Pasta with Alfredo Sauce

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Pasta with Alfredo Sauce.  I think it is seriously one of life’s most delicious dishes.

I have a memory of eating an absolutely perfect dish of Fettuccini Alfredo at a very cute, very old authentic Italian restaurant in San Francisco many years ago.  I think it was one of the first weekend trips that Tony and I ever took together.  For the life of me, I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but it was near Lombard Street.  It was a tiny little place…dark and candlelit inside, with wine racks built in to the walls.  I have a vague recollection of the menu being written entirely in Italian and the waiter translating every dish for us.  Could that be? At any rate, I’ve ordered Fettuccini Alfredo and made Alfredo sauce at home (with just about every kind of pasta) many, many times over the years and I’m always reminded of that lovely little Italian restaurant.

So I’ve convinced you how delicious it is, but did I mention easy too?  Really easy.  Three basic ingredients –  cream, butter and Parmesan cheese.  That’s about it.  Okay, some recipes call for a pinch of nutmeg, some add garlic, some a little lemon zest.  And its a great way to use leftovers – you can toss just about anything into the sauce – cooked chicken, shrimp, ham and all kinds of veggies – asparagus, peas, broccoli, artichoke hearts.  It’s so easy that I’m not sure why they ever even invented those frozen microwaveable versions or (even worse) the kind that comes in a box with a sauce you make from a packet…blech!

My most recent favorite Alfredo sauce recipe is from (you guessed it) the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.  Just the other night I made it with penne and added some frozen grilled asparagus spears from Trader Joe’s.

Convinced?  I think you should try it.  Really.  You won’t ever use the frozen or boxed stuff again.

 Pasta with Alfredo Sauce

adapted slightly from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook – makes 2-3 servings


8 ounces your favorite pasta

1 cup heavy cream

4 ounces (half of a stick) unsalted butter

1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest

pinch of nutmeg

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Optional – 1 cup cooked chicken or shrimp or ham and/or fresh or frozen vegetables, chopped


Bring a large pot of water to the boil.  Add the pasta, and cook according to package instructions. If using fresh vegetables, toss them in with the pasta for the last minute or two too cook.  If using frozen vegetables, they’ll only need 30 seconds or so.  Reserve about 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, and set aside.

Drain the pasta and vegetables (if using) together.

Dry out the pasta pot, and pour in the heavy cream.  Bring the cream to a simmer, and cook until slightly reduced, about 4 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the butter, and stir until it has melted. Generously season the sauce with freshly ground black pepper; add a pinch of salt, the lemon zest and nutmeg.  Add 3/4 cup of the Parmesan and stir until you have a smooth sauce.  Toss in the drained pasta and vegetables.  If using cooked chicken or ham or whatever, toss that in.  Cook the pasta in sauce for about 2 minutes, until the sauce has slightly thickened.

At this point, SK says to add the reserved pasta water by the spoonful if needed to loosen the sauce…I’ve never actually done this.

Divide the pasta among bowls.  Garnish with remaining Parmesan and chopped parsley.


Butter-Roasted Tomato Sauce

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The November/Thanksgiving issue of Bon Appétit is my second favorite issue (first being July’s “Barbecue”).  But this November, it wasn’t a Thanksgiving recipe that caught my attention.  It was this tomato pasta sauce recipe.  The description read, “Roasting coaxes depth from canned tomatoes, instilling a long-cooked flavor. A generous amount of garlic and anchovies adds even more character.”  Hmmmm.  I was pretty skeptical when I read through the recipe…I thought it actually looked too easy (and didn’t have enough ingredients) for that to be true.  Plus, one of the few ingredients is anchovies (read on).  But I know that one of our favorite restaurants when we visit our son in Portland, Nostrana, makes a gnocchi with butter tomato sauce, so I decided to try it.

Just FYI, usually if a recipe calls for anchovies, I leave them out.  But I guess I’m getting a little braver in the trying-foods-you-always-thought-you-hated department in my old age so I decided to go for it.  And, I’ve reading a lot lately about anchovies adding “umami” (you know, “Umami /uːˈmɑːmi/, a savory taste, is one of the five basic tastes…together with sweet, sour, bitter and salty”).  And FYI again, did you know that Worcestershire sauce is made from anchovies?  And I happen to really like Worcestershire. Alright. I’ll add the anchovies.

But back to the tomato sauce.  Once again, BA did not disappoint.  This is so unbelievably easy and delicious.  It takes almost no time to make and you’d think it had been simmering in a pot all day. Honestly the best tomato sauce I’ve ever had.  I don’t believe I’ll ever simmer again!  And, yes, I’ll be adding the anchovies.

Butter-Roasted Tomato Sauce

Bon Appétit, November 2013


1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes

8 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed

2 anchovy fillets packed in oil

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes plus more for serving

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

12 ounces bucatini or spaghetti

Finely grated Parmesan (for serving)


Preheat oven to 425°F. Combine tomatoes (crushing them with your hands), garlic, anchovies, butter, and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes in a 13×9″ baking dish; season with salt and black pepper.

Roast, tossing halfway through, until garlic is very soft and mixture is very thick, 35–40 minutes. Using a potato masher or fork, mash to break up garlic and tomatoes. (I mixed it a little bit with my hand blender.)

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Return pasta to pot and add tomato sauce and pasta cooking liquid. Cook over medium-high heat, tossing until sauce coats pasta, about 3 minutes. Serve topped with Parmesan and more red pepper flakes.

DO AHEAD: Tomato sauce can be made 4 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill. Reheat before mixing with pasta.

A Tale of Two Tuna Pasta Salads

Ready to take to a potluck at work!

Ready to take to a potluck at work!

Okay, so I’ve been making this one tuna pasta salad for EVER. I make it often for potlucks (especially at work) and everyone always loves it and asks for recipe. It’s bowtie pasta, tuna, peas, green onions, red bell peppers and a little cheddar cheese in a mayo dressing. The recipe was in a cookbook called “California Kosher” that I bought at a Hadassah conference (yes, I was at a Hadassah conference. Don’t know what Hadassah is? Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, is a volunteer organization that inspires a passion for and commitment to its partnership with the land and people of Israel. It enhances the health of people worldwide through its support of medical care and research at the Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem. Hadassah empowers its members and supporters, as well as youth in Israel and America through opportunities for personal growth, education, advocacy and Jewish continuity.

Okay, so I bought this cookbook at the boutique. I liked the cover. And, as it turns out, there are several recipes in there that I’ve turned to over the years (seems those Hadassah ladies are pretty good cooks).

The other day, after Tony and I had just gotten home from a two week vacation (the wedding vacation), I was looking at the U-T Food Section and saw this big headline, “Tuna Pasta Salad” and beneath that, “Lemony Pasta Salad”. We had been eating and drinking pretty well while we were away (hey, we were in Sonoma!) and I wanted to make something light for dinner. I read the ingredients – tuna, lemon juice, Dijon, arugula, tomatoes, canellini beans. I read that Fitness magazine created this entree pasta salad for Starkist. I suppose if Fitness magazine made up the recipe, it must be healthy too, right? Okay. Done. Decision made.

tuna arugula salad 2

It was delicious. For dinner that night and even better for lunch at work the next day. So now you’ve got two tuna pasta salads to choose from. Both are yummy. A tried and true traditional one and a slightly updated, more modern one. Either would be great to take to your next potluck or for a nice light summer dinner.

Tuna Pasta Salad (Hadassah version)
2 cups farfalle (bowtie) pasta (or any other smallish pasta – shells, elbows, etc.)
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup frozen peas, uncooked
½ cup chopped green onions
2 6-1/2 ounce cans good quality tuna, drained and flaked
¾ cup (appx.) mayonnaise
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup cubed or coarsely shredded cheddar cheese

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until “al dente”. When ready to drain the pasta, put the frozen peas in the colander, then pour the hot cooked pasta on top of the peas (this will cook them enough).

In large bowl, toss vegetables and pasta together with tuna. In small bowl, combine honey and mayonnaise; gently stir into salad. Stir in cheese just before serving.

Note: best if made the day before

Tuna Pasta Salad (Starkist version)
8 ounces farfalle (bowtie pasta)
2 6-1/2 ounce cans good quality tuna, drained and flaked
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 heaping teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
2 cups tightly packed baby arugula
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
4 teaspoons grated Parmesan

Cook farfalle according to package directions. Drain, rinse under cold water and drain again.

Drain tuna and transfer to a small bowl. Break into rough chunks, drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil and toss gently.

In a large bowl, whisk together lemon zest and juice, remaining oil, garlic, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper.

Add farfalle, beans, tomatoes, arugula and onion to bowl; toss well to combine. Add tuna; toss gently. Divide among 4 plates; top each serving with 1 teaspoon Parmesan.

Chicken Tequila Fettucine

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“Sammy’s answers pasta plea.  By Caroline Dipping.”  That was the title of this article in the San Diego Union-Tribune “Readers Ask” column in January 2005. I’m not sure why it made me laugh, but it did.  Was it the corny title?  Or was it that the food editor’s last name is Dipping?

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At any rate, the reader was asking for the recipe for Chicken Tequila Fettucine from Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza, a favorite San Diego restaurant.  Tony and I really like the food at Sammy’s (though I’ve actually never ordered this pasta).  We always order the Grilled Chicken Balsamic Salad (creatures of habit) and a pizza (we do mix up the pizzas a bit…love the Thai Chicken and New York Style).

Okay, so Caroline Dipping made me laugh and the recipe sounded yummy and I know the food at Sammy’s is good, so I tried it and have made it countless times since.  It’s delicious…the sauce is flavorful and creamy, with a touch of tequila and a little kick from a jalapeño pepper.

And I still chuckle every time I pull out the recipe.

Chicken Tequila Fettuccine

(adapted slightly from Sammy’s via the U-T...the original recipe calls for a couple tablespoons of soy sauce, but I don’t think it needs it.)


8 ounces chicken breast, diced into 1/2-inch pieces

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

4 tablespoons butter

1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 medium red onion, quartered, sliced

1/2 jalapeño chile, seeded, minced

2 tablespoons tequila

3/4 cup chicken broth

2 cups heavy cream

4 tablespoons cilantro leaves (divided use)

Juice from 1 lime

12 ounces cooked spinach fettuccine


In a bowl, mix diced chicken with olive oil and minced garlic. Set aside.

Heat a large, heavy saute pan. Add butter and melt. Add the diced garlic chicken, stirring occasionally until well-browned on all sides. Add bell pepper, onion and jalapeño. Continue cooking until vegetables soften.

Add tequila and chicken broth. Cook, reducing the mixture until there is just a little liquid left. Add the heavy cream, 2 tablespoons of the cilantro and the lime juice. Cook until sauce thickens.

Add the cooked and well-drained spinach fettuccine to the cream mixture. Toss until pasta is hot and well-coated. Divide pasta into 2 large bowls and top with remaining cilantro. Serve hot.

Penne with Creamy Sausage Sauce

Okay, so this dish has been made probably more often than any other in the Bruser recipe lineup.  Saucy Pasta…formerly known as Kyle’s Favorite Pasta.  It’s actually called Penne with Creamy Sausage Sauce, but really it should be called Everyone’s Favorite Pasta.  When the kids were in high school, any time any of their friends would come for dinner, they’d ask me to make Saucy Pasta.  And I’m not even sure why we started calling it Saucy Pasta…maybe one of the kids thought I said saucy instead of sausage?  Whatever you call it…its one of our favorites.  A little spicy (or saucy?) from the hot Italian sausage and a lot creamy from the thickened whipped cream and Parmesan.

The recipe is from the Bonnie Stern CKFM Cookbook.   What? You’ve never heard of the Bonnie Stern CKFM Cookbook?  That’s because it’s at least 25 years old and Bonnie Stern is (or was?) quite the celebrity food person in Toronto, Canada. I’m pretty sure my sister-in-law Cheryl (from Vancouver) bought me the book.  In fact, I think probably back when Tony & I were first married and  visiting Vancouver, we were having dinner at Cheryl’s, she made it and I was like, “this is the best thing ever…what is it?” and then she sent me a copy (autographed, no less) of the cookbook.

So there you go.  The history of Saucy Pasta/Kyle’s Favorite Pasta/Penne with Creamy Sausage Sauce.  It’s definitely a keeper.

Penne with Creamy Sausage Sauce


3 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb. hot Italian sausages

1 cup whipping cream

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 lb. penne

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped


Heat the oil in a large skillet.  Add the sausage, breaking it into pieces and crumbling it with a wooden spoon while it cooks.  Add the garlic.  Cook sausage until all traces of pink disappear.

Add the whipping cream and nutmeg and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 10 minutes or until the cream reduces and the sauce thickens somewhat.

Meanwhile, cook the penne according to package directions.  Drain the pasta, but do not rinse.

Toss the drained pasta back into the sauce.  Stir in the cheese and basil and toss until the cheese is melted and warmed though.

Nacho Mac

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Okay, the official name given by Bon Appétit (March, 2007) is Nacho Macaroni and Cheese. We call it Nacho Mac, but you have to say it like “Not CHO Mac”, as in, “my mac…not YO mac”. Get it? LOL. Alright, it’s a silly little Bruser family thing. But this is definitely one of the Bruser family’s favorite dishes. It goes without saying that any time one or both of the kids are home, I’ll make it.

It’s really easy and one of the best macaroni & cheese’s I’ve ever had. I mean, come on…tortilla chips and salsa verde baked into macaroni & cheese? Make it. And then you’ll walk around saying “Not CHO Mac”, too.


2 cups elbow macaroni

1/2 cup bottled thick and chunky salsa verde

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves

3 cups (packed) coarsley grated sharp cheddar cheese (12 ounces), divided

4 teaspoons flour

1 cup whole milk

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup tortilla chips


Preheat oven to 425°F. Cook macaroni in large saucepan of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, blend salsa and cilantro in food processor or blender. Toss 2 cups cheese and flour in medium bowl to coat.

Bring milk, cream, and cloves to simmer in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add cheese mixture. Whisk until sauce is smooth, about 1 minute. Mix in macaroni; season with pepper.

Spread half of macaroni mixture in a casserole/baking dish. Drop half of salsa mixture over in dollops. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup cheese. Top with remaining macaroni mixture and salsa mixture. Sprinkle chips over. Top with 1/2 cup cheese. Bake until heated through, about 10 minutes.