Tortellini with Chicken and Pesto

tortellini with chicken and pesto

Once upon a time during my early years of teaching, I would prepare this recipe on a school night solely for the purpose of having leftovers to bring with me for lunch at school the next day. My first teaching teammate loved this dish, and I always brought enough to share with her. I visited my original “teacher wife” last week. The pasta dish came up during my visit, and she talked about how it is one of her grandson’s favorite meals. I had not thought about this recipe in years.

The dish is an easy weeknight meal, can be cooked in one pot, and works well reheated the next day. It is also a good alternative to one of my other favorite pasta dishes– Pasta with Pesto and Peas.

tortellini with chicken and pesto in bowl

Ingredients

  • 2 T. pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 bunch of broccoli cut into bite sized pieces (~3 cups)
  • 1 family sized package of cheese filled tortellini (~20 oz.)
  • 1 lb. boneless chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. pepper
  • 1 – 1 1/2 c. pesto (purchased or homemade)
  • grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

  • In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add the broccoil and cook until crisp-tender, ~3-5 minutes. Remove broccoli from the water with a slotted spoon (save the broccoli water!) and drain in a colander. Set to the side.
  • Return broccoli water to a boil. Add the tortellini and cook according to package directions. Drain well and set to the side.
  • Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt and pepper.

tortellini chicken

  • In the empty pot that cooked the broccoli and tortellini, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook through, ~3-4 minutes. Remove some of the excess cooking juice before continuing.
  • Add the broccoli and tortellini to the chicken, tossing until heated through. Remove from heat and add the pesto to taste. Stir gently until the tortellini, chicken, and broccoli are coated with pesto.

tortellini broccoli chicken

  • Garnish with pine nuts and grated Parmesan. Serve hot.

tortellini with chicken and pesto close

Notes

  • Can be refrigerated and reheated in the microwave. It is a great teacher lunch or meal at the office.

Family Picnic

sun dried tomato pasta salad

We attended the annual end of year family picnic for my son’s Cub Scout den. The other moms usually request my Pasta with Pesto and Peas side dish that both adults and children love, but I decided to go rogue this year and bring a sun-dried tomato pasta salad.

The recipe is a little risky because it uses black olives. Many people (meaning TheRoomMom) avoid olives. However, this recipe has just enough olives to give a salty/briny taste without actually having a super olive-y flavor. I originally got the recipe from an Ina Garten cookbook and have tweaked it a little over time. With Memorial Day picnics just around the corner, this recipe might be something to consider.

Salad Ingredients

  • 1 lb. fusili pasta (corkscrew pasta)
  • kosher salt
  • good olive oil
  • 1 lb. ripe tomatoes, medium-diced
  • 1/4 c. black kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1 lb. fresh mozarella, medium-diced
  • 6 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
  • 1 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 c. basil leaves cut in chiffonade (thin ribbons)

Dressing Ingredients

  • 5 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
  • 2 T. red wine vinegar
  • 6 T. good olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, diced
  • 1 t. capers, drained
  • 2 t. kosher salt
  • 3/4 t. freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  • Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water for the time given in the directions on the box (about 12 minutes). Drain well. Add pasta to a large bowl, and toss with a little olive oil (~2 t.) to keep from sticking together. Let the pasta cool.

sun dried tomato tomatoes

  • While pasta is cooling, seed the tomatoes and dice. I used Roma tomatoes because they looked like they would be the reddest and tastiest of my choices in the store. If you can get really good homegrown tomatoes in another variety, use them.
  • Pit (if needed) and chop the black olives into a very small dice. Chop 6 sun-dried tomatoes. Cut the mozzarella into medium dice.

sun dried tomato ingredients

  • Add diced tomatoes, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and mozzarella to the cooled pasta and toss gently.

sun dried tomato dressing

  • For the dressing, combine the dressing ingredients (sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, capers, salt, and pepper) in a food processor and run the food processor until the dressing is almost smooth.

sun dried tomato add dressing

  • Pour the dressing over the pasta and toss well.
  • Just before serving, add basil and Parmesan cheese and toss again.

Notes

  • Can be made ahead.
  • It is served at room temperature, so it works well for tailgates, picnics, or group meals.
  • Diced artichoke hearts are a good addition.
  • Pairs well with grilled chicken or grilled steaks.

sun dried tomato paste close

 

Mac and Cheese

macaroni and cheese baked

I eat carbs and lots of them. Some of my favorite carb alternatives are mashed potatoes, french fries, and chocolate chip cookies. The top of my carb list, however, has to be macaroni and cheese.

I have been perfecting my macaroni and cheese dish since 1993. I started out with the basic recipe my mom always used. She cooked the macaroni noodles, drained them, added butter, milk, and chunks of cheddar cheese in with the noodles and heated on the stovetop. Before baking in a casserole dish in the oven, she added some crumbled Saltine crackers and a few pats of butter to the top. I loved her macaroni and cheese. Little did I know how much better it could be.

Here is the recipe that kicked off the macaroni and cheese improvement plan. I am posting the original recipe but am also including some RoomMom modifications at the end. I will eat this dish for dinner, leftover for breakfast, or packed in a school lunch to be eaten at room temperature.

Ingredients

  • 6 T. butter
  • 1 lb. corkscrew pasta (cavatappi)
  • 5 1/2 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 t. freshly ground pepper
  • 2 t. salt
  • 3 c. grated white cheddar cheese
  • 3 c. grated orange cheddar cheese

macaroni and cheese cheese

Directions

  • Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 casserole dish with Pam.
  • Fill a large saucepan with salted water, bring to a boil, then cook pasta according to directions on the box. Follow the time for al dente.
  • Transfer pasta to a colander, drain well, and set aside.

macaroni and cheese noodles

  • In the empty saucepan, melt 6 T. butter over medium heat. When butter bubbles, stir in flour. Cook, whisking, for about one minute.

macaroni and cheese roux

  • Continue to whisk and add milk a little at a time. After adding all of the milk, whisk constantly for about 7 minutes or so until the sauce thickens and bubbles around the edges. Remove from heat.

macaroni and cheese sauce

  • Stir in salt, pepper, 2 1/4 cups of each of the cheeses.
  • Add cooked pasta to the sauce and stir until the sauce covers the pasta.
  • Add the pasta and sauce mixture to the casserole dish, sprinkle with remaining grated cheese, and bake until golden brown on top (about 25 minutes).

macaroni and cheese casserole

Notes

  • I use any non-spaghetti like pasta I have on hand. I make this dish with elbow macaroni, penne, bow tie noodles, shell noodles, or any other smaller sized noodle.
  • I like to mix up the cheese. I use about the amount called for in the recipe, but I usually use a combination of whatever is in my refrigerator. I always have cheddar as the main cheese. I like Cracker Barrel extra sharp orange and Cracker Barrel Vermont white. I usually reduce the cheddar amount a little and supplement with freshly grated Parmesan, some freshly grated Swiss, and I recently started adding several slices of American. Other than the American, I think the cheese needs to be grated at home. The pre-grated cheese does not have as much flavor or melt as well (in my opinion).
  • I eyeball the butter, flour, and milk amounts. If you are following this recipe for the first time, cook as instructed. Adjust to your taste the next time you make it (and I firmly believe you will be making this recipe a second time).