Category Archives: Italian

Spinach & Tomato Tortellini Soup

It’s that time of year. Of life, actually. A point where I must begin to make decisions to secure gainful employment, financial security and a place to live that isn’t with, or funded by, my parents. So far it’s been rather anticlimactic. Moments of Zen-like calm precede 90-minute job-seeking marathons, followed by thoughts like, “Maybe I should just hang out in Europe for a bit.” And then, again, calm–most prevalent and seemingly illogical considering the state of “this economy.” (Cue dark organ music)

I often feel like the New York Times article “What Is It About 20-Somethings?” personified, the question mark perpetually superimposed over everything I see and touch, like those index cards my high school Spanish teacher stuck on every object in her room, identifying their Spanish names. “La television” and “el escritorio.” Except there’s no clear answer this time. I get to fill in the blank.

Impressively and patiently, my parents take it all in stride. Some days, I inundate my dad’s inbox with new plans of jobs and internships, of English-teaching opportunities, of I-want-to-be-Samantha-Brown aspirations. “What do you want to do [with your life] today?” is one of his common greetings.

What I want is an opportunity that will foster, rather than contain, my enthusiasm, cause a snowball effect where I stumble over my words and letters and phrases with the wanting, the craving to get them out fast enough so I can hurry up and do more and see more and say more and have my life be an endless run-on sentence instead of a question mark or, even worse, a period.

Yes, that’s what I want. Lots and lots of doing with only the most promising of punctuation.

So you can see what we’re dealing with here. My mind fluctuates more than spring weather in North Carolina. Speaking of which…

I made this soup when the weather was cold. (By my definition–we’re talking 50 degrees or so.) Now, the weather is warm. Miraculously, this soup is well-suited for both occasions, hearty with its bean backbone and springy with its fresh basil freckles.

This recipe is from The Italian Momma of pizza and pesto fame. It won’t be the last you see of her, not by a long shot.

Spinach & Tomato Tortellini Soup:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
16 ounces chicken broth
16 ounces of water (use chicken broth container to measure)
2 vegetable bouillon cubes
16 ounces frozen tortellini
16 ounces canned, diced tomatoes, with the juice
16 ounces canned cannellini beans
10 ounces spinach, washed and stemmed
10 basil leaves, coarsely chopped
Grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

1) In a large pot (I used my Dutch oven), saute garlic in oil and butter for about two minutes on medium-low heat.
2) Add broth, water and bouillon cubes to the pot and bring to a boil. Add frozen tortellini and cook for half the directed cooking time written on the package. (Around five minutes.)
3) Add tomatoes and juice, reduce heat to simmer for a few more minutes. Stir in spinach, beans and basil, and simmer for another minute. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with grated cheese.

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Tuscan Bean Soup

It’s finally fall here.

I mean, I think it’s fall here. I never really know if I’ll wake up to encounter another 80-degree day. I’m taking advantage of the cooler weather to make soup in thematic, autumnal colors. I hope this weather will last, though, ’cause I adore soup.

Also, I’ve been needing to eat more vegetables. My birthday was last week, so I’m still recovering from my ice-cream-and-cupcake-and-chocolate-cake-induced coma. Soup is basically an excuse to throw a bunch of vegetables in a pot and see what happens. It’s as close to a science experiment I’ll get now that I’m solely a humanities girl.

This recipe’s from The Kitchen Bible, which I adore because it has a picture of every single recipe.

Tuscan Bean Soup:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
1 leek, sliced (white and pale green parts only)
2 garlic clovers, diced
1 quart (1 liter) vegetable stock
one 14.5 oz can chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
one 15 oz can white kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
9 oz spinach
salt and black pepper
Italian bread
Parmesan cheese

1) Heat olive oil in a soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the onion, carrots and leek and cook until softened. Add the garlic and cook briefly. Add the stock, tomatoes and their juices and tomato paste.
2) In a bowl, mash half the beans with a fork and stir into a pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Return the heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes.
3) Add the remaining beans and spinach and simmer for 30 minutes more.
4) Place a slice of bread in each soup bowl. Ladle in the soup and top with Parmesan cheese.

What fall-inspired recipes do you make when cooler weather arrives?

Spinach Orzo with Pine Nuts & Feta Cheese



It’s another one of “those” weeks. Loaded with projects and exams and everything that senior year promised to deliver, delivered.

I’m possessed by this overwhelming feeling that I either a) should be living somewhere else, such as London, or b) should be doing something else, such as cooking all day under the ruse of “learning.” I value my university education, I do. But what if, at this very moment, I’m not actually fulfilling my purpose? Or, even more horrifying, what if I’m meant to spend the rest of my life pyschoanalyzing the moment instead of enjoying it?

With these thoughts flooding my mind during the past week, I’ve been self-medicating with inordinate amounts of pasta. Didn’t you hear? Psychologists recommend dealing with your feelings by eating them.

Recipe from here. Just happened to be exactly what I was craving.

Spinach Orzo with Pine Nuts & Feta Cheese:
1 (16 ounce) package uncooked orzo
1/2 C. olive oil
2 TB. butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red onion, diced
a few leaves of fresh basil
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 C. pine nuts
1 (10 ounce) bag baby spinach
1/8 C. balsamic vinegar
8 ounces package crumbled feta cheese
1/2 fresh tomato, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

1) Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. (Until firm.) Drain, transfer to a mixing bowl, and set aside.
2) Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium high heat, stirring to blend. Stir in garlic, basil, and red pepper flakes, and reduce heat to medium.
3) Stir in pine nuts and cook until lightly browned. Add spinach, cover, and cook on low heat for 5 minutes, or until spinach is wilted.
4) Toss spinach mixture with orzo pasta.
5) Portion onto serving plates with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a sprinkling of crumbled feta cheese, chopped tomatoes, salt, and pepper.

What’s your pity party meal?

Walnut Pesto

I’m attempting to refrain from any assertions that my pesto is the best-o. For one thing, it’s not my recipe. For another, I haven’t been to Italy. Quite simply, I’m unqualified.

This pesto, however, has the mark of a good pesto, in my opinion: garlic. Keep vampires at bay. Entice humans with your culinary prowess. Everyone wins.

I like walnut pesto on homemade French bread (see above) or a simple angel hair pasta. I also slather it on pizza. (Okay, actually, I slather it on any savory carb I can find. It’s green–it’s healthy.)

This recipe is also from the Italian momma.

Walnut Pesto:
4 to 5 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and spun or patted dry (no stems)
8 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 and 1/2 to 2 cups walnuts
2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and ground pepper to taste

1) Combine garlic and walnuts in processor and chop (don’t pulverize it too much) then remove the mixture and put on plate.
2) Chop basil leaves in processor, and then add back the nut mixture. Mix a little.
3) Slowly add olive oil then shut off motor. Add all the cheese, a pinch of salt, and a liberal grinding of pepper.
4) Process briefly to combine. Refrigerate or freeze.

Homemade Pizza

My latest kitchen pride ‘n’ joy: my marble rolling pin. Isn’t it lovely?


My roommate and I find inspiration in the strangest of places. For example, we were sitting in class together yesterday watching Domino’s ads about the company’s new and improved recipe. Normally, this point in the class and in this blog post would be where I go on a long diatribe about cheap food and its ultimate cost to society, yada yada yada. Would probably complain a bit about food advertising and how I’m willing to bet that the new recipe only tastes a little less like what I imagine cardboard to taste like.

Instead, I came home and made pizza. From scratch. The way Domino’s wishes it could if its employees had the time to delight in the pleasures of watching dough slowly rise in its warm glass bowl and the smell of rubbing garlic and olive oil onto a freshly-rolled crust. (Please don’t look at the aforementioned crust too closely in the pictures–it’s embarrassingly misshapen.)

All I’m saying is, homemade pizza is so worth the extra effort. The dough is super-simple to make, and after the dough rises, pizza construction takes less than 30 minutes. That’s how long it takes Domino’s to deliver, apparently.

For the record, this recipe is adapted from my friend’s mom. She’s Italian. You can trust her.

Homemade Pizza:
1 cup hot water
1 packet yeast (2 and 1/4 tsp)
2 TB sugar
1 tsp salt
2 and 1/2 cups flour
olive oil
4 cloves garlic, smashed and diced
4 TB tomato sauce
1 pound mozzarella cheese, grated
3 TB Italian seasoning

1) Use hot water to warm bowl, pour it out, and then put one cup hot water in bowl. Dissolve yeast in water.
2) Add sugar, salt and two cups flour. Knead dough, adding last 1/2 cup flour a little at a time.
3) Grease bottom of bowl and top of dough with olive oil. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise in draft-free place for approximately one hour. Grease bottom of large pizza pan or cookie sheet with olive oil.
4) When dough is doubled in size, punch down and roll out with rolling pin. Shape onto pizza pan, using palm of hand to roll out to edge.
5) Rub the minced garlic with olive oil on the dough, then spread on tomato sauce and spices.
6) Add meat and vegetable toppings to suit your taste; I just put on mushrooms and broccoli, then added some feta and parmesan ’cause I could. Then I topped with tons and tons of mozzarella cheese.
7) Cook at 400-425 degrees for approximately 20 minutes, checking to ensure bottom of pizza is golden brown. Recipe will make one large and one medium thin crust pizza.