Chicken Marsala Pasta


So guess what – Jesse got to come home from China early! Actually, he flew home the same day I was flying to SanFran for the festival (go figure!). He has to go back again soon, but he’s home now and that means that right now all is good. Especially because I’ve been in such a funk when it comes to making real meals. Not that I didn’t eat while he was gone, but let’s be honest – nobody wants to see a post about plain grilled cheese or carryout Chipotle or the ingredients I bought but never got around to using.

Like last week, when he was still gone, I bought 2 portabello mushrooms and never got to them. They were working their way into the “use it or lose it” phase so I whipped up a pasta dish. The variation on classic Chicken Marsala was just what I needed to pull me out of my rut. The smell of chicken browning in butter, then onions caramelizing, and of course the distinct Marsala flavor, mmmm. And bonus points for me for lightening it up a little!

Chicken Marsala Pasta

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size chunks and seasoned with salt and pepper
4 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
10-12 ounces mushrooms, cut into chunks (I used portabello because that’s what I had)
1 small onion, sliced into thin 1-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup Marsala cooking wine
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 pound penne pasta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus more for serving
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella or provolone cheese
salt and pepper to taste
chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente, drain and reserve some of the cooking liquid.

In a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the seasoned chicken pieces and brown and cook through. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside.

Melt the other 2 tablespoons of butter and add the onions to the pot, cook for 3 minutes stirring occasionally. After 3 minutes, stir in the garlic and continue to cook for another 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes. The onions should be starting to get a little color by now.

Slowly pour half of the Marsala wine into the pot and scrape up any bits stuck to the pan. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, then add the rest of the wine. Reduce the heat to medium-low and slowly stir in the evaporated milk. Add the cheese stirring constantly. Cook the sauce for several minutes until it starts to thicken, then add the pasta and chicken. Stir to coat the pasta. If it needs extra liquid add a few tablespoons of the reserved pasta liquid until you get the consistency you’re looking for.

Garnish with additional Parmesan and fresh parsley and serve immediately.

Adapted from Cooks Illustrated via What’s Cookin Chicago

The 3 Ingredient Pasta Sauce


This may or may not be groundbreaking news for you. If you read a lot of food blogs, it probably won’t be because it’s gone around like wild fire. If you don’t, or if you haven’t already seen this, it will be because this sauce is one of the easiest things I’ve ever made but it’s also simply delicious.

A 3 ingredient sauce is perfect for weeknights or weekends when you have lots of running around to do or a laundry pile that is waist high. You can get this sauce started (ie. throw 3 things in a saucepan) in less than 5 minutes and then you’re basically free to do anything that needs to be done for at least the next 45 minutes.

As for the flavor, it’s simple, smooth, and mellow. The tomatoes are the star player in this sauce so it’s important to go with a good brand of canned tomatoes. I’ve had luck with Trader Joe’s brand as well as San Marzano. Once I tried it with Von’s store brand and I wasn’t as happy with the results, so keep that in mind. Also something to note, almost every time I see this online people include salt on the ingredient list (as will I) but they all say they didn’t need it. This was true with me too, no extra salt, hence the title 3 Ingredient and not 4 Ingredient. I did however top mine with lots of fresh Parmesan before eating (not pictured) because that’s how I roll. Some may disagree that this sauce needs the cheese, but to me all sauce needs it.

3 Ingredient Pasta Sauce

28 ounces whole peeled tomatoes from a can *
5 Tbsp butter
1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and halved
Salt to taste, though I have never needed it

* Once I accidentally bought a can of whole tomatoes with basil, and it also did well. Some would say the basil takes away from the simplicity of the sauce but it tasted good, so it can’t be “wrong”.

Place the tomatoes, onion, and butter in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer for at least 45 minutes, occasionally stirring and using the spoon to begin to break down tomatoes. At the end of the simmer remove the pan from the heat, discard the onion, and use a wooden spoon to crush the tomatoes on the side of the pan. Season with salt only if needed.

Serve with pasta shape of your choice and grated Parmesan cheese for topping. I also served with a side of broccoli.

Source: Smitten Kitchen

Pasta with Mexican Black Bean Sauce


Try not to be too confused by my post today. The story and meal don’t match, but I don’t have a great story about this Mexican Black Bean Sauce. It came together incredibly easily and might have become my new favorite meatless meal. You know I love my black beans and to put it over pasta in the form of a sauce is just pure genius. Now onto my completely unrelated story (that mentions another recipe all together)…

Maybe you heard about a little blackout in Southern California last week. Around 3:30 all the power went out from Tijuana all the way up into Orange County and across to the California Arizona border. To be perfectly honest with you, I didn’t notice the power had gone out. The girls and I were working on homework and since it was daylight we didn’t have any lights on and there was no air-conditioning to go off. A neighbor actually called and asked if ours was off too and that’s when I looked at the clock and noticed. After that it didn’t take long to realize how wide spread this power outage was. And pretty much everyone left work early.

Not knowing how long the outage would last (and hearing it could be a day or two) I wanted to use up some of the things I knew would go bad. Meat and cheese. Thank goodness we bought that grill, because I managed to use it make the super easy Mac and Cheese (that’s how easy it is, I did it without power, partially in the dark, on a grill). Then we dined by candlelight with a few friends and tried to enjoy the slow pace of the evening. I snapped this picture with my phone and just had to share it with you.

Now for the recipe!

Pasta with Mexican Black Bean Sauce
(Adapted from Branny Boils Over)

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (4.5 oz) diced green chiles
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1 can (14.5 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
Chopped fresh cilantro and cherry tomatoes for garnish
Cheese for garnish (optional)
12 ounces pasta, cooked according to box directions

Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent and tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, chili powder, sugar, and oregano. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove 1 1/2 cups of the sauce, and add to the bowl of a food processor* along with the black beans. Process to desired consistency then add back to the skillet and stir into the reserved sauce.

Serve over pasta with cilantro, cherry tomatoes, and cheese garnish.

*If you have an immersion blender, you can use that instead of the food processor and save the dirty bowl.

Creamy Shrimp Pasta

Before I lived in San Diego I lived in Ohio. But, before I lived in Ohio I lived in Maryland (and before that Ohio, Maryland, Ohio, we liked to move). One of the things I remember most vividly about Maryland is the crab parties we would occasionally have. I can remember going to the docks and my parents picking up a bushel of live Maryland blue crabs. When we got them home my sister and I would pick out a crab and race them across the kitchen floor. Then they were boiled, drained, covered in Old Bay seasoning, and tossed onto a big table covered in newspaper.

OK, so racing your dinner across the kitchen floor before eating it off of a newspaper covered table might sound a little barbaric, but I swear we weren’t the only ones that did. There was usually a crowd of friends there to enjoy and partake in the barbaric activities. It’s kind of a tradition in Maryland, at least in the crowd my parents hung with.

It’s been years since I’ve enjoyed a crab party but one thing I have continued to enjoy is the flavor of Old Bay seasoning. It takes me right back to those parties and makes me feel warm and happy. I think when we first moved back to Ohio it was difficult to find in the grocery stores but now most stores carry it, conveniently near the seafood.

Now I know this is starting to sound like a cheesy commercial, but I promise you it’s not. This meal was just the perfect option when my sister was in town because she has the same memories as I do. I love that this meal is impressive enough to serve to company but easy enough to make after work on a weeknight (which is exactly what I did while my sister was visiting).

Creamy Shrimp Pasta

(Adapted from

1 16 oz box of pasta (I used bow ties)
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 Tbsp butter
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 1/2 Tbsp Old Bay, divided (low sodium kind if you can find it)
2 cups half-and-half
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 green onions, sliced thinly

Cook pasta according to directions on package. During the last minute of cooking add the peas. Drain and reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the shrimp and sprinkle with 1/2 tablespoon of Old Bay. Cook for 3 minutes or until they start to turn pink. Reduce heat to medium-low.

Stir in the half-and-half, reserved cooking liquid, Parmesan cheese and the rest of the Old Bay. Simmer for 5 minutes or until the sauce begins to thicken. Remove from heat and add the pasta, peas and green onion. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving (this gives the sauce a few more minutes to thicken)

Serve with extra grated Parmesan cheese.