This week’s post was inspired by a request from both my mom and college-aged daughter asking for the dinner recipes I made for them. It turns out, they are quite easy to make using fresh ingredients you may already have in your pantry or refrigerator. They also come together quickly and are perfect for a weeknight meal when you want something satisfying but simple.

Whether it’s bow-tie, penne, orecchiette or conchiglie, use whatever pasta you like and/or have on-hand; cook it according to the manufacturer’s directions before adding your fresh ingredients. You’ll also notice I have not added a “sauce” per se. Instead, use the liquid from your cooked pasta along with goat cheese or feta cheese to make a nice creamy sauce.

Dinner Recipe 1 – Salmon & Asparagus Pasta with Feta Cheese (or Goat Cheese)

asparagusIngredients:

  • 8 oz. cooked pasta of your choice
  • 8 oz. smoked salmon or 2 salmon fillets, center cut- seasoned with salt & pepper or other spices of your choice (I like Old Bay Seasoning) or my own rosemary-salt rub
  • 4 oz. feta cheese (or goat cheese, if preferred)
  • 2 medium caramelized leeks (sliced, cooked over low heat with 1 Tablespoon butter and 1 Tablespoon olive oil until soft and slightly browned) or substitute 1 cup chopped and caramelized onion if leeks are not available at your store or are not in season
  • 1 bunch grilled asparagus – asparagus will have the best flavor if grilled, but asparagus roasted in your oven is fine (400 degrees, 8-10 minutes, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper), or you can steam them on you stovetop (2 minutes only and then immediately tossed in ice water to stop the cooking process). You want nice bright green stalks, not a drab olive green color – this signals that they’ve been over-cooked!
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes (halved)
  • Pasta water – just enough to soften the feta cheese or goat cheese to create a creamy “sauce.” Start with 1/4 cup and add more as needed

For garnish:

  • 4 green onions finely chopped
  • 4 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Optional ingredients:

  • 4 Tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 4 Tablespoons chopped black Kalamata olives (canned black can be substituted if you prefer)
  • 4 Tablespoons white wine instead of pasta water

Directions: Toss all ingredients together and serve.

Serves 4 to 6

Dinner Diva Tip: If you don’t have “leftover” salmon from a previous meal, here’s how to sear the salmon fillets:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick skillet and season the salmon with salt, pepper and any other spices or spice rub you like. Start with the salmon at room temperature, and add the fish skin-side up, to your hot pan. Sear on medium-high heat for approximately 2 minutes or until fish is partially cooked and slightly browned on the bottom. Immediately turn the fish, skin-side-down, and place the entire contents in your hot oven. Finish cooking for approximately 4 to 6 minutes in your oven, until the fish is cooked through and flaky. The actual time in the oven will depend on the thickness of the fillets.

Note: If possible, use fillets that around the same size. Do not try to cook a center cut piece and tail piece at the same time – the thinner one will cook faster and dry out. Have your butcher cut perfect portion sizes for you if you can’t do it yourself.

Once cooked & cooled, remove the skin and tear the fish into bite-size pieces. Toss with the pasta and other fresh ingredients.

Download and print the recipe here.

Dinner Recipe 2: Sautéed Peppers & Onions Over Pasta

peppersIngredients:

  • 1 package of prepared, cooked Italian sausage (it could be chicken, turkey or pork, usually there are 4 in a package), sliced diagonally
  • 2 medium onions (yellow, white or red – your choice), sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeds removed, cut into strips
  • 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, seeds removed, cut into strips
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeds removed, cut into strips
  • 4 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 Tablespoons red wine
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh, chopped garlic

Optional:

  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste (to thicken sauce), if needed
  • 1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce (or homemade using fresh tomatoes, garlic and basil)

Garnish:

  • 4 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 Tablespoons parmesan cheese

Directions:

In a large skillet, heat olive oil and add the sliced sausage and sauté until browned. Set aside. In the same pan, add the sliced onions, peppers and garlic. Cook until softened and slightly browned.

De-glaze the pan with the wine. Add the browned sausage back to the pan along with any juices and the cooked pasta of your choice. For a lighter dish, add fresh tomatoes to the pan and toss with additional wine or pasta water until the desired consistency is reached. For a more traditional Italian dish, add marinara sauce to the finished pasta.

Serves 4 to 6

Download and print the recipe here.

Now dinner is ready to go! Will you try the Salmon & Asparagus Pasta with Feta Cheese (or Goat Cheese) or the Sautéed Peppers & Onions over Pasta recipe first?

Mary Hathaway, Owner of Dinner Diva, has been a personal chef since 2002. She cooks regularly for clients who have special dietary needs, value healthy cooking by using organic products where possible and those who want healthy family meals but have no time to cook. Whether it’s a dinner for 4, a holiday party for 20, or a set of meals for the week, all of the meals are customized to her client’s needs or lifestyle. Go to: Dinner-Diva.com for more info.