Dinner Party Dishes

Lemon-Walnut Spaghetti

Easy Lemon-Walnut Spaghetti

I LOVE lemon sauce with pasta. Don’t get me wrong—a thick, zesty marinara is always good. But this lemon sauce is to die for. Tart, herbaceous, and nutty. Feel free to toss in your favorite protein or serve alongside a simple veggie, like the blanched haricot verts pictured here.

Lemon-Walnut Spaghetti

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One-Pot Butternut Squash “Mac and Cheese”

One-Pot Butternut Squash “Mac and Cheese”

Nothing says comfort food quite like a big bowl of macaroni and cheese. This recipe is a lightened-up take on this classic dish—a sneaky way to boost your veggie intake and I promise you won’t be sacrificing that hearty, cheesy, gooey deliciousness of the real thing. And with one-pot cooking, clean-up will be a breeze!

One-Pot Butternut Squash “Mac and Cheese”

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Spaghetti squash marinara

I’m a Believer in Spaghetti Squash

I never thought I’d see the day when a vegetable could pass for an acceptable pasta substitute. I was skeptical of the many spaghetti squash recipes I saw on cooking shows, but after finally experimenting with one per my New Years’ Resolution to eat fewer carbs, I was shocked—it’s pretty darn close to spaghetti! In my carb-favoring opinion, the “spaghetti” has a surprisingly firm texture and a subtly sweet and nutty flavor that I don’t mind at all. Plus, one squash yields a TON of “spaghetti,” and at only 30 calories per 1 cup serving, there is zero-guilt in devouring the whole plate.

Spaghetti Squash Marinara With Grape Tomato Bruschetta
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Spaghetti with spicy sausage gravy

Spaghetti With Spicy Sausage Gravy

When I think of classic comfort food, I think of Mom’s Sunday night spaghetti with meatballs and sausage. I’m talking about meatballs and sausage made with love that have been simmering in homemade gravy ALL DAY…yum! But let’s be honest: it’s a Tuesday night, you had a long day, and you want a nice plate of meaty spaghetti PRONTO. Well, here’s my short-cut to a super flavorful, comforting spaghetti dish. The trick to faking that simmering-all-day goodness is cooking the sausage in the same pot as your gravy.

Spaghetti With Spicy Sausage Gravy

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Very veggie pasta

Very Veggie Weeknight Pasta

OK, so you overindulged this Thanksgiving weekend – everybody, just calm down. For a light and satisfying transition back into normal eating, try this super colorful, super easy, and super flavorful pasta dish packed with veggies and lean protein. Psst…there’s a hidden serving of veggies if you use the veggie-based pasta (per 4-oz portion).

Very Veggie Pasta

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Spaghetti carbonara

“Bacon, Egg & Cheese” Pasta

Few things marry as well as bacon, egg, and cheese. In Italian, carbonara describes any sauce made with egg, cheese, pepper, and some kind of cured meat, whether it be bacon, Pancetta, or ham. For this recipe, we’re using Pancetta, an Italian cured pork belly that tastes very similar to your typical bacon. It’s a super simple, easy recipe that packs a powerful punch of flavor and comfort—the warm, cheesy saucy kind. This is definitely the type of pasta you indulge in sparingly, but when you do, savor every bite.

Spaghetti Carbonara with Pancetta

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Crostini with tomato-basil and ricotta pea smash

Crostini Two Ways: Creamy Ricotta-Pea and Fresh Tomato Basil

Warm weather on the way signals two important things for me: Saturday visits to the farmers’ market for fresh vegetables and the smell of herbs growing in my balcony garden. Make the most of fresh locally grown tomatoes and herbs with this super easy and flavorful appetizer that’s perfect for entertaining. Beware: they’re dangerously addictive.

Tomato-Basil and Ricotta-Pea Crostini

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Butternut squash ravioli with pistachio-parmesan butter sauce

Ravioli Paired With Pistachio-Parm Butter Sauce

This dish is a perfect marriage of sweet and salty, creamy and crunchy, officiated by good ole’ soul-satisfying pasta. For this recipe, I have to send a special shout out to Trader Joe’s for providing the fresh butternut squash ravioli. Trader Joe’s fresh pastas are inexpensive, flavorful on their own, and cook within 3-4 minutes: what more could you possibly want for getting a quick, tasty dinner on the table in less than 20 minutes? But if you’re really feeling ambitious, may I suggest that you pair this sauce with my recipe for homemade butternut squash stuffed shells?

Butternut Squash Ravioli With Pistachio-Parmesan Butter Sauce

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Pasta with cannellini beans, spicy Italian sausage, and mascarpone pan gravy

Creamy, Spicy, Hearty – And Did Someone Say Mascarpone Pan Gravy?

I’ve never cooked with Mascarpone cheese before, thinking that it was only used for Italian desserts, like a nice Tiramisu. But when I came across a few recipes using it in savory sauces, I had to give it a try. I’m happy to report that it was a success! Compared to cream cheese or heavy cream, Mascarpone is less dense and less sweet, and it emulsifies much easier than butter. With the spice of the sausage and the creaminess of the white beans, the pan gravy perfectly ties this dish together. Throw in a little pasta to soak up all that deliciousness, and you’re all set, in less than a half-hour.

Campanelle With White Beans, Spicy Sausage, and Mascarpone Pan Gravy
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salmon-beurre-blanc

Beurre Blanc, My New Date Night Dinner Staple

As I get more comfortable with basic cooking techniques with my go-to ingredients, I sometimes get the burst of courage and inspiration to try something more difficult. This time, inspiration took the form of salmon with beurre blanc (which is French for “omg-I-died-and-went-to-heaven-velvety-awesome white butter sauce”). To even out the challenges of cooking a protein and sauce I’ve never made before, I kept the other parts of this dish simple—virtually foolproof steam-in-the-bag fingerling potatoes and simply dressed green beans. And, to help ensure my salmon would be evenly cooked, I bought same-sized pre-portioned filets from the fish counter and used the foil-packet technique, which I read is good for beginners. The result? A spotless plate, newfound confidence in cooking salmon, and recurring dreams of drinking beurre blanc by the gallon.

Salmon with Beurre Blanc, Haricot Vert, and Ricotta-Mashed Fingerling Potatoes

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