Eric’s Pasta


Remember my first blog post when I said that I have variations on garlic pasta? The version I am sharing today is Eric’s personal favorite. So much so that he generally begs me to make this variation of garlic pasta any time he knows it’s on the week’s menu. It’s a simple dish, and it’s light but still savory and delicious. The sauce is a simple base of olive oil and garlic, with cherry tomatoes and a Parmesan rind added to the mix. The tomatoes start to blister in the pan and release some of their juices while the Parmesan rind melts down and adds a salty, silky touch to the sauce. Fresh spinach and lemon zest are thrown in at the end and it’s all tossed with the hot linguine and some pasta water to bring it all together. Topped with fresh parsley and more Parm…Yum!


I came up with this recipe one of the first times I went to visit Eric at USC. We did long distance all throughout college and whenever I would visit him in the dorms, we had limited resources. I quickly grew tired of dining hall  options. I wanted something cheap, clean, and easy to make in a tiny communal dorm kitchen. Freshman Eric was skeptical of tomatoes, and this is the dish that totally changed his mind. I have already discussed this in other posts, but I shall reiterate: blistered tomatoes are the bomb. They become sweet little jewels and they totally change the texture and taste of boring old tomatoes. I particularly love this dish because while the tomatoes are cooking in the olive oil, I take a spoon and smash some of them just to get that extra sweetness into the sauce. I also love the final touch of lemon zest, which might seem a little strange with the other ingredients but it really brightens up the dish and makes it taste so clean and fresh.

If you don’t have a Parmesan rind on hand, that’s fine. Personally I store them in the freezer because we go through a lot of Parmesan. The rinds are super handy to throw into soups and pasta sauces. If you haven’t been saving your rinds, you don’t know what you are missing!

If you’re a meat eater and you want something heartier for this meal, you could easily serve it alongside some chicken. Personally, I think this pasta makes for the perfect light dinner or lunch. It’s even better leftover!


Eric’s Pasta

Serves 4 


1 lb linguine pasta


7 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 Parmesan rind (optional)

1 pt cherry tomatoes

1 (6 oz) package fresh spinach

Zest of one lemon

Fresh Parmesan and Italian Parsley, to go on top



  1. Cook the linguine in heavily salted water until al dente. It is ideal to use tongs to transfer the noodles directly into the sauce, so you will want to have the sauce ready by the time the pasta is cooked.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a deep pan over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook until softened and fragrant, around 3 minutes. Add in the cherry tomatoes and Parmesan rind and turn the heat up to medium-high. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper. Gently shake the pan throughout cooking and allow the tomatoes to blister and sweeten, around 8-10 minutes. Add in the spinach and lemon zest and stir until slightly wilted. Remove whatever is left of the Parmesan rind.
  3. Directly transfer the pasta from the pot to the pan with the sauce (If you are unable to do this, simply drain the pasta and quickly add it to the sauce pan). Add in a splash of pasta water and stir everything to combine.
  4. Top each plate of pasta with a healthy sprinkling of fresh Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped Italian parsley.


Creamy Pasta with Egg– AKA the Easiest Pasta You’ll Ever Make


I am known to dabble in the kitchen as my creative outlet. It generally relieves my stress and gives me something to do other than grad school. Sometimes, however, this results in Eric walking in on me swearing like a sailor and attending to 4 different pots on the stove because I just had to make something with 30 ingredients on a school night. But Eric, I just wanted to try homemade Naan tonight… as I realize it’s already 8:00 and I have several exams to study for.

Sometimes, I manage my time a little better and realize that I have a busy evening ahead of me, and it’s best to make something as easy as possible that is still satisfying. That’s where this pasta comes in. My mom used to make us this pasta every time my Dad was out of town and we needed an easy dinner that takes no time at all to whip up and uses ingredients that we always have on hand. She grew up eating this pasta when her Mom was in the same predicament. It’s so simple it’s barely a recipe! But, simple pasta is all the rage these days (Cacio e pepe, anyone?).


This pasta is so creamy, so buttery, and yet so simple. I’ve been known to make this for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and my personal favorite: midnight snack. It takes only 10 minutes from start to finish, and the end result is a creamy bowl of pasta that you keep refilling for seconds.

It’s not exactly something you serve up for a dinner party, but it’s one of the foods that keeps you going through the hustle and bustle of everyday life. As much as I love spending hours in the kitchen on fancy meals, there is no shame in simple comfort food. There have been many times when Eric has walked in the apartment and smelled the starchy, buttery smell of this pasta and instantly grinned because he couldn’t wait to dig in. Once you start making it, you’ll see. People around you always want a bite.


Creamy Pasta with Egg

Serves 2 


1/2 lb cavatappi, penne, or macaroni noodles

4 Tablespoons salted butter

1 large egg

Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. In a medium pot seasoned generously with salt, cook the pasta until al dente.
  2. Drain the noodles, reserving 1-2 Tablespoons of the pasta water. Immediately throw the noodles back into the pot and put it back on the stove over very low heat.
  3. Add the butter and egg, and stir for 1-2 minutes just until the egg is barely cooked.
  4. Season with additional salt (if needed) and a generous amount of freshly cracked black pepper.

Lasagna-Style Eggplant Parmesan


Most young children do not jump up and down when they hear that Eggplant is what’s for dinner. This child did, and it’s because my mom makes a killer eggplant Parmesan. Most restaurant versions of this dish only have mozzarella and (of course) Parmesan cheese. My Mom’s version, however, has a layer of herbed ricotta as well. Not to mention the glorious sauce.

Growing up, my Mom always asked us what we wanted our special birthday dinner to be. 9 times out of 10, this eggplant Parm was my choice. Of all the delicious things my Mom cooked growing up, this was almost always my meal of choice when I was given the option of anything I could possibly want. That should tell you how amazing this dish is.

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Just look at those crispy layers of heaven! This dish is so sinfully cheesy and rich that you don’t miss the meat for a second. The fried slices of eggplant are layered with all three cheeses and the heavenly marinara in little towers. Everyone gets their own leaning tower of cheesy, savory, melt-in-your-mouth eggplant—yes please!  If you need an impressive, hearty meal for a crowd, this dish is your go-to.

This would be an excellent time to pull homemade sauce from the freezer. It makes the whole dish so much easier if you already have your sauce done. All you have to do is fry up your eggplant, layer it with cheese and sauce, cook some pasta, and bam! Dinner is done.


Lasagna-style Eggplant Parmesan

Serves 6-8

2 medium/large eggplants, peeled and sliced in 0.5 inch rounds

2 eggs beaten with 1 tablespoon of water

½ cup sunflower or vegetable oil (You may need more throughout the frying process)

2 cups flour

2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs

1 batch of Mom’s Spaghetti Sauce 

½ cup fresh Italian Parsley, chopped

15 oz. whole-milk Ricotta cheese

8 oz. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 lb pasta, for serving

Fresh basil, for serving


  1. Lay the slices of eggplant on top of a few paper towels on a counter top or table. Sprinkle salt over each slice and let them “sweat” for about an hour. This will draw excess moisture out of the eggplant.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Prep your breading station: In three shallow dishes, line up the flour, beaten eggs, and breadcrumbs.
  4. Heat the sunflower oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Dip each slice of eggplant first in flour, then in egg, then in the breadcrumbs. Fry the eggplant in the oil in batches, about 2-3 minutes per side or until golden brown. You may need to add more oil as you are frying if the skillet starts to look dry. Place the finished slices on a paper-towel lined cookie sheet.
  5. In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta cheese with the parsley and a good pinch of salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
  6. You will want a deep casserole dish to layer your eggplant. In the bottom of the casserole dish, spread out a ladle full of sauce to coat the bottom of the dish.
  7. Cover the layer of sauce with a layer of eggplant slices. Top the eggplant with dollops of ricotta, slices of mozzarella, and sprinkles of Parmesan. There is not an exact science here; there is just a LOT of cheese that you want to distribute over the eggplant!
  8. Top the eggplant slices with another layer of sauce. Repeat the layering process until you have stacks that are 3-4 eggplants high (can we make this an official new form of measurement?) and finish with a final layer of sauce.
  9. Cover the casserole dish with either a lid or aluminum foil. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove the lid/foil and continue to bake for another 30 minutes uncovered.
  10. Serve the eggplant with the pasta of your choice and the remaining sauce. Top with fresh basil.

Creamy Penne with Peas & Prosciutto


Today, I’m sharing another pasta recipe that my Mom has been making for as long as I cam remember. If we weren’t eating Mom’s classic red sauce, this was our next go-to. It’s fast, easy, and a little sinful. I don’t dare call it Pasta Carbonara, because it’s made with heavy cream– which any Nonna will tell you is NOT true Carbonara. But hey, Mom’s an Italian-American, and this pasta is absolutely delicious– so I don’t really care if it’s not true Carbonara. It’s amazing. It’s one of the few meals where I break from vegetarian cooking (but see below for the easy vegetarian substitute for Prosciutto).

The penne is coated in a luscious, creamy, buttery, cheesy sauce that sinks into every ridge of each noodle. The prosciutto gives a nice saltiness to the dish, and the peas add beautiful color and delicate flavor. I like to amp everything up with some extra red pepper flakes, to give it all a nice kick that wakes up your palate.


I know this recipe isn’t vegetarian, but it’s super easy to swap out the prosciutto for sauteed mushrooms. Simply cook 4-6 ounces of thinly sliced mushrooms (I recommend cremini) in hot butter and sub that for the prosciutto. Easily just as delicious.

In all honesty, I could probably eat pasta 7 days a week. There is just something so comforting and satisfying about digging into a plate of noodles (especially if it’s Penne– my favorite noodle). And even though this dish has a good amount of heavy cream, it still feels lighter than an Alfredo sauce. So what are you waiting for? This glorious pasta can be yours in no time.


Creamy Penne with Peas & Prosciutto

Serves 4


1 lb Penne pasta

4 oz prosciutto, diced

1 small yellow onion, diced

3 Tablespoons butter

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup frozen peas

1/8-1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy you like it)


  1. Prepare a large pot of water to boil for the noodles. Make sure the water is heavily salted. You want to cook the noodles until al dente, but you aren’t going to drain them– they will go directly into the skillet with the sauce. While the water is coming to a boil, get started on your sauce. I’m writing all of this here so that you have an idea of how you want to time things– just make sure you don’t cook your noodles before your sauce is ready!
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and saute the onion for 3-4 minutes, or until fragrant and slightly translucent.
  3. Add the diced prosciutto to the skillet. Cook for another 3 minutes or so.
  4. Add the heavy cream to the skillet and allow it to gently simmer for at least 5 minutes, or until the sauce is thick and coats the back of a wooden spoon.
  5. When the sauce has thickened, add the Parmesan cheese. Turn the heat down to very low.
  6. Add the peas, pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and several cranks of freshly cracked black pepper.
  7. Using a spider or slotted spoon, remove the cooked noodles from the pot of water and ladle directly into the skillet with the sauce. Stir everything together until the noodles are evenly coated with the sauce. Serve immediately.


Mom’s Spaghetti Sauce


Today, I’m sharing the recipe that is closest to my heart: my Mom’s spaghetti sauce. I have talked a lot about the German side of my heritage, but I haven’t had the chance to share anything about my Italian side. My Mom is a Chicago Italian, and she grew up as one of eight children. Every week her mother made spaghetti because it was not only delicious, but also an easy way to feed 8 mouths. Now, we’re not talking spaghetti sauce in a jar. We’re talking slow cooked, homemade sauce that makes your mouth water the second you enter the house.

One thing I love about Italians is how hospitable they are. According to my Mom, anyone and everyone was invited to dinner when she was growing up. Despite the fact that my Grandparents didn’t have a lot of money and they had eight kids of their own to feed, there was always enough food to share with someone else. Though our household of four wasn’t quite as busy growing up, my mother still carried on that need to share food with everyone who walked through the door. Someone came to fix the plumbing? Here, have some spaghetti. A neighbor popped by to say hello? Here, have some spaghetti. One of the most admirable qualities about my mother is her never-ending generosity. My love of cooking and sharing food with those that I love is something I definitely learned from her.

An interesting fact about my Mom’s family is that each sibling makes their own sauce, but each one has a different recipe—none of which are the same as my Grandmother’s. Every time we visited Chicago when I was a child, a huge family dinner with spaghetti was in store for our first night in town. Sometimes it was Aunt Connie’s sauce, sometimes it was Aunt Mary’s sauce, sometimes it was Aunt Lee Ann’s sauce, sometimes it was Aunt Donna’s sauce… the list goes on. No matter whose sauce it was, it was always delicious. All of their sauces were different from my Mom’s sauce, but each one had a common base that made it absolutely divine.

DSC_0393When I went off to college, I quickly experienced withdrawal from my Mom’s sauce. My first time I attempted to make the sauce on my own, I remember calling her every 2 minutes. Wait, how much oregano? How long do I cook the onions and garlic? Both of my parents are excellent cooks but they never measure anything. I would be so frustrated when I called her to ask and her response would be something along the lines of “until it looks right.” I finally knew I had it right when I momentarily left my apartment and walked back in and smelled the sauce. Home. I was so excited when that smell hit me and I realized that I had done it just right. I remember thinking that I would never be able to cook without measuring, but as the years went by I started to feel like I could finally cook like my parents. Confession: The most difficult aspect of creating recipes for this blog is trying to figure out measurements after I eyeball everything!

Some important things to note before making this sauce:


  1. I’m putting a rough measurement for how much water to add to the sauce, but you have to use your judgement based on how thick or thin it is looking.
  2. I’m writing the recipe to serve 4, but you will have leftover sauce and meatballs. This sauce freezes excellently. Whatever sauce and meatballs you have left, throw in the freezer for a super easy meal later on down the road.
  3. Meatballs are optional. They add good flavor to the sauce, but it’s still delicious as a vegetarian dish.
  4. This sauce can be the base for just about anything: stuffed shells, lasagna, baked ziti, etc.
  5. It’s going to be the best spaghetti sauce you’ve ever had. Be warned.


Mom’s Spaghetti Sauce

Serves 4 (with leftovers)


1 lb pasta (we almost always use linguine, but use whatever you like)

8 cloves garlic, chopped

½ of a sweet onion, chopped

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 (6 oz) can tomato paste

1 (28 oz) can crushed San Marzano tomatoes

1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce

1.5 teaspoon dried basil

1.5 teaspoon dried oregano

Roughly 20 oz water (I use the emptied cans of tomatoes to measure this)

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Fresh basil and Parmesan cheese, for serving

For the meatballs—

1 lb ground beef (sirloin)

¼ lb ground pork

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried oregano

1 egg

1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil



  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sautée the onion and garlic for 3-4 minutes, until the onions are translucent.
  2. Add in the tomato paste, basil, and oregano. Stir to combine and let the flavors meld for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add in the San Marzano tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Turn the heat down to low and allow the sauce to simmer.
  4. If you’re making meatballs: combine all of the meatball ingredients (except for the olive oil) in a medium bowl and mix with your hands until just combined. Do not overmix.
  5. Using your hands, form small balls from the mixture (roughly 2 tablespoons per ball).
  6. In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Fry the meatballs in batches until they have a nice golden brown crust all around, about 3-5 minutes. You are not going to cook them all the way through; you are just crisping them on the outside.
  7. Drop desired amount of meatballs (I recommend 10) into the simmering sauce. Leftover meatballs can be set aside to cool. Once cooled, you can store them in a Ziploc bag and save them for future sauce.
  8. Allow the sauce to simmer uncovered for at least 2-3 hours; preferably 4-6.
  9. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain.
  10. Plate desired amount of pasta and top with sauce, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, & fresh chopped basil.
  11. Mangia (eat)!