Penne all’arrabbiata with Asparagus.

As you might have guessed from the lack of pasta recipes here, I’m not a pasta fan. But every once in a while I get a craving for noodles smothered in a creamy tomato sauce or a spicy pesto, and today was one of those days. This dish is on the hotter side (“arrabbiata” means “angry” in Italian), so feel free to adjust the amount of red pepper flakes you add if you’re a spice whimp. It shouldn’t be overpoweringly hot though–the fresh mozzarella makes the sauce creamy and smooth. A very easy recipe to make vegan if that’s your style–just use vegan cheese!

INGREDIENTS
1 lb penne
1/4 cup olive oil
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
10-20 asparagus spears
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup fresh basil, chopped (or 1/2 cup dried basil)
salt
pepper
grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS

Heat oil over medium flame and add onions, garlic, and pepper flakes and cook for 2 minutes.

Then add crushed tomatoes. Simmer over low heat, uncovered, until thickened, about 20 minutes. Stir in basil and mozzarella and add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

While waiting for the sauce to cook, make the pasta and asparagus. Boil the pasta in salted water until tender. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the boiling water.

In a separate pan, blanche the asparagus in a pan of shallow boiling water for 2 minutes until bright green and al dente. Then remove from heat and rinse with cold water; this stops the cooking process and allows the spears to keep their bright color. Set aside.

Add cooked pasta and asparagus to the sauce and stir, slowly adding reserved water to create desired consistency.

Top with Parmesan and serve hot. It’s the perfect dish to eat while reminiscing about a trip to Italy, like Inspired Redhead is doing today!

Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese.

A friend had an idea for this fabulous sandwich, and it’s so easy, it’s barely a “recipe” at all! This simple sandwich is a tasty, spicy take on a classic comfort food, and it goes well with bleu cheese dressing and baked sweet potato fries. And it’s a great way to quiet a craving for buffalo wings without eating anything fried.

INGREDIENTS (makes 2 sandwiches)
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
Hot sauce (I like Tabasco or Frank’s)
Mayo
2 green onions, chopped
pepper
cheddar or swiss cheese
soft bread
butter

DIRECTIONS

Combine chicken, hot sauce, mayo, green onion, and pepper to taste.

Lightly butter  2 pieces of bread. The buttered sides will be the outer sides of the sandwich, the ones that touch the pan. Assemble each sandwich with 1 cup of buffalo chicken and 1 slice of cheese.

Transfer to heated pan and cover. Cook until browned on the bottom and flip. When both sides are browned, remove from heat. Serve with bleu cheese dressing on the side.