basil and light cream sauce // Karista's Kitchen

    We had only been in our new home in Washington state for a few weeks when we were invited to our neighbors home for dinner.  Mr. Neighbor was an excellent home chef and prepared the most divine slow cooked tomato sauce with locally produced Italian sausages.  I’m sure we had other dishes of food that night, but all I can remember are the sausages.

    As we were chatting about food, Mrs. Neighbor mentioned the sausages were from Isernio’s Sausage Company in Seattle.  Well that was all she had to say because the next day I was on the hunt for Isernio’s sausages.  Thirteen years later… I’m still cooking with Isernio’s products.

    If there is one thing that will completely grab my attention, it’s a great story.  The Isernio story is one of timeless traditions shared with friends and family, combined with hard work and passion that led to the making of a great sausage company.  Flavor, quality, product selection and value are just a few reasons I’ve been a long time fan of Isernio’s products.  From traditional mild and hot Italian sausages to fresh ground meats and chicken sausages, Isernio’s has a product to make every meal inviting and delicious.

    Isernio's Ground Chicken Pasta Primavera prepared with fresh garden product and laced with a light cream sauce // Karista's Kitchen

    Over the years I’ve created dozens of tasty recipes with Isernio’s products. These Chile Lime Chicken Burgers were one of the first recipes I created with Isernio’s Ground Chicken, making a flavorful and healthy alternative for burger season.  Isernio’s Ground Chicken is perfect for most any recipe you would use ground beef.  I use the ground chicken in tacos and enchiladas and of course I use it in all sorts of Italian pasta recipes.

    This beautiful pasta primavera, prepared with linguine, is perfect for the spring and summer season.  It’s filled with fresh garden produce, beautifully balanced with Isernio’s Ground Chicken and laced with a light cream sauce.  Loads of flavor that make a healthy and hearty meal for any occasion.

    Here’s wishing you a most delicious week!

    Loads of Love,


    Isernio’s Ground Chicken Pasta Primavera

    Serving Size: 4-6

    Isernio’s Ground Chicken Pasta Primavera


    • 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 small yellow onion, diced
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 lb Isernio's ground chicken
    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
    • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
    • 1/2 cup white wine
    • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
    • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
    • 1 red pepper, sliced into thin strips
    • 1 yellow pepper, sliced into thin strips
    • 1 cup chopped asparagus or asparagus tips
    • 1 cup sweet peas
    • 1/2 cup basil leaves, torn or chopped
    • 12 oz to 1 lb linguine
    • Splash of lemon juice
    • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste


  • Add water to a large pasta pot, add a generous pinch or two of salt and heat to a boil over high heat. When the water boils add the linguine and boil according to package directions. About five minutes before the pasta is done, add the bell pepper and asparagus to the pasta. The veggies will cook crisp tender in the pasta water. When the pasta is done, drain the pasta and veggies in a colander and place it in a large bowl.
  • While the pasta water is heating, add a few tablespoons of olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium heat. When the oil is hot add the onions. Sauté until the onions are soft. Then add the garlic, Italian parsley and oregano and sauté a minute longer. Then add the ground chicken and a dash of salt and pepper and cook until the ground chicken is browned. If it's not cooked through, that's ok because it will finish cooking in the sauce.
  • Next add the 1/2 cup of white wine to the ground chicken mixture and reduce until almost all the liquid is gone.
  • Then stir in the heavy cream and simmer until the cream has reduced a bit and slightly thickened. Stir in the sweet peas and grated parmesan. Add a splash of lemon juice to the sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Pour the the sauce over the pasta and veggies, add the fresh basil and toss to combine. Serve with extra grated parmesan and warm, fresh Italian bread.
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    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.

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    Chicken Kid Friendly Pasta Sauces, Salsas and More

    Stuffed Manicotti with Chicken Italian Sausage Ragu

    It looks as if our sunny spell has ended and the spring clouds have rolled in off the Pacific.  We’re in for a little rain and cooler temperatures the next day or two and it feels like a perfect pasta week. 

    Pasta recipes are always a big hit with the Bennett crew, especially when I prepare my chicken Italian sausage ragu.  I love a hearty sausage ragu, but to keep things on the lighter side for spring and summer weather, I love the flavors and texture of Italian sausage made with chicken.  One of our local companies, Isernio’s, makes the loveliest chicken Italian sausage, not to mention an array of additional fabulous traditional and contemporary sausages. 

    Whether you decide to use a traditional Italian sausage or a chicken sausage, this ragu is rich and delicious and beautifully envelops the stuffed manicotti.  This ragu is easily prepared in advance  and will keep in the frig for up to three days.  If you’d like to make sauce for future weeknight dinners, just freeze the sauce for up to three months. 

    For a freezer meal ready to be popped into the oven, prepare the stuffed manicotti with ragu according to directions, however, do not bake.  Double wrap with saran wrap and then wrap in foil and freeze for up to two weeks.  To bake, just set it out to thaw and bake at 350F for about 20-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

    Serve with a delicious caesar salad or salad of spring greens with an Italian vinaigrette.  The manicotti is also delicious served with the roasted garlic broccoli in this blog, found under “sides”.   Bon Appetito!

    Serves 4-6


    For the Manicotti

    2 cups whole milk ricotta

    1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley

    1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano (or ½ teaspoon dried)

    1 medium – large clove garlic, finely chopped

    ½ teaspoon salt

    ½ teaspoon black pepper

    ¼ cup fresh grated parmesan or Romano

    1 egg

    Pinch of fresh grated nutmeg

    1 cup sliced whole mozzarella

    8-10 Manicotti Shells

    Ragu recipe below (or for a quick manicotti use your favorite jarred sauce)


    Prepare Manicotti according to package directions with a good dose of olive oil so the pasta won’t stick together.

    Blend together the ricotta, herbs, garlic, parmesan cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Then whisk in the egg.  Reserve the mozzarella.

    Pre-heat the oven to 350F.  Layer the bottom of a baking dish with a little of the ragu.  I like to tear open the manicotti and make it a flat piece of pasta, lay it in the baking dish and then stuff with a few tablespoons of the cheese mixture.  Now roll it up and make sure it’s seam side down.  Almost like filling enchiladas.  You can stuff your manicotti the traditional method as well; I’m just usually in a hurry to get the manicotti assembled and in the oven. 

    Once all the manicottis are filled and laying seam side down in the baking dish, ladle ragu over the top of each manicotti.

    Place slices of fresh mozzarella over the top of each manicotti.  Sprinkle with additional parmesan or Romano.  Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes, or until the filling is hot and bubbly.  Let the manicotti cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

    Garnish with fresh chopped Italian parsley and serve. 

    Chicken Italian Sausage Ragu


    2-3 tablespoons olive oil

    1 rib celery, diced

    1 large carrot, diced

    1 large onion, diced

    8 cloves garlic, finely chopped

    1lb Chicken Italian Sausage (I use Isernio’s)

    1 cup dry red wine

    2 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce (I like Muir Glen Fire Roasted)

    1 tablespoon tomato paste (freeze leftovers in 1 tablespoon increments in a baggie)

    2 bay leaves

    Salt and pepper to taste


    In a large stock pot or Dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Once the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the celery, carrots and onions.  Cook the veggies down, about 5 minutes and then add the garlic.  Cook a few minutes more. 

    Turn the heat to medium high and add the Chicken Italian Sausage to the veggies and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the sausage is cooked through.  Next, add the red wine and let it reduce by half.  Turn the heat down to medium and stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, and bay leaves. 

    Once the sauce comes to a boil, turn down the heat to low and simmer while you prepare the manicotti.  The longer this sauce simmers the richer the flavor.  (This sauce can be prepared the day before and refrigerated.  You can also prepare this sauce and freeze for up to 3 months)

    Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

    Kid Friendly Pasta vegetarian

    Mediterranean Pasta with Feta, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Lemon and Fresh Basil

    Pasta seems to be one of the most requested dinner selections in my house.   After dropping off the menu radar for a while, I brought back this divine little recipe and served it for dinner last week, and I must say it left my crew speechless.  Typically I serve pasta with a heavier sauce, something a bit more “stick to your ribs” kind of sauce.   However, with the warmer weather arriving (someday soon!) I thought this snappy little pasta should make a comeback.

    Italian cappellini, or Angel Hair as we say, is completely delightful in this recipe.  It’s delicate shape pairs well with the delicious flavors of the Mediterranean.  Sweet and tangy sun dried tomatoes, fresh lemon and basil combined with the lightly salty flavor of the feta makes for a mouth watering meal that will be sure to make your family smile.   Happy Cooking!

    Valbreso French Sheep's Milk Feta Cheese

    Option:  Try this fabulous recipe with Jovial Einkorn Linguine, a nutty, rich tasting ancient whole wheat pasta that tastes great in this dish, or all on it’s own with a little parmesan and fresh butter. You can find the Jovial brand of pastas at Whole Foods or PCC Natural Markets.  Delicious!

    Jovial Einkorn Pasta

    Serves 4


    2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

    4-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped

    1 jar (8oz) sun dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained

    ½ cup kalamata or Greek olives, pitted and halved

    1 lemon zested

    ½ cup white wine

    ¼ cup heavy cream

    ¼ cup fresh chopped basil

    ½ cup crumbled feta cheese (I completely adore Valbreso French Sheep Feta)

    Salt and Pepper to taste

    Optional add ins:  Diced roasted chicken, grilled shrimp or 1 cup bay shrimp

    Your favorite Pasta (I like Cappellini pasta for this recipe)

    Fresh chopped oregano or Italian parsley for garnish


    Heat the water for the pasta. Cook the pasta as directed.

    Heat the olive oil on medium heat in a heavy bottom skillet and add the garlic, sun dried tomatoes, kalamata or Greek olives and lemon zest.  Let the ingredients heat thoroughly. 

    Next stir in the white wine, and then stir in the cream.  Let the sauce come to a boil and then turn down the heat to a lively simmer for just a few minutes.  If adding chicken or shrimp, stir it in at this time.

    Toss in the fresh basil and feta and combine.  Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste, and a squeeze of fresh lemon if desired.

    Add the Cappellini to the sauce and combine, coating the delicate strands of pasta.  Transfer to a large Pasta serving bowl and garnish with fresh herbs.

    Bon Appetito!