Fresh, Fast and Refreshing: Bruschetta-Caprese Pasta Salad

Fresh, Fast and Refreshing: Bruschetta-Caprese Pasta Salad

You’ve got no idea what to make for dinner, you’re staring at a half-empty refrigerator with a rumbling belly and hungry family to satisfy, but inspiration suddenly strikes! Tomatoes, mozzarella, balsamic and a little pasta? Sounds like time to make a simple, delightful pasta salad. You’ve got everything you need on hand to make a quick bruschetta while pasta bubbles and balsamic vinegar reduces, so dinner will be done in just 10 minutes. With the hot summer definitely upon us, fast and fresh is definitely the way to go!

Bruschetta-Caprese Pasta Salad from Mancktastic!

I cannot stress enough how simple this dish is to make. Do you know how to boil noodles? Can you watch liquid bubble away? Can you quarter cherry tomatoes? Then you, too, can make this delicious pasta salad that’s way better than anything you’d grab at the deli or salad bar. The secret is the depth of flavor the reduced balsamic vinegar imparts into the pasta, combined with the pops of mozzarella and the fresh herbaceousness and brightness of the quick bruschetta. When you use a small pasta, you can create the perfect bite of fresh tomato, tangy coated pasta and chewy mozzarella. If you’re in the mood for even more savory flavors, try oven roasted tomatoes in place of the bruschetta and top with melty broiled mozzarella rounds.

Bruschetta-Caprese Pasta Salad from Mancktastic!

This would be a great side dish for Bruschetta Chicken on a hot summer’s day. I’m also planning to prepare a big batch of this for potluck dish to enjoy with family and friends at the Fourth of July! If I stick it in a big ol’ blue bowl, it’ll be extra patriotic 🙂

Bruschetta-Caprese Pasta Salad from Mancktastic!

Bruschetta-Caprese Pasta Salad

  • 8 ounces mini penne
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • ½ cup plus 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
  • 8 ounces fresh ciliegine or other small mozzarella balls, drained
  1. Pour ½ cup of balsamic vinegar into a small pot over medium heat. Allow vinegar to reduce, stirring occasionally, until it coats the back of a spoon (about 5-7 minutes).
  2. Cook and drain pasta to package directions and set aside
  3. While the balsamic vinegar reduces and pasta cooks, combine cherry tomatoes, 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar, olive oil and dried oregano. Stir until all tomatoes are well-coated and place in refrigerator.
  4. Combine pasta and reduced balsamic vinegar, stirring well to coat the pasta. Add tomato mixture and mozzarella balls, stirring to distribute well. Serve topped with additional oregano.

Bruschetta-Caprese Pasta Salad from Mancktastic!

Advertisements
Easy-Peasy Fried Noodles

Easy-Peasy Fried Noodles

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope that your workday ends quickly, but your weekend is as long as you need it be : ) Today, I’m pleased to share one of my own recipe creations: a simple dish from Bill and I’s early days of dating when we had much more love than money. You can think of Easy-Peasy Fried Noodles as the lovechild of Fried Rice and Chow Mein, a tasty, saucy dish that’s both fool-proof and easy to customize for your family’s tastes!

Easy-Peasy Fried Noodles from Mancktastic!

We start with a large skillet over medium heat and about a Tablespoon sesame oil. The sesame oil adds a great, savory flavor to the whole dish while making your kitchen smell amazing! You can also use wok oil, which has a rich garlicky flavor, with in combination with or as a replacement for the sesame oil. As the oil heats up in the skillet, mince 2 cloves of fresh garlic and a 1″ piece of fresh ginger. Add the minced pieces to the skillet and sauté for 1-2 minutes, or until softened and fragrant. Once your garlic and ginger are softened, add the cooked spaghetti noodles to the pan and toss to coat with oil. Cook, stirring every 30 seconds or so, for 2-3 minutes. Add frozen peas to the skillet and cook for an additional minute. At this point you can also add other veggies of your choice or pre-cooked meats like chicken tenders or shrimp.

Easy-Peasy Fried Noodles from Mancktastic!

Now is when we add the fun bits to the dish! First, crack an egg right in the middle of the pan and quickly stir throughout the noodles so they all get coated as the egg cooks. Then, add ¼ cup each of low-sodium soy sauce and oyster sauce to the pan and stir to coat the noodles once again. This combination of sauces gives you a deep, savory and sweet flavor that has a great earthy note as well. Cook this mixture all together for 1 minute or until nice and sizzly-sounding. Remove from the heat and serve immediately. You can top with sesame seeds, chopped scallions or additional sauce.

Easy-Peasy Fried Noodles from Mancktastic!

Easy-Peasy Fried Noodles

  • 8 ounces spaghetti noodles, cooked and drained
  • 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1″ piece of ginger, minced or grated
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • ¼ cup oyster sauce
  1. Heat 1 Tablespoon of sesame oil in a large skillet on medium heat. When oil is heated, add garlic and ginger to the skillet and cook until softened and fragrant.
  2. Add cooked spaghetti noodles to the pan and toss to coat well with oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add frozen peas to the skillet and cook for an additional minute.
  3. Crack an egg into the skillet and quickly stir through the noodles, tossing until the egg is thoroughly cooked.
  4. Add ¼ cup each of low-sodium soy sauce and oyster sauce to the pan and stir to coat the noodles. Cook this mixture for 1 minute, or until nice and sizzly-sounding. Remove from the heat and serve immediately.

Easy-Peasy Fried Noodles from Mancktastic!

Greek Mac & Cheese (αφρογαλακτώδης & νοστιμότατος! )

Greek Mac & Cheese (αφρογαλακτώδης & νοστιμότατος! )

Greek food holds a special place in my heart. The taste of dill, oregano and garlic send me back to one of my first dates with Bill where we discussed everything under the sun. You can still regularly find us at the site of that date, Niko Niko’s, now often accompanied by family and friends. A few days before our wedding, we took Bill’s parents and brother to Niko’s; we celebrated Mom’s most recent birthday there. At the end of each school year, Bill meets with his Latin classes there for an end-of-year celebration with gyros and baklava. Once we take you to Niko’s, you’re officially part of our little clan. It’s at Niko’s that I discovered my cumin allergy, at Niko’s that we celebrate any occasion, and at Niko’s that we began falling in love. Is it any wonder that Greek food is special to us?

Greek Mac and Cheese from Mancktastic! at mancktastic.wordpress.com

One of our other favorites in all the world is, of course, Macaroni and Cheese! Simple box macaroni and cheese was the first dish I made after Bill and I got engaged, and I’ve made several versions of mac n’ cheese here on Mancktastic. From the fancy Brie-based Manckwhite Mac & Cheese to the decadent Gnocchi Mac and Cheese, it’s pretty clear that our family loves pasta and cheese sauce together. Macaroni and cheese is a wonderful base for delicious customizations to enjoy. It can be part of any flavor family by simply changing up the cheeses and mixing up the spices used.  Last week I thought, why not combine one of our favorite foods with our favorite flavors? And thus, we enjoyed Greek Mac and Cheese!

Greek Mac and Cheese from Mancktastic! at mancktastic.wordpress.com

This tasty dish combines fragrant dill with creamy graviera cheese and aromatic shallots, creating a rich, filling dish that you won’t be able to stop eating. Baby spinach wrapped in velvety cheese sauce finds every nook and cranny of your pasta, so you get a delicious bite every time. The feta and breadcrumb topping is the perfect mix of savory, salty, crunchy and chewy to cap this dish. I recommend you enjoy Greek Mac & Cheese as a side with yogurt-marinated chicken kabobs or a thick, juicy steak.

And I know you’ve been wondering about the squiggles in the title above; my Greek scholar husband assures me it means creamy and delicious in Greek! 🙂

Greek Mac and Cheese from Mancktastic! at mancktastic.wordpress.com

Greek Mac & Cheese

  • ¾ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 8 ounces hollow pasta
  • 6 Tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 4 cups grated graviera or kefalotyri cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 16 ounces baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • ⅓ cup fresh dill, roughly chopped
  • 1¾ cups crumbled feta
  1. Heat oven to 350° F.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. When the water has reached a rolling boil, add pasta and cook until cooked halfway through, about 3 minutes. Drain pasta and rinse pasta, then set aside.
  3. Heat butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When butter is melted, add flour and cook for 1 minute, whisking constantly. Continue whisking while you slowly drizzle in the milk. Continue to cook until the sauce has thickened and coats the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat.
  4. Stir cheese into the butter and milk mixture, then season with salt and pepper; set aside.
  5. Heat olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add shallots and spinach to the oil, stirring for 1 minute, then cover and let cook for 3 minutes. Add the sauce, dill, and pasta to the pot and stir to combine.
  6. Transfer mixture to a 9″ x 13″ baking dish and top with breadcrumbs and feta. Bake until golden brown and aromatic, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

based on a recipe from More Than Just Dinner

Greek Mac and Cheese from Mancktastic! at mancktastic.wordpress.com

Melty and Poppy: Creamy Caprese Pasta

Melty and Poppy: Creamy Caprese Pasta

Maybe I had mentally dozed off during our weekly marketing meeting or my mind had wandered off to someplace more interesting than the small talk after we wrapped up the webinar, but my brain suddenly snapped back into focus as soon as I heard it… “caprice salad”. What? I had to ask my boss to repeat himself and explain what he was talking about. “You know, the salad with the tomatoes and mozzarella; a caprice salad.”

Before he’d even finished, I was doubled over in laughter. “Like a Chevy Caprice? I think you mean a Caprese  (ka-pray-zey) salad… and you call yourselves Italian.”

Of course, this is the same man that swears gnocchi is pronounced yonky, so I don’t know what I was expecting.

Creamy Caprese Pasta from Mancktastic!

Ever since that meeting, I can’t help but laugh to myself when I see a menu or recipe with Caprese in it 🙂 This pasta dish’s deliciousness is no laughing matter though! Call it Caprice, Caprese and Catie for all I care, this is a one tasty baked pasta.

Creamy Caprese Pasta from Mancktastic!

Simple spaghetti noodles are coated with a sauce spiked with cream and cheese, tossed with mozzarella balls and grape tomatoes, topped with more of the same and baked until bubbly and delicious. The baked tomatoes are warm, oven-roasted pops of flavors while the melty, gooey cheese melds perfectly with the simple and creamy sauce. Unlike many pasta casseroles that may weigh you down with that carby feeling, this dish stays light and filling at the same time.

Creamy Caprese Pasta from Mancktastic!

Creamy Caprese Pasta

  • 1 pound spaghetti or other thin pasta
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream
  • ⅓ cup grated parmesan cheese + more for garnish
  • 4 ounces mozzarella balls
  • 1 pint of grape tomatoes
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare pasta al dente according to directions.
  2. While pasta is cooking, heat tomato sauce over low heat in a large saucepan. Once warm, stir in heavy cream and grated parmesan.
  3. Drain pasta and combine with sauce until well-coated. Add about ¾ of the mozzarella balls and grape tomatoes, stir to combine and pour into a baking dish.
  4. Top the pasta with the remaining tomatoes and mozzarella, adding additional parmesan cheese as a finishing touch.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes, or until cheese is golden and bubbly.

Enjoy this as a side or a main course; add protein for a heartier dish.

Creamy Caprese Pasta from Mancktastic!

Based on a recipe from How Sweet It Is

The Perfect Food: Cheesy Pearl Couscous with Broccoli and Bacon

The Perfect Food: Cheesy Pearl Couscous with Broccoli and Bacon

I’m sure you’re thinking that today’s post title is hyperbole; really, Emily, the perfect food? This is no exaggeration though!

This is a perfectly decadent and delicious meal: creamy, salty, fresh, filling and satisfying. This amazing marvel of a meal combines roasted broccoli and garlic, bacon hunks, creamy and filling pearl couscous, the decadence of gouda, and fresh pops of corn, resulting in a delicious mishmash meal that I never wanted to stop eating.

IMG_1713

First, fresh garlic and broccoli are combined with butter, then cooked in the oven until that delicious roasted flavor permeates each and every floret. As the broccoli sizzles away, tiny bacon pieces are sautéed until delightfully crispy then set aside so corn and garlic can sizzle in the bacon fat’s flavor. Hearty, lovely pearl couscous is cooked until al dente, then added to the pan with chicken stock so absorb all the flavor. Smoked gouda adds an especially satisfying creaminess to the dish when stirred in with the bacon pieces. Topped with the happily roasted garlicky broccoli, this meal satisfies every savory craving with the amazing mix of flavors and textures.

IMG_1714

Seriously, I think it’s my favorite food now. It may look a bit like porridge, and Bill said, but it tastes like heaven… and bacon : )

Cheesy Pearl Couscous with Broccoli and Bacon

  • 5 Tablespoons butter, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped and divided
  • 1 bunch broccoli, cut into florets
  • 8 ounces bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 ounces pearl couscous
  • 1½ cups frozen corn
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 cups smoked gouda, grated
  1. Preheat the oven to 450° F.
  2. In a small bowl, melt 3 Tablespoons butter in the microwave, then stir in 2 chopped cloves of garlic. Spread the broccoli in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with the the garlic butter. Roast until tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the couscous until just al dente, 5 to 6 minutes; drain.
  4. As the broccoli roasts and couscous cooks,  cook the bacon over medium-high heat in a large straight-sided sauté pan, until crisp. Reserve the skillet, discarding all but 1 Tablespoon of the bacon fat and set bacon pieces aside.
  5. Add the corn and remaining garlic to the reserved skillet and cook over medium-high heat until warmed through, about 2 minutes.
  6. Add the boiled, drained couscous and chicken stock and simmer until the liquid is absorbed, about 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper.
  7. Stir in the remaining 2 Tablespoons butter, the cheese and reserved bacon. Serve topped with the roasted broccoli.

Cheesy-Pearl-Couscous-with-Broccoli-and-Bacon

Based on a recipe from Rachel Ray Magazine

Decadent and Delicious: Italian Sausage Stuffed Shells

Decadent and Delicious: Italian Sausage Stuffed Shells

First things first, this is my 60th recipe on Mancktastic! It’s hard to believe I’ve shared that many recipes here on the bloggy, but it’s awesome too. I hope that you and your families enjoyed these recipes; I love sharing them with you!

And now, on to the milestone recipe! This dish holds a special place in my family’s house because it brought my mother and my sisters together.

When my parents got married, Mom suddenly gained 3 half-grown daughters ranging in age from 15-8, my half-sisters. Of course, they were a little suspicious of this new, young woman in my dad’s life, so Mom had to work a little to integrated herself into the family. I didn’t join the world until six years after all of this happened, but I grew up hearing stories about the trials and tribulations of their new, blended family. I’ll never really understand or appreciate the relationship my mother and my half-sisters have because, to me, my mommy has always been there and part of our family, but Mom had to work hard to be a Manck, apparently. She came from a more worldly and learned background, full of things the girls found weird and different.

I never really understood this struggle and relationship until I stayed with my oldest sister, Jennifer, the summer between my sophomore and junior year of college.

To earn my keep living with Jen and her family during an internship, I watched my awesome twin nephews and cooked dinner several nights a week. This was when I really learned the basic skills of cooking like browning ground beef and meal planning. One weekend, while plotting the week’s meals, I asked Jen what she’d like for dinner. She asked if I knew how to make stuffed shells. “Well, I’ve never made them before, but I could try”, I responded. “Do you really like them?” She told me she loved them, and they always reminded her of my mother.

Apparently, the girls had never had the dish until my mom made it for them for dinner one night. The wariness they’d had to her evaporated for just that one night as they enjoyed the saucy, cheesy shells as a family.

The shells didn’t magically make their relationship easy, but it showed my sisters that Mom was new but she (and the things she brought) didn’t have to be scary just because they were unfamiliar. Of course, I made Stuffed Shells for the family that week, and that story has stuck with me ever since. Now stuffed shells speak to me about family, new experiences, and love.

This version of Stuffed Shells feels particularly decadent because of the inclusion of cream cheese and Italian sausage in the shell filling. The cream cheese adds a smooth richness to the cheeses, while the delicious Italian sausage elevates this dish beyond your typical pasta dish. I was glad to share these with Bill last night and think about how big, and small, my family is now : )

Italian Sausage Stuffed Shells

  • 8 ounces jumbo pasta shells
  • 1 pound Italian sausage
  • 1 cup fresh chopped spinach
  • 1 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces low-fat ricotta cheese
  • 4 ounces low-fat cream cheese, softened
  • ²/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ Tablespoon dried parsley flakes
  • ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 26 ounces spaghetti sauce
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Cook shells according to package directions, drain and set aside.
  3. Cook Italian sausage, drain and set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, combine Italian sausage, spinach, garlic, ricotta, cream cheese, Parmesan, egg, seasonings and ½ cup mozzarella cheese. Spoon mixture into a large ziptop bag and snip off one corner.
  5. Spread half of spaghetti sauce into a 13″ x 9″ baking dish. Arrange shells over sauce, fill with the cheese and sausage mixture, then top with remaining sauce.
  6. Cover baking dish tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with remaining ½ cup mozzarella and bake for 5-10 minutes.

ItalianSausageStuffedShells

Click here to download a PDF of this recipe!

Based on a recipe from The Girl Who Ate Everything

Chicken Rollatini

Chicken Rollatini

It’s back to Italian here on Mancktastic for a delicious dinner with familiar flavors and a fun form! This recipe mixes together the ideas behind many Italian stand-bys into a new and tasty dish. Thin chicken cutlets are filled with a delicious cheese filling, then rolled up and breaded, and finally baked, topped with more cheese and pasta sauce. The breaded chicken is reminiscent of Chicken Parmesan, while the filling is very lasagna-esque, which makes for a great combination.

Chicken Rollatini

  • 4 thin chicken cutlets
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 egg, beaten, divided
  • 6 Tablespoons ricotta cheese
  • 6 ounces mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup favorite pasta sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 450° F.
  2. Combine breadcrumbs and 2 Tablespoons parmesan in one bowl and place ½ egg in another.
  3. Combine 3 ounces mozzarella cheese, remaining parmesan cheese, ricotta cheese, and remaining egg.
  4. Lay chicken cutlets down on a working surface and ¼ of the cheese mixture on each cutlet. Loosely roll each one and keep seam side down.
  5. Dip rolls in egg mixture, then in breadcrumbs and place seam side down in a baking dish. Bake for 25 minutes, then remove from oven, top with sauce and remaining mozzarella.
  6. Return dish to the oven and bake until cheese is melted and bubbling, about 3 more minutes.

DSCN1335

Combining the flavors of lasagna and chicken parmesan, this is a tasty Italian treat that’s a nice twist on the classics. You can slim down the recipe by using low-fat cheeses, or add a little greenery to your meal by adding 5 ounces cooked/frozen spinach to the filling.
Based on a recipe from Skinny Taste

Click here to download a PDF of this recipe!