Tag Archives: Pasta

Creamy Pumpkin Rigatoni

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The seasonal obsession with pumpkin definitely caters to those with a sweet tooth. Flavored lattes, baked goods, and even the scent from a candle all represent the squash’s affiliation with dessert. While its natural flavor when cooked is mildly sweet, similar to that of butternut squash, the flavor most of us lust after this time of year isn’t really pumpkin at all. The spice squad of nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and allspice, collectively known as pumpkin pie spice, are all used to create that notable “pumpkin” taste we’re so familiar with.

I’m not one to pass up a pumpkin scone, but I actually prefer mine in hearty recipes, like soups or sauces. This pasta recipe uses autumnal herbs to flavor a rich sauce and coax canned pumpkin to the savory side.

fall ingredients

Best of the fall.

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Beer Macaroni and Cheese

I’ve been participating in races for several years now; I love to run 5K’s to support a great cause, the Broad Street Run is permanently on my calendar the first Sunday every May, and I even have a half marathon under my belt and look forward to many more. This past weekend, my family participated in the first annual St. LauRUNtius 5k to support St. Laurentius School. Since we live on the same block as Fishtown’s only Catholic school it was extra exciting for us and the positive energy was contagious.

The busy corners of our neighborhood were lined with volunteers that not only helped direct runners and walkers along the route but also supported participants with encouraging cheers and chants. As I crossed the finish line I felt a huge grin form across my face, not because I completed the course, but because Berks Street was filled with our neighbors and friends applauding each runner racing through the final stretch. I had even more to celebrate when I discovered I was among two award winners: my younger brother placed first and Joe received an alumni award for being the first St. Laurentius graduate to cross the finish line.

I have to admit, running does not come as naturally to me as my loved ones who leave races with ribbons, medals and trophies. For me, running is a healthy activity that allows me to indulge every now and then, and I make sure I reward myself after each race. I may not have won an award, but I felt like a winner with this Beer Macaroni and Cheese. Read More…


If I were stranded on a deserted island and could only have three things with me, one of them would surely be pasta (considering this, the other two would probably be a big, heavy pot and a lighter, to create a flame). Most of my favorite meals are pasta dishes, and I eat a couple warm bowls of it in some form several times a week. Though I’m a sucker for good, old-fashioned, spaghetti and meatballs, I don’t discriminate; stuffed pastas, like ravioli and tortellini, or shapes, such as rotini and orecchiette, are delicious, too.

My appreciation for pasta goes beyond delicious, Italian feasts. A casserole dish, straight out of the oven, filled with oozy, gooey, macaroni and cheese, is hard to resist. Swedish meatballs over egg noodles in a warm, brown gravy are enough to satisfy a bottomless-pit of an appetite. Some of the best items on a Chinese menu contain noodles, and dumplings are the not-so long-lost cousin of the Italian ravioli. On that note, the Polish pierogi comes from the same family. I have quite a soft spot for this particular stuffed dough pouch, and I must admit: I have a special place in my heart for the frozen Mrs. T’s pierogies. Still, there’s nothing like one of your favorite foods homemade, so I decided to, ambitiously, play Mrs. T for a day. Read More…

Homemade Spaghetti O’s

Spaghetti O’s bring me back to a simpler time, when I was an innocent little girl, chubby, happy and hungry. My grandmom made sure her cupboard was stocked with several cans, and would heat them up on the stove for my cousins and I. The cute smiley face with pasta “O” eyes was always so inviting, maybe even more so than the cartoon pasta “O” that is featured on the can now. Inside, though, has always been the same deliciousness that some may call an “acquired taste.” Spaghetti O’s were my go to in high school, after practices or club meetings, and have certainly nourished my hunger and soul in college. Now though, as a “grown up,” I realize Spaghetti O’s probably aren’t the greatest lunch (or dinner) and certainly won’t feed my hunger.

Though I like to think I shed some baby fat over the past 20 years, and probably lost some innocence along the way, I will forever be happy and hungry. Every now and then I stare down the canned pasta at the grocery store, argue with my inner child, and keep walking. Lately, that inner child has been throwing a crazy temper tantrum, and I can’t help but give in.

Instead of buying this nostalgia-in-a-can, I knew someone, somewhere had a homemade version that I could try, with potential for a healthier meal: Oven Love to the rescue!

Homemade Spaghetti-O’s

From Oven Love

6 cups canned tomato sauce
3-4 cups water
2-3 teaspoons garlic powder (depending on how garlicky you like it)
1 lb bag anelletti (ring shaped pasta- you could use any small pasta- alphabet or stars would be fun!)
1-1 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (fresh shredded is best!)
1/4-1/2 cup milk
2 tbs butter
salt, to taste

1. Combine tomato sauce, water and garlic powder in a large pot. Bring to a boil.
2. When the tomato mixture is boiling, add the pasta to the pot. Cook, stirring frequently (the pasta is tiny, so it’s easy to stick to the bottom) for about 20 minutes, or until the pasta is soft.
3. Stir in cheese until melted. Add milk, butter and salt to taste. Taste it, check it out, see how you like the flavors. Then enjoy it!

This is the real deal, people. It looks, smells and tastes exactly like the store bought version! Now, I realize the cheese/butter/milk combo isn’t exactly healthy, but when you consider the control you have when you’re making the recipe, this is probably a better option than canned pasta. Plus…it’s so worth it.

I halved the recipe and had enough for a Sunday lunch for two, dinner for one, and lunch at my desk. My measurements tended to be on the lower side of what was suggested, and though the fresh-from-the-stove serving had the exact same consistency as the original, my leftovers had less sauce (which was still tasty). Also, I used Fiori pasta, which I thought would take longer to cook, but took less than 20 minutes.

Though I’ve eaten them thousands of times, and have clearly seen the label reads “a mild, delicious tomato and cheese sauce…” I could never taste the cheese in the original version. The sharp cheddar in Oven Love’s version shines through slightly, but offers a mellow counterpart to the sharp tomato taste. The noticeable cheese flavor could also be partly due to the fact that you get to stand over a hot bowl of tomato pasta and watch the shredded cheese melt and consume the pot.

Not only will I be making this again, I’ve also considered what additions could dress it up. Like the canned meatball and frankfurter options, I’m thinking of adding a protein. Crumbled bacon would probably be perfect.

This recipe lived up to my expectations, satisfied my craving for Spaghetti O’s and brought me back to a time when nutrition facts and ingredients didn’t matter. All that was missing was that cute smiley face with the pasta “O” eyes.

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