Basil Pesto Handkerchief Pasta | for the love of the south

My bedroom window opens to a view of a small garden. Since we moved into our house in the dead of winter, I must admit I didn’t think much of our neighbor’s garden. But this past week, I found myself standing at the window each morning, watching our dear neighbor, Lilly, in her oversized straw hat and daisy print gardening gloves tending to the garden.

If you walk down the stone pathway lined with violets, hyacinths, and lilies, you will be greeted into the garden with the warm scent of honey coming from a fig tree. It’s sprawling branches and leaves act as an umbrella. A sort of safe haven in the center of the garden. Past the fig tree is a raised bed dedicated to tomatoes: cherry and grape tomatoes, yellow pear-shaped ones, fat beefsteak and elongated Romas. The raised bed closest to the fence that divides our lots is filled, and I mean filled, with basil. That’s it. Just basil. Our fence is covered with grapevines and tiny grape clusters, which remind me of baubles I used to find in my grandmother’s jewelry box.



I caught Lilly’s eye from my bedroom window, and we waved to each other. She pointed to the massive bed of basil and cupped her hands to her mouth, “I can’t imagine a summer without basil, can you?”  I shook my head and smiled in complete agreement.

The next morning, I opened my front door and found a lovely bouquet, not of freshly picked flowers, but of basil, and a note that read “… so you’re prepared for the summer. –Lilly”

Basil Pesto Pasta | for the love of the south

{GIVEAWAY | To enter the All-Clad d5 Stainless Steel All-In-One Pan Giveaway, leave a comment below letting me know your favorite summertime dishes between now and midnight, June 2nd. The winner will be chosen randomly and will be contacted via email on June 3rd. Limit 1 comment per person, pretty please!}

Basil Pesto Handkerchief Pasta | for the love of the south


Handkerchief Pasta with Basil Pesto

Serves 2

Note: You can make the basil pesto ahead of time and just stash it in the fridge to have on hand for a quick and easy meal. Also, the pasta can be made ahead. Once you have rolled out and cut the pasta, place the fresh pasta in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze. Once frozen, stack the frozen pasta in a gallon-sized freezer bag and stash away until you are ready to boil! 

200g all-purpose flour

2 large eggs

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

Generous pinch red pepper flakes

1 large bunch of basil, leaves only

¾ cup olive oil

½ lemon, juiced

1 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Extra virgin olive oil, to finish

Sea salt & black pepper, to season

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add flour and a pinch of sea salt. Blend together with fingertips and create a well in the center. Add eggs to the well. Mix on a low speed until the dough comes together. Switch to dough hook attachment and knead until the sides of the bowl are clean and the dough wraps around the hook, about 3-5 minutes. The dough will be soft and smooth.

On a lightly floured surface, form the dough into a ball. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile make the pesto.

In a mortar and pestle or a food processor, add garlic and a pinch of sea salt. Add red pepper flakes and basil leaves. Pound or pulse the ingredients together, forming a paste. Add olive oil, lemon juice, and parmesan cheese. Continue mixing together, tasting as you go. Once the pesto is perfectly seasoned, set aside.

Cut the dough into 4 pieces; slightly flatten making it easier to pass through the pasta machine. Pass pasta through the widest setting of the pasta machine. Fold in half and pass through 9 more times, dust with a little flour as needed.

Decrease the pasta machine to ½ the thickness and pass through twice.

Decrease the pasta machine setting again to the 2nd to last thinnest setting and pass through the pasta machine once. Repeat with the rest of the pasta. Lay sheets on a tea towel.

Bring a pot of water to boil and season the water with salt. Cut the sheets into square handkerchiefs.

(Now, this next step happens quickly so ready a strainer to drain the pasta by the sink, a small mug to reserve a little pasta water for the sauce, and warm a few pasta bowls!)

Toss the fresh pasta into the water and boil for just a few minutes, or until the pasta floats to the top. Scoop out about ½ cup of the pasta water. Set aside. Drain pasta.

In a large pan over medium high heat, add the basil pesto. Once the pesto heats through, add the drained pasta along with a small amount of the reserved pasta water. Toss, toss, toss! If you notice the pasta needs more sauce, add a few more drops of pasta water.

Toss into warmed pasta bowls, scatter with more parmesan cheese, extra virgin olive oil and basil leaves!
















Fresh Pasta | for the love of the south

Indigo blue hues deepen as the sun sets on the Amalfi Coast. Salty sea air tousles my blonde locks as I quietly sip on limoncello. Clanging wine glasses and the gentle hum of a distant Vespa become a symphony of sorts. The scent of lemon fills the air. Silky strands of handmade pasta against bursting tomato flesh and fresh basil gives me a certain pleasure. Suddenly, the whistle of my teakettle brings me back to reality. I get up from the couch to make another cup of coffee, all the while dreaming of the wonderful cookbook Wild Rosemary & Lemon Cake by Katie & Giancarlo Caldesi.

Fresh Pasta | for the love of the south

I devour cookbooks as if they were novels with characters to be discovered and cultures to be revealed. Not only am I allowed to engage in the narrative behind the recipe, but I also get to create, consume and share these experiences with others. As I dig deeper into a new cookbook, there are usually those few recipes that stand out in my mind, tugging on my arm like a child begging for attention until I am compelled to hunker down and give them the consideration they deserve. The pasta chapter is what did it for me. I’d been eyeing the silky strands of pasta daily, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I need to make pasta, now.

Fresh Pasta | for the love of the south

As I begin to knead the homemade pasta dough on my cool marble surface, I take time to relax and completely focus on the task at hand (quite literally)! There is something deeply therapeutic about repeating the same motion over and over again and being able to feel the dough come together in your hands. It’s an empowering sensation. Everything else falls away and in that moment, I imagine being on the Amalfi Coast as the scent of fresh pasta fills my quaint loft.

Fresh Pasta | for the love of the south

I believe cooking is one of the greatest ways to feel connected with someone else’s culture. Recipes bring me to every corner of the globe without having to leave home. They allow my kitchen to be an escape; a place of wonder, filled with new experiences, tastes and adventures. One of the greatest joys in life is cracking open a cookbook and becoming lost in the stories behind the recipes, which have a way of focusing on life and celebrating it.

Fresh Pasta | for the love of the south

The pages of Wild Rosemary & Lemon Cake are filled with beautiful photos and recipes from the Amalfi Coast. Below is a lovely recipe for homemade pasta and a few of my favorite quick pasta sauce recipes from this lovely book. Ciao, y’all!

Wild Rosemary & Lemon Cake | for the love of the south

Recipe: Fresh Pasta Dough

From Wild Rosemary & Lemon Cake by Katie & Giancarlo Caldesi

Serves 4 as a main

Note: The rule for fresh pasta is that you use one egg per 100g of flour. I tend to use a few teaspoons of extra-virgin olive oil as well to keep the dough from drying out too quickly.

200g (1 ½ cups) of ‘00’ flour or all-purpose, plus a little extra if necessary

Pinch of kosher salt

2 eggs

1-2 teaspoons of extra-virgin olive oil, if desired

Place the flour and kosher salt in a bowl. Combine with a fork and create a well in the center. Crack the eggs in the well and add the olive oil (if desired). Stir the eggs and oil together with the fork, while gently incorporating the flour as you work your way outwards. Continue mixing until you have incorporated all of the flour and a dough ball begins to form.

Remove the dough from the bowl onto a floured surface and knead the dough by hand. Stretch and roll the dough over itself, adding more flour if the dough begins to stick to the palm of your hands. Enjoy this kneading process because it does take about 10 minutes to come together! A good way to know if the dough is well blended is if the dough is completely one color, not yellow and white. If the dough becomes too dry, add a few drops of water.

Once the dough has come together, wrap it in plastic wrap and allow it to rest for 20-30 minutes on the counter. After it has rested, it will be ready to be rolled out by hand or through a pasta machine.

Quick Pasta Sauce Recipes:

Serves 4

Note: If you are using dried pasta for these quick sauce recipes, being cooking the pasta before making the sauce; if using fresh pasta, make the sauce first. Also, use a large pot of well-salted water to cook the pasta in so that it can move around freely and it won’t stick together.

Lemon Tagliolini:

1 quantity of fresh tagliolini, or dried spaghetti or linguine

1 ¼ cups of heavy whipping cream

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 ounce of Parmesan cheese, finely grated

In a large frying pan over medium heat, combine the cream, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes to slightly reduce and thicken. Whether you are using fresh pasta or dried, drain the pasta (see note) and toss it with the sauce and add the Parmesan cheese. Serve the pasta in warmed bowls immediately.

Summer Tomato Sauce:

1 quantity of fresh pasta, or (12 oz.) of dried penne, rigatoni or farfalle

4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

1 large garlic clove, finely chopped

½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes

200 g of fresh ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped

2 sprigs of basil, divided in half, leaves roughly torn

Kosher salt, for seasoning

1 ounce of Parmesan cheese, finely grated

In a large frying pan over medium heat, heat the oil and fry the garlic and red pepper flakes together for 1-2 minutes. Immediately add the tomatoes, half of the basil and salt. Squash the tomatoes with the back of a spoon. When the pasta is al dente, toss it into the sauce, along with a tablespoon of the pasta water to lengthen the tomato sauce. Stir the pasta into the sauce and allow it to finish cooking (this will allow the pasta to absorb more of the flavor of the sauce.) Add the remaining basil leaves and toss again. Serve in warmed bowls with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.















Parsley Pesto Pasta

Summertime quickly thrusts itself onto the South. Spring lasts for what seems like only a week, and as soon as the trees lose their bloom, summer appears the very next day. Along with the sweltering heat comes a silver lining in the form of backyard barbecues, bonfires, and nights at the river where the waves that break against the shore never rival the sound of laughter coming from the deck above. Fireflies dance from the water to the woods, blazing a trail as the long, hot summer days come to an end, only to awaken the promise of another day filled with childlike wonder.

Summer is also the season of barbecued ribs, fresh tomato salads tossed with oregano and olive oil, grilled corn on the cob happily gleaming with melted butter, roasted seafood adorned with lemon wedges and Malden sea salt, watermelon slices served with chopped mint for dessert and pasta slicked with an herbaceous pesto. After a day spent soaking in the sun, this is the dish I crave.

This pesto has a warm nuttiness from the toasted almonds, freshness from the parsley and chives, and a slight rich, full-bodied flavor from the olive oil and Parmesan cheese. After a day spent in the heat, my body and mind begins to wind down and all I want is an herbaceous, simple, light pasta to fill my tummy and reenergize my soul for another wonderful summer day.

Recipe: From Bon Appétit, June 2013

Serves 6

1 pound of spaghetti (or angel hair pasta)

Kosher salt

½ cup unsalted, toasted almonds

4 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

¾ cup chopped chives

¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil

½ cup finely grated Parmesan

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 2 cups of pasta liquid for sauce.

Using either a mortar and pestle or food processor, grind/pulse the toasted almonds until ground (the almonds should resemble coarse sand.) Add parsley leaves, chives, oil and Parmesan cheese, and continue to grind/pulse until smooth. Season the pesto with salt and pepper.

Toss pasta and pesto together in a large bowl, adding the reserved pasta liquid ¼-cupfuls at a time until the pesto loosens and becomes saucy. Season with salt, pepper and more olive oil.


Pasta Salad

Glancing over recipes cards is like rummaging through old memories. Some feathered, folded and frayed, splattered with sweet reminiscences, and aged with wisdom. Passed down from one to another, like heirlooms, entrusting the legacy of family dishes. There are also those recipes that are new, only existing in your handwriting, being perfected for generations to come. One of these recipes is pasta salad.

Growing up on Cajun fare, pasta rarely showed up on the menu. Crawfish fettuccini and lasagna were the only dishes my mother made with pasta, but secretly I craved Italian cuisine. So, whenever I found myself home alone in my sophomore year of high school, I needed to learn how to feed myself (sans pop tarts and cereal.) Thus began my love affair with pasta.

During my sophomore year, an unexpected event crept into my life. Found on my spine was a bone tumor, which broke a bone in my back. Within a few months, the tumor was removed, and I found myself recovering for months at home. After a few days of sitting at my abode, sick of toast, cereal and leftovers, I ventured into the pantry to find a humble box of pasta salad. It wasn’t anything fancy, just a box of spiral pasta with a packet of dried herbs that called for half a bottle of Kraft Italian dressing. After a few days, I began adding fresh tomatoes and herbs from our garden to the boxed pasta salad. This salad became my daily fare, the sustenance I needed during my recovery.

So, as I look over this pasta salad recipe, written in my handwriting, I find myself lost in the memory of being alone in the kitchen, perfecting this recipe, and the adventure of what it meant to create something of my own. Today I share this updated version of my boxed pasta salad with you, a recipe card I will forever hold close to my heart and always in my pocket for safekeeping.

Recipe: Serves 4 as a side
Note: You can use any type of tomato in this recipe. Beefsteak, cherry, grape or homegrown are great in this salad. You can also do a variety of tomatoes if you like!

½ pound of penne pasta (or any other shaped pasta like bowtie or shell)

1 pound of tomatoes, seeded

4 tablespoons of olive oil

2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 pinch of red pepper flakes

¼ cup of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped, leaves only

Salt and pepper to taste

Parmesan cheese shavings, to garnish

Boil the pasta in salted water until al dente and drain well. Set aside.

Set up a mesh strainer onto a medium-sized bowl.

Dice larger tomatoes, such as homegrown or beefsteak, and if you are using grape or cherry tomatoes, slice in half. Place the tomatoes in the mesh strainer and sprinkle with salt (about 1 teaspoon or so should do.) At this point, the salt is not just for seasoning but drawing the moisture out of the tomatoes. Let the tomatoes sit in the strainer for at least 10 minutes, slightly squeezing the tomatoes with your hand every once in a while, coaxing the water out of the tomatoes. Allowing the tomatoes to drain this way will leave you with a more concentrated tomato flavor for your pasta salad.

Meanwhile, whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a small container (or shake all the ingredients together in a Mason jar.) Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.

After the tomatoes have been sitting in the strainer for at least 10 minutes, place tomatoes in a large mixing bowl and discard any juice that came from the tomatoes. Add the finely chopped parsley and dressing to the bowl. Mix to combine. Add the pasta to the mixing bowl and toss again until all of the pasta is covered with the dressing and tomatoes. Top with Parmesan cheese shavings and serve. Enjoy!

Comforting Cravings on a Cold Night

I sit in the stillness of a quiet evening beneath an amber flame, warming my bones from the frigid, damp southern weather. I have conflicts on these evenings. Yearning for a warm morsel, but my body cannot seem to move from the heat of the fire. So, like in any good relationship, I compromise.  Throwing a wooly blanket around me, I swiftly walk to the kitchen like a fancy woman would in a long, tight skirt, except I am donning a plaid, woven bedspread. Nonetheless, I am on a mission. I crave the comfort of pasta, and not the skimpy sorts: the meaty, rich, velvety, luscious kind. I pour over the warmth of the flames from the stovetop as the sauces bubble and simmer. My spirits are instantly lifted. Ladling the white sauce over the dark, succulent meat sauce reminds me of the earth being blanketed by leaden snow. I gather up my vittles, traipse back to the fireplace, and gather with the ones I love over a warm, delightful meal. And in that moment, there is peace. In the midst of the chill, there is a gift, a gift of togetherness that both the bitter cold and the season bring. Give thanks for these moments when your heart and your tummy are both full and content.

Recipe: Serves 6

Bolognese Sauce:

1 carrot, roughly chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 rib of celery

2 garlic cloves, peeled

Small handful of parsley, chopped

½ pound of ground pork

½ pound ground sirloin

1 Tbs. of flour

1 ½ cups of vegetable stock

1 14-ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes

¼ cup of milk

½ cup of freshly grated Parmesan

Béchamel Sauce:

4 Tbs. of butter

4 Tbs. of flour

2 cups of milk

Salt, pepper, nutmeg to taste

1 pound of tagliatelle pasta, cooked till al dente

Fresh chopped parsley and Parmesan cheese, garnish

To make the meat sauce:

Put the carrot, celery, onion, garlic and parsley into a food processor and grind until the vegetables are smooth. Coat a large pot with oil and sauté vegetables until fragrant and soft. Add the pork and beef to the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Brown meat in the pot while breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Dust the tablespoon of flour over meat and vegetables. Add the stock, tomatoes and milk. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook uncovered for 1 ½ hours. Add Parmesan cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss in cooked pasta.

To make béchamel:

In a small saucepan, melt butter and mix in flour. Cook for just a few minutes to cook out the “flour” taste. Add the milk and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Keep on low heat and keep stirring while the sauce thickens. The sauce is ready whenever it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

To plate:

In each dish, spread a few tablespoons of the béchamel onto the bottom of the plate (or on top if you prefer.) Serve the pasta over the béchamel sauce and top with fresh parsley and Parmesan cheese.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

I was a fastidious child. I was the kid from Louisiana that couldn’t stand seafood, loved macaroni and cheese and chocolate milk for all occasions, and couldn’t stand the sight of meat sauce. But my mother was and is a very wise woman. She knew I wouldn’t eat meat sauce, but meatballs? Of course! My mother understood my weird palate. She knew I was a texture enthusiast and a romantic. When I say I was a romantic, she knew that I would associate spaghetti and meatballs with Disney’s Lady and the Tramp (the funny thing is I still do!). The scene of two puppies sharing a plate of spaghetti and meatballs with an Italian man in the background singing “Belle Note” was enough for me to appreciate and devour any spaghetti and meatball dish in front of me. And I can only imagine my mom patting herself of the back while the song played in my head and I swayed along, eating my spaghetti until it was all gone. Happy plate!

Recipe: Serves 6-8

For Sauce:

1 tablespoon of olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 pinch of red pepper

2 28oz. cans of whole San Marzano tomatoes, hand crushed

1 pinch of sugar

¼ cup of chicken stock

1 sprig of fresh basil

2 tablespoons of butter

¼ cup of parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sized saucepan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil on medium low heat. Let garlic and red pepper shimmy in the oil for 30 seconds. Add the crushed tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Let cook for about 5 minutes then lower the heat and add stock and basil. Let simmer for at least 30 minutes. Add butter and cheese. Adjust seasonings if needed. Reserve for meatballs.

For Meatballs:

Olive Oil

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 pinch of red pepper flakes

3 tablespoons of parsley

1 cup of milk

4 slices of bread, crust removed and cubed

2 pounds of ground chuck

1 pound of ground pork

1 egg, slightly scrambled

½ cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

1 pound of cooked angel hair pasta

Heat a few tablespoons of oil over a medium flame. Sauté onions, garlic, parsley and red pepper flakes together until soft. Season slightly with salt and pepper. Let cool.

While the vegetables cool, soak the bread in the milk while you get the meatball mixture prepared. In a large bowl, combine the beef and pork together slightly. Add the egg, cheese, salt and pepper to the meat. Finally, squeeze all of the excess milk from the bread and place it with the meat mixture, along with the cooled vegetables. Mix all of the ingredients together with your hands until well combined. Shape into meatballs. You can shape them into large meatballs or bite-sized depending on your preference.

Heat a sauté skillet over medium heat with a tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté meatballs quickly on all sides. I do this step in 2 batches. Once browned, transfer to simmering red sauce for at least 30 minutes. Toss in the angel hair pasta and mix together.




Pasta with Red Sauce

Please don’t tell anyone, but I am in love with Italian food. I didn’t want my first love of Southern food to find out this way. But it noticed my long sighs when I would smell homemade marinara, saw my joy when making fresh pasta, and realized the look in my eyes as I would watch pizza bubbling away in the oven. But I just can’t help it, I swear. There is a certain passion Italians have that reminds me of Southerners. We love life, family and food. Italians, like Southerners pass recipes along from generation to generation, understand the importance of eating off the land and talk feverishly with their hands. But most of all, we love our family. This recipe is a staple in my home. Break out the grape juice with the kids, sing “Mambo Italiano” to the top of your lungs and enjoy a meal with your closest family and friends.

Recipe: Serves 4

2 Tbs. of olive oil

2 garlic cloves, sliced

1 pinch of red pepper flakes

1 28 oz. can of whole San Marzano tomatoes, hand crushed

1 pinch of sugar

2 Tbs. of butter

½ cup of parmesan cheese, grated plus more for serving

½ pound of angel hair pasta, cooked

Salt and pepper to taste

In a sauté pan on medium temperature, heat olive oil. Add sliced garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds or just until golden. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Add sugar. Bring to slight boil and let simmer for 30 minutes. Turn off heat, add butter and cheese. Add pasta to the sauce and mix to combine. Check seasoning one last time. Serve with freshly grated parmesan.

Lasagna Bolognese

Those who are from the south know that there is a dish called “Southern Lasagna.” It is heavy with a beef, full-bodied tomato sauce and thick pasta. My grannie, grandma, and my mother all made their lasagnas the same. I could tell when we were having the dish for dinner because the smell of ground beef browning in a pan with fragrant Italian spices lingered in the air. After the sauce was made, I would watch my mom arduously layer the meat sauce and the thick noodles. She would then pile on mounds of shredded mozzarella on top of the dish. I remember watching the lasagna bubble and breathe through the window in the oven. It always seemed like it would never be done. An hour is a long time to wait for a 4th grader. It might have well been ready on my golden anniversary. Finally, the heavy pan was ready to make its debut. This dish is a labor of love that was crafted by the most wonderful women in my life, but if I had my perfect piece of lasagna, it would just be the topping! The cheese and pasta was always my favorite part. My mom would scold me for never eating the meat sauce. This recipe is a classic Italian lasagna and has a creamy texture throughout the whole dish. That way I eat my vegetables and meat too to make my mom a happy camper!


Recipe: Adapted from Tyler Florence’s Dinner at My Place: Makes 8-10 Servings

Fresh Pasta:

2 cups of flour

1 teaspoon of salt

3 eggs

2 Tbs. of extra-virgin olive oil

Place the flour in a mixing bowl fitted with a dough hook. Add the salt to the flour and mix well. Make a well in the flour. Add the eggs and 1 Tbs. of oil and incorporate with hook. Stop the mixer every so often to scrape down the sides. Knead the dough in the mixer until smooth and elastic. Place the dough on top of cling wrap and cover with 1 Tbs. of oil. Cover with wrap and let sit for 30 minutes.

Cut the dough in 4 pieces. Dust the dough with flour and pass through the widest setting in a pasta maker. Fold the dough over itself and pass again through the widest setting of the machine. Pass the dough through the machine, bringing the notch down to make the dough thinner and thinner, until you reach the thinnest setting.

Cut the pasta into sheets and let dry for 20-30 minutes.

Bolognese Sauce:

1 carrot, roughly chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 rib of celery

2 garlic cloves, peeled

Small handful of parsley, chopped

½ pound of ground pork

½ pound ground sirloin

1 Tbs. of flour

1 ½ cups of vegetable stock

1 14-ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes

¼ cup of milk

½ cup of freshly grated Parmesan


4 Tbs. of butter

4 Tbs. of flour

2 cups of milk

Salt, pepper, nutmeg to taste

1 pound of fresh mozzarella, torn into pieces

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

chopped parsley to garnish

To make the sauce:

Put the carrot, celery, onion, garlic and parsley into a food processor and grind until the vegetables are smooth. Coat a large pot with oil and sauté vegetables until fragrant and soft. Add the pork and beef to the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Brown meat in the pot while breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Dust the tablespoon of flour over meat and vegetables. Add the stock, tomatoes and milk. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook uncovered for 1 ½ hours. Add Parmesan cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To make béchamel:

In a small saucepan, melt butter and mix in flour. Cook for just a few minutes to cook out the “flour” taste. Add the milk and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Keep on low heat and keep stirring while the sauce thickens. The sauce is ready whenever it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Preheat the oven to 3500

To assemble the lasagna:

Cut fresh pasta to fit a 9x13x3 inch pan. Set the pasta aside. Make a thin layer of béchamel at the bottom of the pan. Top the béchamel with a layer of pasta. Top the noodle layer with béchamel sauce and layer the meat sauce on top. Add mozzarella pieces. Continue layering with pasta, béchamel, meat sauce and mozzarella. For the final layer, shower the top with Parmesan and parsley. Bake, uncovered for 1 hour on a cookie sheet covered with aluminum. Let the lasagna cool for 15 minutes before cutting into.

The Best Macaroni and Cheese of My Life

There is something exceptionally comforting about a warm bowl of creamy, cheesy pasta. Macaroni and cheese has always been one of my favorite dishes. My palette was distinguished enough as a child to make sure that my mom skipped the powder cheese pack for the velvety shells and cheese. Throughout the years, my aunts made macaroni and cheese every Thanksgiving and Christmas. Half of my plate would be filled with turkey, brisket, dressing and a roll. The other half was purely a superfluous amount of creamy macaroni and cheese. I would trot my plate proudly to the table as my family watched me devour the pasta in awe. My aunts decorated the top with American cheese slices, but I have graduated this dish with the addition of cheddar cheese and a Parmesan crispy topping. I sometimes make this plate with shell pasta instead of penne as a nod to my childhood memories.

Recipe: Serves 4

Note: Make sure that the pasta water is seasoned like the ocean! If not, you will lose out on a lot of flavor!

 ½ pound of penne pasta

4 Tbs. of butter

4 Tbs. of flour

2 cups of milk

2 cups of freshly grated cheddar

Cook pasta with lots of salt until al dente. Reserve and keep warm with 1 cup of pasta water reserved as well. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan on medium-low heat, melt butter and add flour to pan. Cook for 1 minute to cook out the “flour” taste. Add milk and whisk out any lumps. The mixture will begin to thicken after a few minutes. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne. The sauce should be taken off the heat whenever the sauce can coat the back of a spoon. Take off heat and whisk in the cheese. Add the pasta with a little bit of pasta water. Mix to combine. The pasta can be enjoyed as is or you can add a crunchy topping for added texture and flavor.

For crispy topping:

Mix ¼ cup of panko, 1 Tbs. chopped parsley, 2 Tbs. of shredded Parmesan cheese, 1 Tbs. of butter and seasoning together in a bowl. Top 4 individual ramekins filled with pasta with topping and broil for a few minutes until brown.