Dad’s Bucatini Pie

If there’s one item that is 100% guaranteed to make an appearance on the dinner table every single week, it’s pasta.

Long or short, sauced with marinara or prepared with cacio e pepe, baked until bubbly or served hot out of the pan, we unfailingly consume it with gusto.

Along with bread and extra sauce for dipping, thankyouverymuch……

This version, from the new issue of Food and Wine, is very similar to the Cacio e Pepe Pasta Pie I made a few months ago. The primary difference between the two  is the quantity of eggs versus milk. This recipe has a higher proportion of eggs, which in my opinion, made the finished product a bit lighter. Honestly though, both recipes are outstanding and I’d be hard pressed to choose a favorite.


Dad’s Bucatini Pie – adapted (barely) from Vinny Dotolo

  • 4 tbs. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 6 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 pound bucatini (I used spaghetti)
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (I used half mozzarella, half parmigiano)
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbs. minced garlic
  • 1 tbs. freshly ground pepper

Warm marinara sauce, for serving

Preheat the oven to 375°. Lightly grease a 10-inch cast-iron skillet.

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the bucatini until not quite al dente. Drain well. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the butter, eggs, cheese, milk, parsley, olive oil, garlic, pepper and salt. Add the pasta and toss to coat thoroughly. Scrape into the prepared skillet and bake for about 30 minutes, until just set. Remove from the oven. 

Preheat the broiler. Broil the bucatini pie 6 inches from the heat until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool for 10 minutes before cutting into wedges. Serve with warm marinara sauce.

Baked Rigatoni with Fresh Ricotta

So…. I have very exciting news to share, although I’m not sure where to begin.

My head is a mess of information overload, and it’s times like this when I really wish I could go for a long bike ride to organize my thoughts. I’ll be able to once we move out to the ranch, since there aren’t many cars (just a lot of livestock!), and miles of flat roads.


Anyway, for now, I’ll have to channel my energy into baking – and yesterday, that was a bit of a debacle in itself.

Good news? I figured out how/why things aren’t baking evenly in the oven, and solved the problem.

Bad news? I ruined another batch of chocolate chip cookies. No loss, though – I gave them to Alexander’s friend Jake. Who then promptly proceeded to devour them.

Ok – so the big news is this: Sabrina was just accepted to Purdue University for college. Yay!! I’m so thrilled for her, and she is overjoyed beyond words. Now that she has confirmation of her acceptance, it’s like someone flipped a switch inside her. She is able to focus, her mood has improved dramatically, and yesterday she went to the salon around the corner for a bit of a “makeover”. She cut 7 inches of hair off, had her nails done, and applied for a part time job at Victoria’s Secret so she can get her “college gear” at a discount.

Smart girl….

Now, of course, the planning/organizing has started. She printed a list of necessities for dorm life, and is already eyeing the Keurig coffee machine and the little George Foreman grill to take with her, along with the mini fridge and my small convection oven.

Because, you know, those are going-away presents. Her words, not mine…..

I however, already have her going-away present planned.

The family cookbook :)


Baked Rigatoni with Fresh Ricotta – adapted from Food and Wine

  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed
  • 2 cups fresh ricotta cheese (I used my homemade ricotta)
  • 5 tbs. grated Parmesan
  • 1 tsp fresh-ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces fontina, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)

Heat the oven to 450°. Oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the rigatoni until almost done, about 12 minutes. Drain. Put the pasta in the prepared baking dish and toss with 1 tablespoon of the oil.

Meanwhile, squeeze as much of the water as possible from the spinach. Put the spinach in a food processor and puree with the ricotta, 3 tablespoons of the Parmesan, and pepper. Stir in half the fontina.

Stir the spinach mixture into the pasta. Top with the remaining fontina and Parmesan. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over the top. Bake the pasta until the top is golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

In 8 days, the posse are leaving for a 3 week sojourn to Florida. I’m sure I will miss the little buggers after a few days…. after all, they’ve been glued to me for oh, the last 17 years or so…..

Not that I counted or anything…. 

Seriously though, Sabrina just informed me that her grand plan while on her trip is to catch an alligator – and is it all right if she brings him home? I can just picture the scenario at the gate: Sabrina: “Here’s my boarding pass, and here’s one for my pet alligator…. you can call him Wally….he only has carry on luggage…”

I’m sure TSA would have a field day with that.

Never mind TSA, where would we keep it? Oh that’s right, at the swamp ranch…….He would fit in perfectly with Monte and the goats.


Monte doesn’t like that idea at all…..

Speaking of having field day, guess who FINALLY got her license?


Yep! She finally mustered up the courage to face her disdain of the DPS (and government officials in general), and took the driving test. After all was said and done, her instructor informed her that “while she passed, she tends to disregard stop signs and cannot parallel park”.

The first person that says she drives like me is gonna get slapped with a wet noodle…….

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta – adapted from The Pioneer Woman

  • 12 oz linguine
  • 4 tbs. butter
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 large jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
  •  Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  •  Fresh parsley, about a handful, chopped

    Cook pasta according to package directions.

    Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute for 2 to 3 minutes or until starting to soften. Add the chopped red peppers and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until hot.

    Remove the skillet from the heat. Carefully transfer the contents of the skillet to a food processor or blender. Place on the lid and puree the pepper mixture until smooth.

    Pour the pepper puree back into the skillet. Add the pepper, and stir until heated. Add the cream and stir to combine.

    Drain the pasta, reserving about a cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the skillet and stir everything together, adding a bit of the cooking water if the sauce is too thick.

    Serve in bowls with extra cheese and a sprinkling of parsley on top.


Cacio e Pepe Pasta Pie – and a complaint

I generally don’t like to complain, because if you stop and think about it, complaining serves no purpose whatsoever. If you can change something, do it. If you can’t, work around it and move on.

That mindset has worked out quite well for me, until recently. I am faced with a dilemma that I HAVE to complain/vent about, because I can neither fix it nor work around it. My gripe? The school system. Here’s the situation: Sabrina’s graduation ceremony is at 8:00 a.m. on a Thursday. I have to get her to the school by 5:45 a.m., so she can attend the senior breakfast, then the entire class boards a charter bus that will take them to the ceremony site – which happens to be about 25 minutes from the school.

That, however, isn’t where the problem lies.

The problem is that Alexander naturally wants to attend his sister’s ceremony. It’s an epic day in her life and he really wants to be there to commemorate it with her.  Side note: The realization that she’s not going to be at the school next year hit him hard about two weeks ago. She has a potential plan to attend college in Indiana, and Alexander was genuinely upset, concerned about her ability to still have dinner with us every night. She just looked at him like he’d fallen out of the sky and said, ” I told you that you’d miss me someday!”

I gritted my teeth and took another sip of wine, because at that moment I realized she might actually move away this summer. Is it too early to start turning her room into an office? I’m kidding, I’m kidding…

Anyway, due to a school district member’s clever planning abilities, the rest of the high school students have final exams scheduled for the day of the graduation. And they thought that was a good idea? Why on earth would they plan the graduation ceremony on a day when the other students have finals that they obviously can’t miss? Why not have the ceremony in the afternoon? Or early evening? The other high schools in the district are scheduled for the following Saturday. How did we get the short end of the straw?

Oh – and one more thing: we (the family) are supposed to be at the ceremony site at 7:30 a.m. Again, no problem. Except that Alexander starts school at 8:45 a.m. Last time I checked, I was unable to be in two places at the same time. So I have to drop him off at 7:00 a.m. in order to make it out to Cedar Park by 7:30 a.m. Ok, I can do that. 

Then I made the mistake of saying, out loud, that I was going to go into the school office and see what could be done about having Alexander attend the ceremony. Surely I can’t be the only parent with this complaint? Sabrina put her hand out , looked straight at me, and said, “Mom, stop. Don’t be confrontational.”

Me? Confrontational. I think that’s a compliment. 


Cacio e Pepe Pasta Pie – adapted from Food and Wine

I learned a very valuable lesson while making this – don’t judge a recipe by the simplicity of the ingredients. I am probably going to make this again for Sabrina’s graduation dinner – it’s equally delicious hot, or at room temperature.

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces Fontina cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  • 6 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  • Butter, for greasing
  • marinara sauce, for serving

Preheat the oven to 425°. In a pot of  boiling water, cook the spaghetti until barely al dente. Drain well.

In a bowl, mix the milk, Parmigiano, eggs, pepper, and 1 1/2 cups each of the Fontina and cheddar. Add the hot pasta, and mix well using two forks or tongs to get everything blended together, and that the pasta has a chance to absorb some of the liquid. Pour into a buttered 9-inch springform pan, then sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup each of Fontina and cheddar on top. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Transfer to 
a rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Remove the ring, cut the pie into wedges and serve with marinara sauce.


Pork Ragu

I don’t know about you, but Sunday is one of my favorite days of the week. I suspect that it’s most likely a throwback to my childhood, when one Sunday a month, Mom would spend the better part of the day cooking up a big pot of sauce for our dinner. The process was an event in itself, as she would shoo us kids (and Dad) out of the kitchen so there weren’t any distractions, and begin what I now recognize as a true labor of love. The sounds were unmistakable – the pots being pulled from the cabinets, the chopping of the onions, the blender grinding up chunks of bread for homemade breadcrumbs…….. and it didn’t take long until the house was filled with the aroma of her delectable homemade meatballs, spicy Italian sausage, and falling-off-the-bone meaty pork ribs…..mmmmm.

Eventually, Dad would sneak into the kitchen and slyly steal a meatball or two….and feign innocence  when questioned by three sets of eyes wanting a bite as well. It wasn’t fun being at the bottom of the food chain….

While I don’t have her recipe for that treasured family piece of history (something about copyrights, patents and not in my birthright……), one bite of this sauce immediately transported me back to those Sunday evenings, when dinnertime meant pasta, sauce, wine, and bread…. all while surrounded by your family.


Pork Ragu – adapted from Bon Appetit

  • 1 1½-lb. boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil, plus more
  • ½ medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 sprig oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 14-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup dry red wine

Season pork with pepper. Heat ¼ cup oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Sear the meat, turning occasionally, until browned all over, 10–15 minutes; transfer to a large plate.

Drain all but 2 tbs. fat from pot. Reduce heat to medium and cook onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 8–10 minutes. Tie rosemary, oregano, and bay leaf into a bundle with kitchen twine; add to pot along with pork, tomatoes, and wine. Add water just to cover meat and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer, until meat is very tender, 1–1½ hours.

Discard herb bundle. Using 2 forks, shred meat in pot; cook, uncovered, over medium heat until sauce is thickened, 8–10 minutes. Serve over pasta with freshly grated cheese.


Pasta with Brussels Sprouts and Sausage Breadcrumbs

I think I mentioned that last week, J and I took a whirlwind sojourn to Vegas to have dinner with the Queen Mother (and Dad!) for her birthday.


“Whirlwind” doesn’t begin to describe our trip, if you want the truth. We landed at 4:00 p.m. Wednesday, and my brother was graciously waiting to pick us up. We headed straight to Mom and Dad’s house for celebratory champagne to kick off the evening festivities, then went to dinner at Mastrioni’s. After eating and drinking our way through copious amounts of crab, veal, pasta, wine and 4 different desserts, we went back to Buckingham Palace (as J refers to it) where I promptly crashed. (I actually crashed in the car, which I’m known for…)

The next morning we gathered round the breakfast table for eggs and waffles (Dad’s specialty), then J and I headed back to the airport for our 10:30 a.m. flight. We landed in Austin at 3:30, picked up the kids and made our way to the house. At this point, it was 5:45 and I had NO IDEA what we were going to do for dinner. J, very sweetly, said, “We could order a pizza and make it simple.”

Instead, I pulled out a magic trick and put this on the table 30 minutes later.


Impressed? So was I. Of course, having a well-stocked pantry does help – and like most pasta recipes, this one is infinitely adaptable to what you have on hand. I was trying to avoid a trip to the store (even though it’s only a mile away), so I used up various bits of vegetables that were in the fridge. Also, I added a teaspoon of crushed red pepper and a fair amount of parmigiano reggiano cheese.

Because cheese = happiness.

Pasta with Brussels Sprouts and Sausage Breadcrumbs – adapted from Food and Wine

  • 1/2 pound pasta (I used rigatoni, it’s what I had on hand)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1/2 pound brussels sprouts, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 1 cup sliced red/orange peppers
  • 1/2 pound loose pork sausage
  • 1 cup panko
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

In a pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, heat the 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add the brussels sprouts and sausage and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the sausage is browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Stir in the panko and cook until crisp, 3 minutes. Season with pepper. Drain the pasta. Top with the brussels sprout mixture, drizzle with olive oil and serve with lemon wedges.


Mushroom Ragu

Before we head into what will surely probably most definitely be a chocolate and sugar filled weekend, allow me to share with you a surprisingly savory and gratifying dinner that I made a few weeks ago.

In my previous life, I never would have given this recipe a second glance. An Italian ragu-style sauce made with just mushrooms? Without meat? No tomatoes? It’s egregious, unthinkable, and quite frankly, a little disturbing.

Yet, I made it, and I ate it. With gusto, and a whole lot of cheese.


Delicious, even if it was outside my comfort zone of sauce. I think next time I’ll serve this over a piece of chicken instead of over pasta. Of course, that sounds suspiciously like Chicken Marsala to me…….

Mushroom Ragu – adapted from Giada de Laurentiis

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound mushrooms, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Marsala
1/3 cup heavy cream
5 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/4 cup flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 to 3/4 cup grated Parmesan

In a large skillet heat the oil. When almost smoking, add the onions and garlic over medium-low heat until the onions have wilted, about 8 minutes. Add the mushrooms and season with pepper. Raise heat to high and saute until mushrooms are tender and all the liquid has evaporated. Remove pan from heat and pour in Marsala. Return pan to stove and allow wine to evaporate, about 3 minutes.  Add heavy cream and mix well. Take the pan off the heat and add the fresh herbs and Parmesan and mix thoroughly.