Pasta al Pesto

When the chief and posse are away, the second-in-command will play.

With food, that is.

I have embraced being completely on my own for the past two days, unpacking and doing the laundry, catching up on the dust around the house, sorting through copious amount of mail (I was only gone for 4 days!), collecting the puppies from their respective sitters (and giving them much needed baths), and most importantly, stocking the house with food in anticipation of everyone’s return.

Including a show stopping dessert. :)

But last night, I decided to treat myself and make one of my absolute favorite pasta dishes – since I’m pretty much the only one that will eat it.

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And, as an added bonus, my basil plant from Trader Joe’s is blooming like crazy.

Well, the parts that Dyna the Indomitable Dachshund hasn’t eaten. Who knew that a little German dog has such a passion for basil?

Pesto Sauce - adapted from Food Network

2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 large bunch basil, about 1/4 pound, well washed and dried
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In the bowl of a food processor, put the garlic, pine nuts, the basil, and the oil into the bowl and process it until the ingredients form a smooth paste. Add the Parmesan  and pulse just to combine. Add more oil if necessary to achieve a smooth fluid consistency.

 

Chicken Spaghetti

Sometimes, the name of a dish alone is enough to pique your interest to want to try it.

This, however, is not one of those times.

Just kidding.

I actually had a version of Chicken Spaghetti about 4 months ago, and was absolutely mortified when I found out what goes into making it.

Seriously.

Talk about unhealthy … processed cheese, canned soup, canned broth…….. no how and no way.

So I did a leeeetle bit of experimenting, combining several different recipes, and voila:

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Yes I know – worst picture ever.

But don’t pay attention to that. Pay attention instead to the fact that this was made with homemade béchamel sauce, real cheese, pasta, and assorted vegetables.

Deeeee-licious.

One thing I’ve learned with baked pasta dishes, though, is that you should always always ALWAYS make more sauce than you think you need. And thin that sauce out with additional milk. Otherwise, it gets too dry and gummy and then no one wants to eat it.

Including me. 

However, as proof that this was really good, here is the same dish after dinner:

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Granted, Alexander and his 15 year old boy metabolism did 80% of the damage.

Chicken Spaghetti – adapted from several sources on the internet

  • 2 cups cooked shredded chicken
  • 1 lb thin pasta, cooked for about 4 minutes (or half the recommended cooking time)
  • 3 cups béchamel sauce, thinned with 1/2 to 1 cup additional milk (see below)
  • 2 cups grated white cheddar cheese (or any cheese, really)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients (reserving one cup of cheese for the top) and pour into a greased baking dish. Top with the remaining cheese, and bake at 375 degrees until bubbling around the edges and lightly browned on top – about 30 minutes.

Bechamel Sauce 

5 tbs. butter
4 tbs. all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
2 tsp black pepper
Directions

In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat until melted. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Cook whisking constantly, for about 3 minutes. Add the milk slowly to the butter/flour mixture, whisking constantly until very smooth. Bring to a full boil, then remove from heat. Season with pepper, and set aside until ready to use. Thin with additional milk if the sauce gets too thick.

 

 

Spinach-Rainbow Chard Lasagna

I’ve become a huge fan of rainbow chard lately, for two very important reasons:

1. It has a nice bitter tang to it, sort of like escarole and rapini,

and

2. The market down the street sells big bags of it already washed and cut up.

Conveniently, I might add.

So when I decided to make this lasagna a few weeks ago, instead of using all spinach, I tuned into my rebel side (stop laughing) and used a bag of chard that I had in the fridge.

And...dun.dun.dun….it was already washed and cut up.

Ready to go.
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Spinach Lasagna – adapted from Martha Stewart

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 pounds baby spinach (I used a combination of rainbow chard and spinach)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 quart milk
  • 1 packed cup grated Parmesan (3 ounces)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 6 ounces mozzarella, shredded
  • 1/3 packed cup (1 ounce) grated Pecorino Romano
Preheat oven to 375 degrees with rack in middle position.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When oil shimmers, add onions  and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 3 minutes. Add spinach, a few handfuls at a time, and cook, stirring frequently, until all spinach is wilted, 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a mesh strainer and press against spinach to remove as much liquid as possible.
In a medium saucepan, melt butter over high heat. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until roux is golden brown, 1 minute. Add milk and continue whisking until milk begins to boil and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, and black pepper. Cover surface with plastic wrap.
Spread 1 cup bechamel along the bottom of a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Place one-third of noodles over bechamel in a single, overlapping layer. Top with 1 cup bechamel and half of spinach. Repeat with a second layer of noodles, bechamel, and spinach. Top with remaining noodles, remaining bechamel, zucchini, mozzarella, and Pecorino Romano. Cover with foil and bake 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until cheese is golden in places and lasagna is bubbling along the edges, about 15 minutes. Remove lasagna from oven and let stand 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

Chile Oil-Scallion Noodles

One thing I’ve learned about the weather in Austin is that it never just rains… It “we need to build the ark because the streets are floodingpours.

I mean, I’m used to heavy rains and flash floods (Monsoon season in Vegas is like that), but this, this is something.

And another thing –  I don’t believe the weather forecasters here anymore.  Yesterday there was a 10% chance of rain. So J and I headed out to the ranch at 6:20 a.m. and promptly got to work.

By 8:30 a.m., we stopped because it started to pour.

And pour some more.

J had trouble getting his truck off the ranch because the mud was so thick. And this is a lifted 4 wheel drive truck. With oversize tires. I can hear my father snickering from here, because my car would have sank.

I might have to concede defeat in this department. 

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Chile-Oil Scallion Noodles – adapted from Bon Appetit

Chile-Scallion Oil:

  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

Noodles and assembly:

  • 6 ounces Japanese wheat noodles (I used linguine, we prefer it)
  • 2 tbs. reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tbs. unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 large English hothouse cucumber, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced
  • 4 radishes, trimmed, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves or any sprout

For chile-scallion oil:
Cook all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat, swirling pan occasionally, until scallions and garlic are just golden brown, about 3 minutes. Let cool; transfer oil to a jar.

For noodles and assembly:
Cook noodles in a large pot of boiling water according to package directions; drain. Rinse noodles under cold water, then shake off as much water as possible.

Whisk soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and oil in a medium bowl until sugar dissolves. Add noodles and scallions; toss to coat. Toss with cucumber, radishes, and cilantro and drizzle with chile oil just before serving.

 

Some really great dinner recipes…and two desserts

If you remember (and I’m quite sure your memory is much better than mine these days), a few weeks ago I mentioned that I have been cooking and baking every.single.night, but also have been seriously lax in procuring photographs of the finished product.

And I just realized, seriously, that we have not eaten out in three weeks. I even asked the posse for verification.

They verified.

Astounding.

Well, I finally got my act together and made my list.

I even checked it twice :)

Vegetable Strata – gourmet magazine via epicurious

  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup finely chopped scallion (I used shallots)
  • 3/4 pound mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into thin strips (about 2 cups)
  • 2 green bell peppers, cut into thin strips (about 2 cups)
  • enough Italian bread cut into 1-inch cubes to measure 9 cups (about 1 1/2 loaves)
  • 2 1/2 cups coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar (about 10 ounces)
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 12 large eggs
  • 3 1/2 cups milk
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
  • Tabasco to taste

In a large skillet cook the onion, the scallion, and the mushrooms in the oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until the onion is softened, add the bell peppers pepper to taste, and cook the mixture over moderate heat, stirring, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until all the liquid the mushrooms give off is evaporated and the peppers are tender. Arrange half the bread cubes in a buttered large shallow (4 1/2-quart) baking dish, spread half the vegetable mixture over them, and sprinkle half the Cheddar and half the Parmesan over the vegetables. Arrange the remaining bread cubes over the cheeses, top them with the remaining vegetables, and sprinkle the remaining cheeses over the top. In a bowl whisk together the eggs, the milk, the mustard, the Tabasco, and salt and pepper to taste, pour the egg mixture evenly over the strata, and chill the strata, covered, overnight. Let the strata stand at room temperature for 15 minutes and bake it in the middle of a preheated 350°F. oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until it is puffed and golden and cooked throug

Sesame Noodles with Chile Oil and Scallions – Bon Appetit

  • 4 scallions, whites and greens separated, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tbs. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp Sichuan pepper, coarsely chopped (I used regular black peppercorns)
  • 12 ounces spaghettini
  • 1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 3 tbs. reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sugar

Cook scallion whites, vegetable oil, red pepper flakes, sesame seeds, and pepper in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until oil is sizzling and scallions are golden brown, 12-15 minutes; let chili oil cool in saucepan.

Meanwhile, cook noodles in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente; drain. Rinse under cold water and drain well.

Whisk tahini, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and 2-3 tablespoons chili oil (depending on desired heat) in a large bowl; season with salt. Add noodles and toss to coat. Top with scallion greens and drizzle with more chili oil.

Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja – serious eats

  • 2 pounds flank steak
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 large red pepper, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup sliced, pimento-stuffed Spanish olives
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive brine

Season meat generously with pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat until shimmering. Add the meat in a single layer (working in batches if necessary) and cook until well browned, about 4 minutes. Flip and cook until second side is well browned, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer meat to slow cooker.Add broth, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, red pepper, garlic, and cumin to slow cooker. Season with pepper and stir to combine. Cook on low until tender, about 8 hours. Shred meat using two forks. Add olives and olive brine and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve with pinto beans and rice.

Mario Batali’s Chicken Saltimbocca – Food and Wine

  • Eight 3-ounce chicken cutlets, pounded 1/8-inch thick
  • Ground pepper
  • 16 sage leaves
  • 8 slices of prosciutto
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup vin santo (I used white wine)
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 tbs. butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Season the cutlets with pepper and place 2 sage leaves on each cutlet. Wrap each cutlet in a slice of prosciutto, pressing to adhere. Spread the flour in a shallow dish. Dredge the chicken in flour, dusting off the excess; transfer to a baking sheet.
Set a rack over a baking sheet. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet. Add half of the chicken and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until golden and just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer the chicken to the rack. Repeat with the remaining olive oil and chicken.
Add the vin santo, stock and lemon juice to the skillet and boil over moderately high heat until the liquid is reduced by half, 4 minutes. Whisk in the butter. Pour half of the sauce into a bowl. Add half of the chicken to the skillet and cook over moderate heat until hot, 2 minutes. Season with pepper; stir in half of the parsley. Transfer the chicken to plates and pour the sauce on top. Repeat with the remaining sauce, chicken, and parsley.

Dark Chocolate Brownies – Pioneer Woman
  • 1 cup butter
  • 5 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tbs. vanilla
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1-1/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium-large saucepan, melt the butter with the unsweetened chocolate over low heat, whisking occasionally until smooth and melted. Sprinkle in cocoa powder and whisk to combine. Remove the pan from heat and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.

Stir in sugar and vanilla until just combined. One at a time, stir in the eggs. Gently stir in the flour until halfway incorporated. Add the chocolate chips and stir just until combined. Pour batter into a greased 8 x 8 or 9 x 13 baking pan. (Square pan will result in thicker brownies.) Spread to even out the top and place in the oven.

Bake for 40 minutes, then check the brownies with a toothpick. If it is overly gooey/messy, return to the oven for 5 to 10 more minutes.Allow to cool completely, then sprinkle with powdered sugar and cut into small squares.

 

Lemon Buttermilk Bundt Cake – adapted from Bon Appetit

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour plus more for pan
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 8 lemons (about 1/2 cup)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour Bundt pan; set aside. Whisk baking powder and 3 cups flour in a medium bowl. Combine sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl; using your fingertips, rub together until lemon sugar is well blended.
Add 1 cup butter to lemon sugar. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat until mixture is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions and occasionally scraping down sides and bottom of bowl with a rubber spatula, until mixture is light and very fluffy, about 4 minutes longer.
Reduce speed to low. Add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Scrape batter into prepared pan; smooth top.
Bake cake until golden brown and beginning to pull away from sides of pan, 60-70 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes. Invert cake onto rack; remove pan and let cool completely.

Easter Pasta Pie

Don’t let the holiday-ish name of this pie fool you….. this can (and should!) be made throughout the year.

And in my opinion, as often as possible.

Because pasta = happiness :)

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Easter Pasta Pie – adapted from epicurious

olive oil
1 small onion, minced
8 ounces baby peas
12 ounces fresh mushrooms, any type, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup homemade breadcrumbs, toasted
7 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose
3 cups milk, warmed
1 pound tagliolini, or other fresh thin egg noodles
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
12 ounces burrata or mozzarella cheese, diced

In a small sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Cook the onion until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the peas and a few tablespoons of water, and cook until the peas are tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; set aside in a bowl.In the same pan, heat 2 more tablespoons oil over high heat. Cook the mushrooms and garlic for a minute or two, until tender. Season with salt and pepper; set aside.Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter a 9-inch nonstick springform pan and dust it with breadcrumbs.In another small pot, make béchamel: Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat, stir in the flour, and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until smooth. Add the milk and bring it to a boil, stirring until thick, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Boil the pasta in salted water for 3 minutes less than the package directs. Drain and toss with the stock.

Layer the bottom of the prepared baking pan with one third of the pasta. Dot with one third of the béchamel, sprinkle it with 2 to 3 heaping tablespoons Parmesan, scatter on all of the pea mixture, then scatter on one third of the diced cheese. Spread out a second level layer of pasta, dot with one third of the béchamel, sprinkle with 2 to 3 heaping tablespoons Parmesan, and scatter on all the mushrooms, ham, and remaining diced cheese. Top with the remaining pasta and any unabsorbed remaining stock, pressing down to compact the layers. Dot the top with the remaining béchamel, Parmesan, breadcrumbs, and remaining butter, very thinly sliced.

Bake for about 25 minutes, until the pie is set and golden. Let it rest until it comes to room temperature before slicing.

Pasta with White Beans and Broccoli Pesto

Two weeks and counting….

Until we close escrow, that is.

Pantry supplies are running low, I’m completely out of brown sugar (how strange is that?!), my freezer is down to an emergency casserole of stuffed shells (thanks Mom!), and my biggest concern at the moment is whether or not Daisy is going to fit in the under-seat carrier for Southwest Airlines.

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I may have to put her on a diet…….

Pasta with White Beans and Broccoli Pesto – adapted from martha stewart

1 bunch broccoli, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
2 large handfuls fresh spinach
2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbs. fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp crushed red pepper
Finely grated zest of one lemon, plus 2 tbs. lemon juice
1/2 cup packed fresh parsley leaves
4 small garlic cloves
10 ounces short pasta, such as fusilli
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

Fresh grated parmesan cheese

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook broccoli until tender and bright green, about 4 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer broccoli to a food processor. Add spinach, oil, black pepper, crushed red pepper, lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley, garlic and about 1/2 cup pasta water. Puree until smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping down side as needed. Set aside. Return water to a boil and cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain pasta and return to pot. Transfer pesto to pot with pasta. Stir to coat, adding enough reserved pasta water to make a creamy sauce. Stir in beans and heat over medium until warmed through. Season with pepper and sprinkle with Parmesan, if desired.

Lemon Pasta with Chicken and Spinach

It’s the end of August….. September is literally around the corner……and do you know what that means?

Go ahead….guess.

** grinning **

My birthday will be here soon! Party time!

And this year, my birthday is going to be off-the-charts memorable. I cannot divulge that information just yet (privacy laws and confidentiality agreements, you know..) but in time, all will be revealed.

In the meantime, I have plans to make, places to go, people to see…..

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Lemon Pasta with Chicken and Arugula – adapted from the recipe crayon box

1/2 lb pasta

3 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
2 cooked chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
2 lemons, zested and juiced
3/4 cup milk
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup arugula, stems removed
Fresh cracked black pepper
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Bring a pot of water to a boil; add pasta. Heat a large skillet over low heat. Add oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper. Cook until the oil sizzles (about 7-10 minutes). Add lemon juice, milk, and a ladle of the pasta water to the garlic oil mixture. Raise the heat to medium until the sauce begins to bubble. Drain pasta – DO NOT RINSE. Add the pasta, zest, and 1/2 c. Parmesan to the cream sauce. Toss for a minute or two. Add chicken, arugula, and beans and toss until well distributed. Top with remaining cheese.

Skillet Chicken Lasagna

Today is July 31.

Which means tomorrow is August 1.

Which means……… dun dun dun………..school starts in 15 days.

wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!

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Skillet Chicken Lasagna – adapted from The Pioneer Woman

12 oz short pasta, cooked and drained
2 tbs. olive oil
2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced
1 tbs. Mrs. Dash Tomato Basil Garlic Seasoning
1 whole medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red wine
1 jar marinara sauce, 24 ounce size
1 tsp red pepper flakes
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
12 whole basil leaves, torn

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with herbs. Add chicken to the skillet and cook until golden brown. Remove the chicken to a plate.

Add onions and garlic to the same skillet and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the wine, then scrape the bottom of the skillet to loosen the bits. Cook for another 2-3 minutes to let the wine reduce.

Add marinara sauce and red pepper flakes, then simmer for 10 minutes.

Turn off the heat and add the cooked and drained pasta, ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, and basil. Add the cooked chicken on top. Toss to combine, and serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan and a little basil on top.

Ginger Scallion Noodles

Oooooooh……..these noodles……… they were gooooooood.

There were a lot of “o”‘s in that sentence. Very grammatically incorrect.

Pfft.

I made these last week when the posse were out for the night – they (the noodles, that is) were simultaneously spicy, cooling, refreshing, and very, very good. I especially liked the fact that they weren’t overly salty from the soy sauce – some recipes are so heavy handed with the quantity of soy – but in this case, the flavors really were perfectly balanced.

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Don’t tell the kids….but I sat by the pool, enjoying my noodles, and watching the clouds roll by…..surrounded by peace and quiet :)

Ginger Scallion Noodles – adapted from the daring gourmet

8 oz Chinese egg noodles, or noodles of choice
1 large bunch scallions (green onions), chopped
1 tbs. finely minced ginger root
1 tsp. finely minced garlic
2 tbs. vegetable oil
3 tbs. soy sauce
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp. honey
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon red chile flakes
Sesame seeds for garnish

Cook the noodles according to package directions. Rinse, drain, and set aside.
Combine all remaining ingredients in a small bowl and let sit for at least 15 minutes. The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.
Pour the sauce over the noodles in a large bowl and toss to coat. Serve sprinkled with some sesame seeds. Serve at room temperature.