Weekday dinnertime, sigh. You’re tired, you’re hungry and you just want to sit down with a glass of wine and unwind from the day.
Before you reach for those takeout menus, you may want to rummage around in your fridge to see what ingredients you have on hand that can easily be thrown together. That’s exactly what I did last week while looking for something quick, easy (but delicious) to have for dinner after a long day at work.
Because you cook the broccoli with the pasta, this pasta dish is really a cinch to whip up, even on those nights when cooking is the last thing you want to do. No chickpeas? You could replace them with cannellini beans. Extra chicken lying around? Leave out the ricotta and add in some grilled chicken pieces instead.
The lemon zest in this dish goes a long way, packing a strong punch of flavor with such a small step. Do you have a lemon zester as part of your kitchen arsenal? If not make sure to get one immediately! I have one on hand all the time, and even have a separate one for Passover. Here’s the one I love using.
1 cup penne pasta
1 1/2 cups broccoli florets
1/2 cup ricotta
1/2 cup chickpeas
1 Tbsp lemon zest
2 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper
Bring a medium sized pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta as directed. For the last 2-3 minutes of cooking, add broccoli florets to water.
Drain pasta and broccoli.
Add pasta and broccoli to a large bowl and coat with olive oil. Add chickpeas and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.
Add ricotta on top and serve.
On the weekends growing up there was no better lunch for my mom than boxed mac n cheese. And us kids weren’t complaining! I can even remember how my mom would stand at the stove and scrape those last few little pastas into her mouth with a spoon.
I do love any kind of pasta with a cheese sauce, but I don’t want to serve my daughter something with so much salt, added color and goodness-knows-what-else that typically comes in the boxed variety.
So as I was peering into my fridge last week I decided to add pureed sweet potato as part of a bechamel sauce over pasta for my little lady. The dish turned out so good I decided to have a bowl right alongside my daughter. And in the end, we were both savoring the last spoonfuls of mac n cheese together.
What’s great about a dish like this is that you can really add and subtract according to your tastes. Instead of pureed sweet potato, you can insert butternut squash, carrots, pumpkin or spinach. It’s an easy, sneaky way to add a little more veggies into your life and also add additional creaminess to the sauce.
I also love the bright orange color that the pureed sweet potato turned the cheese sauce, without any “fake stuff.”
1/2 lb mini shells, tubetini or elbow macaroni
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup pureed sweet potato
1/4 cup greek yogurt
1/2 cup shredded cheddar or gruyere cheese
1/4 tsp nutmeg
reserved pasta cooking water
salt and pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook as directed, around 8-9 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt 1 Tbsp butter in medium saucepan over low-medium heat. When butter is foamy and almost completely melted, add 1 Tbsp flour and whisk around 2 minutes, to ensure the flour is cooked. Add milk, yogurt and sweet potato puree one at a time, whisking in between to ensure mixture is smooth.
Add 2-3 Tbsp of pasta cooking water and whisk some more.
Add cheese and whisk until completely melted and sauce is smooth once again.
At this point you can leave the sauce as is, or add a few more Tbsp of the pasta cooking water depending on how thick you prefer your mac 'n cheese.
Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.
Drain pasta and add pasta to cheese sauce. Mix together and serve.