Category Archives: pasta

Hasty Tasty Mushroom Pasta Florentine

This recipe originated as part of my research for the romance novel I’m currently writing, Return to Drake Springs. The hero is on a tight budget but wants to impress the heroine by cooking her dinner. While shopping, I bought only sale items (the lengths we writers go in the name of research!) at my local supermarket, which included bags of fresh, ready-to-eat spinach and boxes of pasta (Both Buy-One-Get-One free), and a discount on fresh baby portabella mushrooms and red bell peppers. The result of my experiment is Mushroom Pasta Florentine.

This recipe is a hearty and delicious meal for meat free Monday or any day. Whole grain pasta bumps up the protein, and the spinach and mushrooms give two servings of vegetables per meal. It’s affordable, too. This has become one of our household’s favorite meals. A writer never knows where research will lead. ☺

Mushroom Pasta Florentine with Whole Wheat Pasta

Mushroom Pasta Florentine with Whole Wheat Pasta



Hasty Tasty Mushroom Pasta Florentine

Serves Two



  • 4 oz. dried thin spaghetti, whole grain or whole wheat
  • Water
  • Salt


  • 1 package fresh spinach leaves, washed and ready to eat
  • 8 oz. crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • ½ tsp. grated fresh nutmeg


  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh herbs (i.e. Rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley)
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  1. In a large pot, bring 4 – 5 quarts water to a boil. Add salt and pasta. Cook to al dente (follow instructions on the package).
  2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add spinach.
  3. Cook spinach until it wilts and leaves room to add mushrooms and red bell pepper.
  4. Using tongs, toss cooked mushrooms, spinach, and pepper with nutmeg and garlic. Cook another two minutes and remove from heat.
  5. In a large shallow bowl, pour extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and herbs.
  6. Drain pasta and immediately add it to the bowl. Use tongs to toss hot pasta with the oil, garlic, and herbs until pasta is coated and fragrant.
  7. Add the spinach-mushroom mixture. Toss with the pasta.
  8. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and serve.

Recipe can be doubled.

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Filed under cooking, Healthful Eating, pasta, Recipes, sauces, Vegetables, whole wheat

Pasta e Fagioli

Pasta e Fagioli

Pasta e Fagioli

Not only is pasta e fagioli hasty and tasty, it’s inexpensive and healthful.  Also known as pasta fazool, this dish provides plenty of protein and fiber because it contains beans, vegetables, and whole wheat pasta. The tomatoes and Italian seasonings give it great flavor. Try this dish for your next meat-free meal.



  • 1 14 oz. can chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning spice
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 15½ oz. can cannellini or navy beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup frozen seasoning blend (Chopped onion, celery, bell pepper, parsley)
  • ½ cup whole wheat elbow macaroni
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
  • (Optional: ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped or torn, for garnish)

In a 2 quart saucepan, heat the broth over medium heat. Stir in garlic, seasoning blend, Italian spices, tomato sauce and paste. Bring to a low boil.
Add beans, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add macaroni, cover and simmer for 7 additional minutes.
Remove pan from heat, stir, and check macaroni. Should be cooked al dente.
Sprinkle each serving generously with the Parmesan cheese and garnish with fresh basil, if desired.

Yield: 3 servings

©2011 Cheryl Norman, Recipes for Recovery

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Filed under Basil, beans, Healthful Eating, pasta, Soups & Stews, tomatoes, Vegetables, whole wheat

Penne Alfredo Fake-out

In a perfect world, we cook everything from fresh and make our own sauces, etc. But real life often challenges us with unexpected company or a rushed schedule. There’s no need to resort to take-out, not when you can fake out. Take a little help from the store and keep a few cheat items in your pantry and freezer. Here’s a favorite emergency dish I make in twenty minutes. I read labels and shop as wisely as possible to ensure my fake out is as healthful as possible.


Penne Alfredo Fake-out

• 2 cups whole-wheat penne pasta
• Salt
• 1 jar reduced fat Alfredo sauce
• 1 cup frozen vegetables
• ½ pound medium shrimp, with veins and tails removed
• ½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
• ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)

1. Cook penne pasta according to package instructions in salted, boiling water.
2. In a 2 quart covered saucepan, gently heat shrimp and vegetables over medium-low heat until shrimp turns pink and sauce is bubbly (approximately 10 minutes)
3. Drain cooked penne and toss with the shrimp sauce mixture.
4. Serve, garnished with chopped parsley and shredded cheese, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings

Variations: Chill leftovers for a tasty pasta salad.

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Filed under casseroles, Healthful Eating, pasta, Recipes, Shrimp, whole wheat

Thinking Outside the Box

Serving busy families nutritious, healthy meals can be a challenge. Cooking for one is a challenge, too. Often we throw up our hands in defeat then head for the drive-thru. Or we pick up boxes of one-dish “Just add meat” meals, like “helpers” or skillet dinners. Tempting, aren’t they? All the work has been done for you except for browning the meat.

Not so fast.

When I was a college student, I often had Betty Crocker’s Noodles Almandine for dinner. I added some water, cooked the contents of the box for about 15 minutes, melted a pat of butter with the noodles, then sprinkled the few packaged almonds that were included as a garnish. I loved that dinner! It was cheap and easy. One night I was hungry and hadn’t had time to grocery shop, so I decided to create the dish on my own. I had noodles and slivered almonds, and there was butter in the refrigerator. How difficult could it be?

Even as an inexperienced, young cook, I quickly figured out the answer. Not difficult at all. I dissolved a chicken bouillon cube in the boiled noodles. Then I melted a pat of butter, tossed the noodles, then sprinkled with the almonds. I had noodles almandine! It tasted just like Betty Crocker’s. As I ate my dinner, I came to two realizations: A chicken bouillon cube, some noodles, and a few almonds cost a lot less than my box; it took no longer to make the dish on my own than with the boxed ingredients. From then on (sorry, Betty Crocker) I made my own noodles almandine. These days I make it with whole wheat pasta to bump up the nutrition.

Noodles Almandine

Whole Wheat Rotini Almandine

Save your money and your health by making your own skillet dinners or casseroles. They’re easy, less expensive, and tastier. Here’s my healthier version of a family favorite.


• 1 pound lean ground turkey
• Nonstick cooking spray
• 1 10 oz. package frozen seasoning blend*
• 1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
• ½ cup water
• 1 cup dry whole-wheat elbow macaroni
• 1 tsp. paprika
• 1 tsp. salt
• ½ tsp. pepper
• 1 clove garlic, pressed
• 8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
1. Spray the inside of a large skillet with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Over medium heat, brown the ground turkey. Break meat apart using a fork or potato masher.
3. Add the frozen seasoning blend. Cook for two minutes with the meat.
4. When meat is fully cooked, add the remaining ingredients except the cheese. Be sure all the macaroni pieces are covered in liquid.
5. Cover the skillet and simmer over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Check macaroni for doneness (do not overcook) and add cooking time as needed.
6. Remove skillet from heat. Sprinkle with the shredded cheese and cover to melt the cheese.
7. Serve turk-a-roni from the skillet.

*Frozen seasoning blend is a convenience item containing chopped onion, bell pepper, celery, and parsley. If you don’t have seasoning blend, use 1 cup chopped onion.

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Filed under casseroles, cooking, Healthful Eating, macaroni and cheese, pasta, Turkey Recipes