Scarpetta’s Tomato-Basil Spaghetti

Bucket list: Try the real deal at Scarpetta’s. This will have to do for now.

scarpetta's tomato-basil spaghetti

Scarpetta’s Tomato-Basil Spaghetti
Yield: 2-3 servings
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes

4 ripe plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
One 12-ounce can of San Marzano or organic whole tomatoes
Pinch of crushed red chili pepper flakes
salt & pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
8 fresh basil leaves, sliced thinly crosswise into a chiffonade
8 ounces dried spaghetti

For the Basil-Garlic Oil:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
8 whole cloves garlic
10 whole fresh basil leaves
Pinch of red chili flakes

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Have a large bowl of ice water nearby. Cut a small X on the bottom of each tomato. Ease the tomatoes into the pot and boil for about 15 seconds, then promptly move them to the waiting ice water. Pull off the skin with the tip of a paring knife. Cut the tomatoes in half and use your finger to flick out the seeds.
2. In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat until quite hot. Add the fresh and canned tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and season lightly with the salt and pepper. Let the tomatoes cook for a few minutes to soften. Then, using a potato masher, chop the tomatoes finely. Cook the tomatoes for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tomatoes are tender and the sauce has thickened.
3. While the tomatoes are cooking, make the basil-garlic oil. Heat a small saucepan over low heat with 1/4 cup olive oil, garlic cloves, basil leaves and pepper flakes. Keep the heat on low to allow the ingredients to warm slowly and release their flavors. When the garlic is lightly browned, turn heat off and let cool for 10 minutes. The longer you let the oil sit, the more infused the oil. Strain the oil, discarding the solids.
4. To cook the spaghetti, bring a large pot of amply salted water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti until just shy of al dente and drain, reserve a little of the pasta cooking water.
5. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and cook over medium-high heat, gently tossing the pasta and the sauce together with a couple of wooden spoons and a lot of exaggerated movement until the pasta is just tender and the sauce, if any oil had separated from it, now looks cohesive. (If the sauce seems too thick, add a little pasta cooking liquid to adjust it.) Remove the pan from the heat and toss the butter, basil and cheese with the pasta in the same manner.
6. Drizzle with just a bit of the basil-garlic oil on each plate and serve immediately.


  • The sauce yields about 2 1/2 cups. You may use the leftover as dipping sauce for baked mozzarella sticks or spread on bruschetta.

Recipe adapted from Steamy Kitchen


Chicken Cacciatore

I love everything about Italian food, this one in particular. The combination of rustic braised chicken and aromatic vegetables make this dish very comforting.

chicken cacciatore

Chicken Cacciatore
Yield: 4 servings
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
8 chicken tenderloins, pounded to 1/2-inch thickness
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
8 ounces tomato sauce
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1. Mix flour, salt and pepper in shallow dish. Coat chicken evenly with flour mixture.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in large skillet on medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook and stir 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove chicken from skillet and set aside.
3. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in skillet. Add mushrooms, onions and bell peppers; cook and stir 5 minutes on medium heat or until tender.
4. Stir in remaining ingredients. Bring to boil, stirring frequently. Return chicken to skillet. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 5 minutes or until chicken is heated through. Serve over cooked pasta or rice, if desired.

Recipe adapted from McCorkmick

Baked Ziti

I normally make dishes just enough for a two-person household. I think I went a little overboard and made enough for the entire neighborhood! The hubs teased we’d be eating leftovers for a week, but he was proven wrong. The casserole was gone in 2 days. It was THAT good.

baked ziti

Baked Ziti
Yield: 12 servings
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 55 minutes

2 teaspoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 pound ground beef
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, with juice
2 cups marinara sauce
2 teaspoons italian seasoning
16 ounces dried ziti pasta
15 ounces ricotta cheese
3 cups grated mozzarella cheese, divided
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 large egg
salt & pepper, to taste
a few basil leaves, for garnish
nonstick spray

1. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the ground beef, season with salt and pepper. Cook until crumbled and no longer pink.
2. Add tomatoes with juice, marinara sauce, and italian seasoning. Let boil then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reserve three cups of the sauce and allow to cool.
3. Cook the pasta according to package directions, but a little shy of al dente.
4. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
5. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, two cups of mozzarella, parmesan, and egg. Stir gently just until combined.
6. Drain the pasta and rinse under cool water to cool it down a bit. Pour into the bowl with the cheese mixture. Toss lightly to combine.
7. Add the cooled meat sauce and toss to coat.
8. Lightly grease a casserole dish with nonstick spray. Pour in half of the pasta mixture and spoon some of the remaining meat sauce over the top. Sprinkle half of the remaining mozzarella cheese on top. Repeat with another layer of the pasta mixture, meat sauce, then the mozzarella.
9. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cheese has completely melted.
10. Stack and roll a few basil leaves and do a chiffonade. Sprinkle over the pasta.

Recipe by JG

Penne Alla Vodka

I’ve heard how popular this dish is and yet it took me 32 years to try it out. To think, I’m supposed to be a self-proclaimed noodle-folk. What was I thinking?!?

penne alla vodka

Penne Alla Vodka
Yield: 4 servings
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours

1/4 cup good olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, diced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 cup vodka
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
salt & pepper, to taste
1 pound penne pasta
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated, plus more for garnish
fresh basil leaves, for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large oven-proof sauté pan over medium heat, add the onions and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes until translucent.
3. Add the red pepper flakes and dried oregano and cook for 1 minute more.
4. Add the vodka and continue cooking until the mixture is reduced by half.
5. Drain the tomatoes through a sieve and crush them into the pan with your hands. Add 2 teaspoons salt and a pinch of black pepper. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and place it in the oven for 1 1/2 hours.
6. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.
7. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
8. Place the tomato mixture in a blender and puree in batches until the sauce is a smooth consistency. Return to the pan.
9. Reheat the sauce, add the fresh oregano and half and half. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and simmer for 10 minutes.
10. Toss the pasta into the sauce and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan. Serve with shaved parmesan and fresh basil.

Recipe adapted from Ina Garten

Buttered Beef and Asparagus Orzo

I love to cook (and bake!). In fact, I spend most of my time in the kitchen (I swear, I could live there!), but there are times I slack around. When that happens, I always end up running out of meal ideas and all I do is stare at the pantry (thank God for staples!).

This is the time I experiment. So far, I’ve been really lucky with my dishes. Another ‘pat-myself-on-the-back’ moment and I’ve got another go-to quick recipe.

buttered beef and asparagus orzo

Buttered Beef and Asparagus Orzo
Yield: 2-3 servings
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

2/3 cup orzo
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 pound beef tenderloin roast, cubed
1 1/2 cups blanched asparagus, cut 1-inch
salt & pepper, to taste
parmesan cheese, for garnish

1. Cook orzo according to package directions.
2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the beef and season generously with salt and pepper. Stir fry until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add the asparagus then turn off the heat.
3. Once the noodles are al dente, drain, then toss into the skillet with the beef and asparagus.
4. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Recipe by JG