Colorful Shrimp Pasta Salad

shrimp salad

This shrimp pasta salad has all the components of spring, it has bright colors and it’s light and fresh. This salad can be a stand alone lunch, a light dinner or the perfect side dish to have for spring and summer cookouts.

Colorful spring vegetables are incorporated into this salad and finished off with a creamy lemon dressing that clings to every bite.

farfalle pasta

This pasta salad looks pretty made with rainbow colored pasta, there are so many shapes and sizes available today and the different colors add to the vibrancy of the dish. You definitely want to choose ones that are healthy, the ones that are actually colored with natural foods, things like carrot, beet root, tumeric and spinach  which will also enhance the flavor as well.

I would encourage you to seek them out, I found this cute farfalle shape but again there are so many more!


grilled shrimp

You can poach the shrimp, roast the shrimp or grill it, either way will work, just have it done ahead of time.

spring pasta salad

Now that winter is behind us it’s time to tuck those comfort foods away and to brighten things up and this pasta salad is just the thing!

Colorful Shrimp Pasta Salad
  • ½. lb. cooked shrimp, roasted, grilled or poached, cooled down
  • ½ lb. colored pasta, cooked, drained and rinsed cold. Pat dry so no wetness sticks to the pasta
  • 1 lb of fresh asparagus, cut in half and blanched for 2 minutes in boiling water then plunged into ice water, then patted dry of water.
  • ½ cup of peas, if fresh pre-cook, if frozen, defrost
  • ½ of a red pepper and ½ yellow pepper, diced
  • ¼ red onion, small dice
  • 3 radishes, sliced thin
  • ½ of english cucumber, sliced thin
  • hand full or arugula or chopped romaine lettuce
  • tablespoon each of chopped parsley and chopped basil
  • 1 part fresh lemon juice
  • 3 parts olive oil
  • 1 small dollop of Dijon
  • 2 or 3 small chopped garlic cloves
  • 2 Tablespoons of full fat mayo
  1. Add all the dressing components into a jar and whisk it up together. ( You'll have extra) set aside.
  2. Take all your components, the cooked pasta, shrimp, asparagus, peas, chopped peppers, onions, radishes, parsley, basil, arugula or romaine and place them into a nice big bowl.
  3. Toss gently together, evenly dispersed, then spoon in your lemon dressing, taste as you go adding salt and pepper, more herbs if you like.
  4. Be careful not to overload the dressing so as not to make it soggy.
  5. Place pasta salad into a nice platter and serve!



Spring Vegetable Ricotta Tart with Phyllo

spring vegetable ricotta tart What do you do with a bunch of asparagus, some artichoke hearts, a handful of fava beans, a leek and a few cherry tomatoes? You make a tart of course!

I always buy a pound or two of ricotta every week and I like to keep a box of phyllo dough handy at all times, it’s amazing what you can do with it, it’s so easy and forgiving to work with, and besides, I love the crunch factor it gives!

spring vegetable ricotta tart The ricotta cheese is pumped up and flavored with a hint of garlic, fresh basil, grated romano, asiago and fontina cheeses and an egg which makes for a creamy and very flavorful filling  to have on top of the crunchy phyllo.

spring vegetable tart

Press your pre-roasted vegetables right into the ricotta mixture and bake until the phyllo reaches a rich golden brown and the ricotta sets up.

All you’ll need is a salad on the side and your spring meal is complete!

avocado and tomato salad This is the salad I served with my tart, a combination of tomatoes, avocado and olives on a bed of arugula with a lemon and olive oil dressing.

Dig in, you won’t even miss the meat!

Spring Vegetable Ricotta Tart with Phyllo
  • I used an 11½" x 7½" rectangle tart pan with removable bottom so the recipe will reflect that size pan, but feel free to adjust the recipe if using a 9 or 10 inch round tart pan instead.
  • 4 cups of ricotta, drained
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • handfull of chopped fresh basil
  • ½ cup of grated romano cheese
  • ½ cup of grated fontina
  • ½ cup of grated asiago
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 sheets of phyllo dough
  • olive oil, preferably in spray form
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, cut in half diagonally
  • a large leek, cleaned thoroughly and sliced into rounds
  • ½ cup cooked and shelled fava beans or replace with peas
  • 1 heaping cup or so of artichoke hearts
  • 1 cup or so cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  1. Pre-roast all veggies except the tomatoes, if using fava beans have them preboiled with skins off, if using peas instead, frozen and defrosted is fine.
  2. In a bowl whip the romano, asiago, fontina along with the basil, garlic and eggs into the ricotta until well incorporated.
  3. Layer each sheet of phyllo one by one into your olive oil greased tart pan fitting it in around the bottom and sides and spraying or brushing each sheet with olive oil as you go, if it rips don't worry it will look fine in the end.
  4. When finished layering each sheet spread the ricotta mixture all over.
  5. Press your veggies all around into the ricotta.
  6. Drizzle the top of the tart and sides of dough with olive oil, sprinkle with romano and bake.
  7. Bake in a 400 F. oven, keep checking after 15 minutes, make sure the crust is deep golden and ricotta is set.
  8. Let it cool down before you cut into it.



Pork and Cabbage Involtini with a Spring Vegetable Side

pork and cabbage involtini Even though it’s officially spring the weather is always fluctuating here so it often dictates what we eat. When it’s sunny and warm my first choice is to go out and grill something, but when it’s cool, rainy and dreary there’s no doubt dinner will be inside simmering on my stove.

pork and cabbage involtini That’s how this cabbage dish came about. You might think of stuffed cabbage/ involtini as only a hearty winter dish filled with meat and rice, but actually this version minus the rice and some breadcrumbs was light and super delicious, perfect for a cool spring evening!

This recipe comes courtesy of Debi Mazar and her Tuscan born husband Gabriele Corcos via their cooking show, Extra Virgin, one of the few shows I watch on The Cooking Channel. The original recipe is here, I adapted it slightly.

Little bundles of ground pork seasoned with scallions, garlic, romano cheese and parsley wrapped tightly with a tender leaf of savoy cabbage simmering in a flavorful garlic and basil marinara sauce. This is good, really good!

spring vegetables I thought a nice medley of spring green vegetables would complement the involtini and I was right, it was all that I needed to complete the meal.

I used a mixture of asparagus, artichoke hearts, and fava beans roasted together with olive oil and shaved garlic. FYI, Trader Joe’s has precooked frozen fava beans for a short time, I still had to peel the outer skins off but they were really good.

pork and cabbage involtini with spring veggies Rain or shine you’re going to love this!

Pork and Cabbage Involtini with a Spring Vegetable Side
  • 1 head savoy cabbage
  • 1 pound good ground pork
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 scallions, sliced small
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ¾ cup grated romano cheese
  • 1 handful parsley, chopped
  • 1 quart of homemade marinara or an outstanding store bought one for convenience,
  • I make mine with crushed whole canned tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, olive oil, chopped garlic and fresh basil.
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Carefully separate the best 12 leaves from your savoy cabbage
  3. Rinse, then add them in batches, to the boiling water for 2 minutes
  4. Remove leaves and quickly rinse under cold water, then pat dry
  5. Mix together the pork, scallions, eggs, garlic, romano cheese and parsley in a large bowl, then season with salt and pepper.
  6. Lay a leaf of cabbage on a cutting board, trim the thick stem at the bottom and place 2 generous tablespoons of the pork mixture in the middle.Roll up the leaf, tucking in the sides.
  7. Place seem side down on a plate until all leaves are completed.
  8. If your marinara is premade just pour some into the bottom of a heavy skillet with sides and lid.
  9. If you need to make your own, pour ¼ cup of olive oil on bottom of the pan add 4 or 5 cloves of chopped garlic, let it sizzle a little then pour in your 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes with 1 teaspoon of salt, then add in some torn fresh basil leaves.
  10. Place the involtini on top of the sauce, nestle them in seam side down and turn heat to a low simmer, spooning some sauce on each bundle.
  11. Place a lid on top and cook until meat is cooked through and cabbage is tender.
  12. Garnish with fresh basil and grated romano cheese.
  13. .



Spring Green Pasta with Parsley Walnut Pesto

parsley pesto pastaThe spring weather reached havoc here in the midwest with major flooding all around us last week. As I drive through my neighborhood I see piles and piles of peoples belongings in dumpster after dumpster, many homes are uninhabitable just a few blocks from me, one of them a close friend of mine. For some reason my house was spared and not a drop of water came in. I feel guilty and grateful all at the same time.
parsley walnut pesto Yesterday was a comfort food kind of day, something simple and easy but full of bright flavors. The key to this pasta dish is the parsley walnut pesto. Fresh parsley, toasted walnuts, grated parmesan cheese, garlic, lemon zest and juice all swirled with extra virgin olive oil, you could slather this on anything and it would be good!

zucchini stripsI decided to slather it all over spaghetti along with strips of yellow squash and zucchini, peas, asparagus and spinach. This is what I call cozy and delicious spring comfort food!
The pesto clings to the warm pasta, every bite has intense flavor!
Toasted walnuts and shaved parmesan tops this dish off, all you’ll need is a bowl and a fork!

Spring Green Pasta with Parsley Walnut Pesto
  • For the Parsley Walnut Pesto
  • 2 cups fresh parsley
  • ½ cup toasted walnuts
  • ½ cup grated parmesan or romano
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • ½ to ¾ cup of olive oil
  • For the Pasta
  • ½ lb. spaghetti or linguine
  • 2 medium zucchini julienned
  • 1 yellow squash julienned
  • 1 lb. small asparagus cut on the diagonal
  • ½ cup of peas
  • a good handful of fresh baby spinach
  • reserved ½ cup of pasta water
  1. For the Parsley Pesto, place parsley, garlic and toasted walnuts in food processor bowl, pulse until well incorporated. Add in remaining ingredients and process until you get a nice smooth consistency
  2. For the pasta, prepare your squash first by making thin strips julienne style, you can do this with a mandoline, a julienne vegetable peeler, or by hand cutting planks and then making the strips with the tip of your knife like in the photo above. When finished, quickly saute until slightly wilted, a minute or two.
  3. Saute the peas and asparagus together in a little olive oil just until al`dente tender. set aside.
  4. Cook pasta and reserve some of the pasta water. When finished, toss hot pasta into a large bowl along with all the other vegetables, the peas, asparagus, squash and spinach. Add 2 or 3 heaping tablespoons of the pesto, adding more if needed and to your taste. If you want to thin it out add some of the pasta water.
  5. The leftover pesto keeps well in the fridge.

Spring Vegetable Frittata with Brie

frittataOver Easter weekend I made three different frittatas, one with potatoes and eggs and another with every vegetable you can think of, but this spring vegetable frittata is by far my favorite one of the moment!
Ingredients for a frittata Everything about it reminds me of spring, fresh shaved asparagus, tiny fresh peas and those cute baby zucchini. I also like to add in tomatoes and chopped green onion, delicate flavors that really pack a punch!frittata

I always cook my frittatas in a nonstick oven safe skillet. My aunt taught me how to make frittatas, she never flipped them and neither do I, I tried it once and it wasn’t a pretty sight! The key is to let the eggs set in the skillet on the stovetop forming a slight crust on the bottom and then you finish it off under the broiler, but you can’t walk away, you have to keep opening the door and checking so as not to burn it!

spring frittataI always flavor my eggs with grated parmesan or romano it gives a nice base for all of the other ingredients, and with the addition of Brie here it really takes it over the top!
frittataBy placing it under the broiler for a few minutes your frittata will become perfectly golden as well as puffy and fluffy and that’s exactly what you want!

While the frittata is still warm I like to dot it with additional brie cheese because it melts so fast and besides I love how it looks when it oozes out.

slice of frittata

I served my frittata with fresh pea shoots tossed in a lemon and olive oil dressing with shaved parmesan. The perfect breakfast, brunch, lunch, or midnight snack!

Spring Vegetable Frittata with Brie
  • I used a 10" nonstick skillet
  • 6 eggs
  • ⅓ cup or more grated parmesan or romano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil to coat pan
  • 4 asparagus shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • 3 baby zucchini cut into rounds or the smallest zucchini you could find
  • ¼ cup of fresh or defrosted peas
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 5 or 6 grape tomatoes cut in half
  • 3 oz. of Brie cheese, rind removed
  • parsley for garnish
  1. Beat your eggs in a bowl with the water, grated cheese, salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Heat skillet on medium high with a nice drizzle of olive oil and very quickly saute the zucchini, asparagus, tomatoes, peas and scallions. Leave half of the veggies in the pan, remove the other half.
  3. Pour in egg mixture and reduce heat to medium low and let the eggs set so it's not so runny, then place the rest of the veggies all around with half of the Brie.
  4. Make sure your broiler is on and place the whole oven safe skillet under it, this will not take long, a few seconds maybe a minute or so, keep checking, sometimes I turn the pan to make sure it is evenly cooked.
  5. When frittata is nice and golden remove and dot with the remaining Brie and garnish with parsley.
  6. You can eat this hot or at room temperature.

Lemony Spring Risotto

All things green are the key ingredients in this risotto, baby zucchini, leeks, artichokes, asparagus, chives and peas. One bite and you know spring is here to stay!
The fresh peas and those cute tiny zucchini came courtesy of Trader Joes, the few asparagus and chives came right out of our garden.
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and a healthy dose of grated lemon zest highlights all the vegetables and compliments the whole dish!
A cup of peas, 2 small leeks sliced, 4 asparagus spears sliced, 1/2 can of artichokes drained, baby zucchini, precooked ( I did mine for a couple of minutes on a grill pan) snipped chives and the zest from 2 small lemons.
You’ll also need 1 box of chicken or vegetable stock warmed up on the stove and 1 1/2 cups of  arborio rice, 1/4 cup of white wine and 3/4 cup or so of grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
Here’s what you do
Saute your leeks and some of the chives in a combination of olive oil and butter. Add rice and stir until coated then add wine and simmer on low until wine is absorbed. Start adding stock ladle by ladle until all is gone and absorbed. Fold in all your veggies, lemon zest and cheese adding salt and pepper to taste along with more chives for garnish.Enjoy!