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


Baked Macaroni

This is a very popular dish for Filipinos and it’s usually served during Christmas or New Year’s eve dinners. I felt a little nostalgic when I made this…and I am missing my hometown even more.

baked macaroni

Baked Macaroni
Yield: 8-10 servings
Prep time: 40 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

1 pound dried elbow macaroni
1 recipe sweet-style bolognese sauce, recipe here
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
4 ounces neufchatel cheese, softened and cubed
salt & pepper, to taste
cooking spray

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9×13 baking dish and set aside.
2. Cook the noodles a little shy of al dente. Drain and toss the noodles with the sweet-style bolognese sauce. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and spread the pasta evenly.
3. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Quickly stir in the flour to form a smooth roux. Once the roux is smooth and bubbly, slowly pour in the milk, briskly stirring to make a smooth sauce. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens.
4. Season with salt and pepper. Add the ground nutmeg and stir in the cheeses. Whisk until all the cheese has melted.
5. Turn off heat and pour the cheese sauce over the pasta, coating evenly. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the topping has slightly browned.
6. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Serve with garlic toast.

Recipe by JG

Shrimp Pad Thai

I love, love, love pad thai! The recipe is good enough to be shared with a couple of friends, but really, I can eat the entire thing by myself.

shrimp pad thai

Shrimp Pad Thai
Yield: 2-3 servings
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

8 ounces dried linguine
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons milk
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup carrots, julienned
1 cup bean sprouts
salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, for garnish
lime wedges, for serving

For the sauce:
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
4 garlic cloves, minced

1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
2. In a sauce pan on medium heat, combine all the sauce ingredients. Stir frequently until the mixture comes to a gentle boil. Set aside.
3. Melt the butter in a large skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. In a bowl, whisk the eggs and milk until combined. Season with salt and pepper. When the butter bubbles, pour the eggs straight into the middle of the pan. As soon as no more liquidous egg is running around the pan, transfer the scramble to a plate and set aside.
4. In the same pan, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the shrimp and cook until pink, about 2 minutes.
5. Add the eggs, carrots, bean sprouts, and sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes.
6. Once the noodles are al dente, drain, then toss with the sauce.
7. Serve and garnish with cilantro, scallions, and lime wedges.

Recipe adapted from Daphne Oz

Pesto Avocado Mac and Cheese

As it turns out, avocados are not just for making guacamole. Some may find it really odd pairing them with pasta, but I happen to like the flavor profile. It’s creamy and super yummy!

pesto avocado mac and cheese

Pesto Avocado Mac and Cheese
Yield: 2 servings
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 7 minutes

1/2 pound dried macaroni noodles
2 Haas avocados, peeled and pitted
2 tablespoons store-bought pesto
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups white cheddar cheese, shredded
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
2. In a food processor, combine the avocados, pesto, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, and zest. Process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
3. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, then sprinkle flour over. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, whisking until a roux or paste forms.
4. Add milk and whisk vigorously until the roux is dissolved. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook the sauce until thick and bubbly. Add the white cheddar cheese and stir until the cheese is melted.
5. Once the noodles are al dente, drain, then toss with the cheese sauce. Pour a cup, or more if desired, of the avocado sauce* and stir until the pasta is well coated.
6. Garnish with avocado chunks or diced tomatoes, if desired.


  • You may wish to use up all the avocado sauce or store the leftover in an airtight container for later use.

Recipe by JG

Skillet Chicken Noodle Casserole

This is my take on the classic noodle casserole. It’s easy to prepare, too.

skillet chicken noodle casserole

Skillet Chicken Noodle Casserole
Yield: 6-8 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

16 ounces dried ziti pasta
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 pound ground chicken
8 ounces asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup half and half
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Cook the pasta according to package directions, but a little shy of al dente.
2. Heat the olive oil on medium heat in a large skillet or sauté pan. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the onion and cook until transluscent. Add the ground chicken, season with salt and pepper. Cook until crumbled and no longer pink.
3. Reduce the heat to low. Add the asparagus and cook for a minute. Stir in the milk, half and half, and chese.
4. In a small bowl, combine the melted butter, panko breadcrumbs, and parsley flakes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
5. Drain the pasta and toss with the sauce to coat.
6. Sprinkle the seasoned breadcrumbs on the pasta and serve immediately.

Recipe by JG