Pasta with Lemon Pepper Parmesan Cream Sauce

Holy wow you guys. I sort of… accidentally made this one day for lunch. (Yes, really, “accidentally.”) It turned out so awesome that I tweaked it a bit and adjusted the recipe to serve four people. This is a fabulous quick and easy dinner or lunch idea, and is definitely versatile!

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For a lighter dish, this would be good without any meat at all. However, to make it a little heartier, saute up your choice of protein to go into the pasta. I chose kielbasa, which everyone knows is my favorite, but any smoked sausage would do. You could also use chicken (2 large breasts cut into bite size pieces), or even ground turkey (about a pound). The main point is just that the meat is fully cooked before anything else goes into the pan.

In my case, since I used kielbasa, my meat was already cooked through. I just browned it in the pan with some olive oil for a few minutes, then added 1 diced sweet onion. (Sweet onions are pretty small, so using a whole one shouldn’t be overpowering.)

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Let those sweat on medium-high for about two minutes, then add in 3 cloves of minced garlic and let simmer for one more minute.

Then, keeping the heat fairly high, add in the juice and zest of a large lemon, 3/4 cup of half & half, and 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese. Quickly stir this together so it combines and the cheese starts to melt, and then let it reduce for about two minutes.

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While it’s reducing, add in two teaspoons of fresh cracked pepper, and then salt and basil to taste. (I didn’t need as much salt since I used a cured meat – it’s to your taste!) Once the sauce has thickened, add 1 pint of halved cherry tomatoes. Stir these in and then remove the pan from the heat.

Add the sauce to cooked pasta of your choice, top with more shredded Parmesan, and serve! I used penne pasta for mine.

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I’m of the opinion that anything with a lemon-pepper flair is amazing, but I’m telling you, this pasta is shockingly good! And it’s totally fancy enough to entertain with. 🙂

Full Recipe:

Pasta with Lemon Pepper Parmesan Cream Sauce

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 package of kielbasa, cut into coins (or enough of your choice of meat to serve 4)
1 small sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Zest & juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup half & half
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
2 teaspoons fresh cracked black pepper
Salt & Basil, to taste
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

Process:

1) Brown kielbasa with olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes, tossing occasionally. Add sweet onion and saute for another two minutes. Finish off with garlic and let simmer for one final minute.

2) Keeping pan over medium-high heat, add juice and zest of the lemon, half & half, and Parmesan cheese. Stir to combine and let reduce for about 2 minutes.

3) While sauce is reducing, add pepper, salt, and basil, and stir in.

4) Once sauce has thickened, stir in cherry tomatoes and remove from the heat.

5) Toss a cooked pasta of your choice with the sauce, plate, and top with Parmesan cheese before serving.

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Potato-Sausage Hash with Scrambled Eggs

Everyone always seems to have creative, interesting, different ideas for lunch and dinner and even dessert, but it seems like breakfast is often thought of with very little care, or just cast off and forgotten entirely. As evidenced by past posts like my Apple Cinnamon Pancakes and 4 Simple Breakfast Ideas, I’m determined to give breakfast the credit it’s due!

This dish is great for mornings when you’ve got some time for a hearty breakfast to share, but you’re tired of the sweetness of pancakes, waffles, or french toast. This one will keep you full for hours and is really easy to prepare!

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Start by dicing a large red potato and coating a medium skillet in olive oil over medium-low heat. Add your potatoes to the heated pan, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Keep tossing them every minute or so. Meanwhile you can dice up about 8 inches of a smoked sausage.

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Once your potatoes have started to brown, add your sausage and season with some additional salt and about 1/2 tsp of thyme and 1/4 tsp of garlic powder. Toss to combine and continue to let this simmer for another 3-5 minutes, tossing every minute or so. Meanwhile, dice up 1/4 of an onion and 1/4 of a green pepper.

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Once the sausage is beginning to brown, add your diced onion and pepper into the pan and season with 1/4 tsp of cumin and 1/4 tsp of cayenne. (If you don’t like your breakfast to have much spiciness, leave the cayenne out.) Toss to combine, cover, and let simmer for another 3-5 minutes.

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While this is simmering, prepare your eggs. There is a real art to getting scrambled eggs perfectly light and fluffy without being overdone, and I’m here to reveal that secret to you!

Start by cracking three eggs into a small bowl and adding only 3 tbsp of milk (or less!) along with a few dashes of salt and then whisking this together with a fork.

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: You don’t need any more than 1 tbsp of milk per egg that you’re scrambling, and you don’t need to whisk them to death. Just get the eggs so the yolks are nice and broken up and it’s fairly well combined, but don’t try to beat out every last trace of the whites of the eggs.

Heat a small skillet over low heat and melt about 1/2 tbsp of butter in it. Then, add your eggs and LEAVE THEM ALONE!

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Let this cook nice and slowly (about 1-2 minutes) over that low heat until you see that the egg is starting to cook through (the clear portions will be turning white). The top layer will still be pretty much uncooked at this point.

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Once this happens, crank your heat up to high and quickly move the eggs around the pan with a spatula until they are almost all the way cooked. They should still be a little wet when you turn off the heat!

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MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Leaving the eggs just slightly wet when you remove them from the heat prevents them from getting overdone. The residual heat within the eggs themselves and the still-hot pan will finish the cooking process for you in the time it takes to get them from the pan to the plate!

By now, your hash should be perfectly done. Take the lid off the skillet and give it a final toss to get it ready for the eggs.

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Remove your eggs from the pan and then top the hash with the scrambled eggs. Of course, if you’re splitting this dish, you’ll want to plate this separately. 😉

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Full Recipe:

Potato-Sausage Breakfast Hash with Scrambled Eggs

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients:

1 large red potato, diced
8 inches (about) of smoked sausage, diced
1/4 green pepper, diced
1/4 onion, diced
1 tbsp olive oil

Salt & pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne

3 eggs
3 tbsp milk
1/2 tbsp butter

Process:

1) Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat, then add potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat and let simmer for about 5 minutes, tossing occasionally.

2) After 5 minutes once the potatoes have begun to brown, add diced sausage and then season with thyme and garlic powder. Toss to coat and let simmer for another 3-5 minutes, tossing occasionally.

3) After 3-5 minutes once the sausage has begun to brown, add diced onion and pepper and then season with cumin and cayenne. Toss to combine and then cover and let simmer for another 3-5 minutes.

4) While this is simmering, crack 3 eggs into a small bowl and beat together with 3 tbsp milk and a few dashes of salt. Melt butter in a small skillet over low heat, then add eggs and allow to slowly cook for about 1-2 minutes.

5) Once you see the eggs beginning to cook through, turn the heat up to high and move them quickly around the pan with a spatula until they are almost cooked through, but still a little wet.

6) Remove the lid from your hash and give a final toss before plating on two dishes. Divide the eggs between the two dishes and then serve immediately.

*Super Bowl Week* Puff Pastry Mini Pizzas

Okay, so far in Super Bowl week we’ve paid tribute to Mexico with the taco crescents and good ol’ America with the bacon cheeseburger sliders, so I think it’s time to tip the hat to the flavors of my favorite country, Italy!

The classic combinations of tomato, basil, and mozzarella in these little beauties are definitely reminiscent of Italy, but I did put my own spin on it by using puff pastry and Kielbasa sausage! If you wanted to be more true to Italy in your meat choice, salami is extremely popular there!

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Start off with two sheets of puff pastry (one package) and let them thaw out on the counter. (About 30-40 minutes.) Once they’re nearly thawed, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a frying pan over medium-low heat, saute 1 diced green pepper and 1/2 package of kielbasa cut into small pieces, tossing occasionally, for about 3 minutes or until the sausage has started to brown. Set aside.

Take the thawed pastry sheets and cut each one into 9 equal squares. (18 total.) Lay them out on your prepared baking sheets, and then score a crust around the edge of each square.

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Doing your best to stay inside the scored square, spread about 1 tsp or so of tomato sauce onto the dough and then sprinkle with salt, pepper, basil, and garlic powder. (If you like things on the spicy side, add a touch of cayenne, too!)

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On top of the sauce, add about 1 tsp each of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Carefully add your sausage and pepper on top of the cheese, evenly distributing to all 18 pizzas.

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Once they are all assembled, bake for 12-15 minutes or until the pastry has puffed up and is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a minute or two and then serve!

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These are absolutely delicious and packed with flavor, and the lightness of the puff pastry means they aren’t too heavy to go with anything else you might be serving!

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The best part is that these are super flexible – you can top them with whatever you like! No matter what your culinary taste is, I’m sure there’s a million different ways you could make these to suit you!

Full Recipe:

Puff Pastry Mini Pizzas

Yield: 18 pizzas

Ingredients:

2 sheets puff pastry, thawed
1/2 (14oz) package of kielbasa, cut into small pieces
1 green pepper, diced
1/3 cup tomato sauce
Salt, pepper, basil, garlic powder, cayenne – all to taste.
1/3 cup mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese

Process:

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

2) In a frying pan over medium-low heat, saute diced peppers and sausage for about 3 minutes or until sausage has begun to brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

3) Cut each sheet of puff pastry into 9 equal squares (18 total) and lay them on the baking sheets. Score a crust along the edges of each square.

4) Staying within the scored square, spread 1 tsp of tomato sauce onto each square and then sprinkle seasonings on to taste.

5) On top of the sauce, add mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, about 1 tsp of each cheese per square.

6) Carefully add the sausage and peppers to the top of each pizza, distributing it evenly to all 18 pizzas.

7) Bake for 12-15 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Remove from oven, allow to cool for 1-2 minutes, and then serve immediately.

Tuscan Pasta with Sausage in Lemon Blush Sauce

This one’s gonna be good – we’re traveling to Italy for this one! 🙂

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve had the pleasure of going to Italy and exploring the various culinary tastes the country has to offer. Tuscany is probably my favorite region of Italy… Rome is great and all, especially for history buffs, but it’s housed in the central coastal territory of Lazio. Tuscany is just above Lazio, also on the coast, but contains gorgeous scenery and fabulous cities like Lucca, Pisa, and my favorite, Florence. (Known to the Italians as Firenze. Also, Tuscany in Italian is referred to as Toscana.)

If you’ll allow me to nerd out for just a moment, here’s a couple photos from Florence that may help to illustrate why I love it so much: (More photos at the bottom from Lucca and Pisa.)

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Both photos were taken along the famous Arno river. And if the beautiful scenery isn’t enough to convince you, just know that Florence is known for farming… especially cattle. Which means fabulous leather goods for a fraction of what you’d pay in the States, and: the best. steak. ever. No joke.

Once you get finished booking your flight to Italy, though, I’ll show you how to create a dish (albeit it not steak) that just oozes Toscana with every bite.

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Blush sauce is this fabulous blend between a cream sauce and a red tomato-based (pomodoro) sauce. I kicked up the pasta a little by adding smoked sausage, but this would also be great meat-less, as well!

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The prep photos I show are for my lowly serving for one person, but I’ve adjusted the recipe for this blog post to feed four to six people. So, when your pans look fuller than mine, don’t panic!

Cook your pasta according to the directions on the package. I used Farfalle (bow-tie) pasta but you could do any bite-size pasta. Penne would also be great! A one pound box of pasta is typically enough for 4-6 servings.

While you’re waiting for your water to boil, do some prep work. Dice 1/4 of a large onion (or 1/2 of a small one), mince 3 cloves of garlic, take a cup of cherry tomatoes and cut each one in half lengthwise, and cut one package of smoked sausage (usually 14 oz) into 1/2 inch pieces. (I really like kielbasa, but any smoked sausage would do!)

Once you add your pasta to the boiling water, add your sausage to a large frying pan coated in olive oil over medium high heat. As long as you’re using smoked sausage, you only need to brown it. If you’re using a raw sausage (such as chorizo) then you should cook the links first, then cut them, and then combine them with the rest of the ingredients.

Once the sausage has browned (only a couple of minutes), add the diced onion and 1 cup of frozen peas. Toss this to combine, then reduce heat to low and cover.

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Let that simmer for 4-5 minutes, then add your minced garlic. Toss to combine, let cook for an additional minute, and then remove everything from the pan into your serving dish (temporarily).

Return the pan to your burner on low heat and add 1 & 1/2 cup tomato sauce and 4 ounces of cream cheese. (Half an 8oz block.)

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Stir this gently for a minute or two until the cream cheese has melted and is incorporated into the sauce. Add in about 3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese and melt this in as well, along with the juice of 1 lemon, salt, pepper, and basil, then remove it from the heat and add in your halved cherry tomatoes. (To make it extra lemony, add in the zest from the lemon as well!)

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Once you’ve drained your pasta, add it to the serving dish on top of the sausage and pour the sauce on top. Stir it to combine everything, and serve topped with fresh grated Parmesan.

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Full Recipe: (Extra Italy photos are below the recipe.)

Tuscan Style Pasta in Blush Sauce

Yield: About 4 servings

Ingredients:

One box uncooked bite-size pasta (like Farfalle or Penne)
4 quarts water

1 tbsp olive oil
1 package smoked sausage, like kielbasa, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 large red onion, diced
1 cup frozen peas
3 cloves garlic, minced

1 & 1/2 cups tomato sauce
4 ounces cream cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
Juice of 1 lemon (zest optional)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp basil

Process:

1) Cook pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, proceed with the remaining steps.

2) Coat a large frying pan in olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add sliced sausage and brown for 3-4 minutes.

3) Reduce heat on frying pan to low, then add peas and diced onion. Toss to combine. Cover and let simmer for 4-5 minutes.

4) Uncover sausage and add minced garlic. Cook for another minute, then remove everything to your serving dish.

5) Return pan to low heat and add tomato sauce and cream cheese. Stir gently until cream cheese is melted, and then add in 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

6) Once all of the cheese has melted, stir in lemon juice, salt, pepper, basil, and tomatoes. Remove from heat. Add sauce and drained pasta to serving dish. Stir to combine and serve immediately. Garnish with fresh grated Parmesan.

As promised, here’s a few more photos from around Tuscany…

This one is in Lucca, during the early afternoon when all the shops were closed for lunch.

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Three guesses where this one’s from! Yes, it really does “lean”! It was originally intended to be the bell tower for the cathedral, but obviously since it’s always been leaning, it never made it to that purpose!

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This is also in Pisa, looking from the tower back toward the entrance to the walled section of the city. This building is the baptistry, the first of the three iconic buildings of Pisa. (In between the tower and the baptistry is the cathedral.)

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This one is, of course, not in Tuscany, since I said earlier that Rome is located in Lazio, but I couldn’t resist adding this super romantic night time Colosseum photo!

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