Incredible Italiano Veggie Lasagna December 1, 2009

Making homemade lasagna may seem like an exercise in blood sweat and tears – but it’s all well worth it in the end, and once you’ve made it a few times, it’ll all come together in a snap.  I’ve tried to make the process as simple as possible here, without sacrificing any of the necessary steps required for a tasty dish that will leave you and your guests sated and elated beyond belief!  You could skip making the homemade sauce and use pre-cooked noodles and get a good result … but if you want the spectacular … you’re just going to have to be patient.  Have a BIG glass of wine and play your favourite tunes right through the process – and enjoy!



1 box of good quality lasagna noodles

1 medium onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsp olive oil

1 head broccoli, finely chopped

1 large zucchini, finely chopped

12 crimini or button mushrooms, finely chopped

2 cups baby spinach, chopped

1 tsp each dried basil and parsley

1 tsp salt


1 x 16 oz can diced tomatoes

1 x 3 oz can tomato paste

1 x 500ml tub of ricotta cheese

2 eggs

2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated

¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated



1)  Boil water and follow the package cooking directions of the lasagna noodles – and set aside once cooked.

2)  Chop onion and garlic, and sauté in a very large saucepan along with olive oil until well browned and translucent.

3)  Add the can of crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and dried herbs to the onion and garlic pan, and simmer until well heated (about 10 min).

4)  In a separate pan, heat to medium-high and sauté broccoli, zucchini and mushroom in a bit of olive oil until softened and vibrant in colour – near the end sprinkle with salt and pepper, add the spinach and cook until wilted.

5)  In a large bowl, slightly beat the 2 eggs, then mix in ricotta cheese, and combine until smooth.

6)  Using a 13 x 9 glass baking dish, spoon the simmered tomato sauce into the bottom to barely cover – set aside 2-3 tbsp of sauce for the very end.

7)  Layer noodles into pan, then follow with 1/3 of the roasted vegetables, then 1/3 of the ricotta/egg mixture, then 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese, then 1/3 of the tomato sauce.

8)  Repeat these layers until you are left with only the top layer of the noodles – then drizzle with the remaining tomato sauce and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

9)  Bake in a 350F oven for 40 minutes, until nice and bubbly.

10) Remove from heat and allow to set for at least 20-30 minutes!  NOTE – You can re-heat slightly if it’s too cool, but it needs to set in order to slice properly.

11)  Serve in gorgeous big bowls and enjoy with some crusty bread!


– Feel free to swap in and out any vegetables you like.  Carrots can be swapped for the zucchini, and you could add cauliflower or eggplant for a nice switch too.

– Using fat-free cheese won’t work really, but you can get away with using lower-fat version.  If you can’t find ricotta, use cottage cheese instead, but always go for the ricotta if you can.


Eggplant Pasta Bake May 1, 2009

I am a pasta-holic.  Along with coffee and wine, pasta is one of my top vices – most definitely.  So, I try to make it only once (okay, maybe twice) per week, and as healthy as I can.  That said, here is my take on an easy casserole style pasta dish that is loaded with flavour and other than some fat from the cheese (which is good in my books), it’s a healthy way to add some fibre, veggies, and cozy-food goodness into your day.  And oh yes, this pairs deliciously well with a gorgeous Pinot Noir!!!


2 cups whole wheat penne pasta
2 medium eggplants, peeled and cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices
salt (to sprinkle)
1 TBSP olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
2 + 3/4 cups tomato sauce
6 Roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup basil pesto
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated


1) Cook pasta in boiling salted water for 8-10 min, until tender but firm, then drain and return to same saucepan. Set aside.

2) Meanwhile, sprinkle both sides of eggplant slices with salt, and place on wire rack set on a baking sheet.

3) Let eggplant stand for about 15-20 min, then rinse with cold water and blot dry (tea-towel or paper-towels will do).

4) Brush both sides of eggplant slices lightly with olive oil, and cook eggplant on greased grill or BBQ for 2-3 min per side until golden.

5) Transfer grilled eggplant to cutting board or large plate, and cut into 1 inch pieces, then add to pasta.

6) Heat olive oil in small frying pan on medium – add onion and cook for 5-10 min (stirring often) until softened.

7) Add onion to pasta, stir, then add tomato sauce, Roma tomatoes, basil pesto and stir again.

8] Transfer everything into greased 3 quart casserole dish (bust out the Le Crueset!!!), sprinkle with both cheeses and bake uncovered, in 350°F oven for 30-40 min until heated through and cheese is bubbly and golden.

9) Let stand for 5 min before serving – then enjoy!!



Fettuccine in Mushroom Broth with Truffle Oil March 12, 2009

Sounds luxurious … and tastes just like it sounds (but believe me, it won’t break the bank).  Last night consisted on giving in to my pregnant-lady-like-hankering for pasta and mushrooms (no, I am not even remotely with child … I just obsess over food like someone who is!) … by satisfying my craving with one amazing savoury dish!  I happened to have Truffle oil  – it’s a long story – and one incredible bag of organic whole-wheat pasta.  Lucky me!  If you don’t have Truffle oil, you can substitute another oil like walnut or almond or a high-quality olive oil.  Don’t be afraid of the ‘brothy-ness’ of this dish.  The pasta soaks up most of the liquid and what you’re left with is something spectacular!  Good for a date night or one of those dinners where you just have to make all your friends jealous of your mastery in the kitchen.


* 2 Tbsp olive oil

* 1 cup dried porcini mushrooms

* 2 cups shiitake or cremini mushrooms, stemmed and diced

* ½ cup finely chopped shallots

* 3 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbps)

* 1 cup stock (I used mushroom stock!) or water

* 1 cup dry white wine (and 2 cups for you!)

* ½ cup frozen peas

* 1 Tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley

* 3 tsp truffle oil, divided

* 8 oz fettuccine or any other noodle you desire


1) Boil the stock (or some water) and place dried mushrooms in 1 cup of the boiled liquid – and allowthe mushrooms to hydrate for about 30 min.

2) Heat olive oil in very large skillet over medium-high heat, add porcini mushrooms, shallots, and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and sauté 5 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft.

2) Remove the now hydrated mushrooms, squeeze dry, and ad to skillet and sauté for another 2-3 min.  NOTE – do not throw out the liquid, keep it for later!!!

3) Add wine and the remaining stock, and simmer 10 minutes, or until mushrooms are very tender.

4) Add peas, simmer 2 minutes more, then stir in parsley and 1 tsp. truffle oil (season with salt and pepper again if necessary).

5) Meanwhile, cook fettuccine in large pot of boiling salted water according to package directions until al dente (usually 7-12 min, depending on the noodle).

6) Drain pasta, and toss with mushroom sauce, then drizzle 1/2 tsp. truffle oil over each serving, and sprinkle with grated parmessean. pasta


Mutt Soup July 10, 2008

Mutts?  This soup contains a hodge-podge of ingredients – it all depends on your mood and what you can find in your freezer.  Most veggies go well together, so be creative.  Soup is a very forgiving place to start if you’re nervous in the kitchen.  Just remember a few simples rules: you need a nice base or broth; add in veggies; add in spices; simmer.  That’s about it.  Soup also tends to taste better the next day, so make LOTS!  Plus, using frozen veggies is a cheap and convinient alternative to fresh.



5-6 cups vegetable broth (or homemade if you’re really cheffy)
1 x 16 ounce can diced tomatoes
2 x 16 ounce cans beans, rinsed and drained (I love chickpeas, butter beans or a mixed variety)
2 x 1 pound bags of frozen vegetables (you can buy the pre mixed versions, or come up with a blend yourself – try green beans, broccoli, red peppers, cauliflower)
4 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsps dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
a few drops of hot pepper sauce (a readily available option is Tabasco)
black pepper and salt to taste
Optional: 1/2 cup small pasta OR 2 cups diced potatoes OR 1 cup frozen corn OR 1/2 cup of quick-cooking grain (pearled barley, quinoa, cooked rice)


1) Put 5 cups of vegetable broth and all remaining ingredients into a large pot and cook until vegetables are done (approx. 20-30 min).  If soup seems too thick, add more broth.

2) Taste and adjust seasonings before serving.


Creamy Avocado Pasta January 25, 2008

Filed under: Italiano,Saucey,Veggie Mains — s mcdowall @ 3:14 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I have met a few people over the last few years that are allergic to tomatoes (and I thought I had it bad with my intollerence to carrots). In their honour, I give you a super creamy sauce staring … avocadoes! Rich in taste, nutrients and the good fats (mono-unsaturated), this easy pasta sauce goes well with any kind of noodle (and even gnocchi).

1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
3 green onions, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp minced fresh basil
1 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1 1/2 cups ricotta or cottage cheese
3 ripe avocados, mashed
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound pasta, cooked and drained (I used Whole Wheat Fettuccini)


1. In a heavy-bottomed skillet, over medium heat, melt butter and add green onions, garlic, basil and cook 5 minutes (or until onions are clear and tender).

2. Add wine and parsley, and simmer for 4-5 minutes.

3. Stir in cheese and blend well, continuing to cook until heated through.

3. Add mashed avocado, stirring to combine, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Immediately spoon sauce over cooked pasta of choice and serve.

Optional garnishes – chopped fresh grape/cherry tomatoes or pitted black olives.


Perrrrrrrfecto Pesto January 22, 2008

Pesto actually means to pound or crsuh (in Italian), ande basically that’s what you’ll be doing to make this savory dish. Serve over pasta or gnocchi (works both hot and cold), and you’ll come back to this easy classic over and over. This recipe may not be all that low in fat, but it makes a really nice treat on a cold wintery night when warm comfort food is in order.
3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
4 cloves garlic
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)

1. Combine basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, and nuts in a bowl of a morter/pestle, or into a food processor or blender and smash/blend to a smooth, creamy paste.
2. Add parsley if desired, and lightly stir.
3. Serve over your favourtie hot or cold pasta or gnocchi.

Stores for a few weeks sealed very tightly, in the fridge. It freezes well too.
You can even use this as a dip, for things like corn chips or pita bread.