Category Archives: Pasta

Baked Penne with Sausage, Fennel and Basil


This had been one of my family dinner favorites for some years, but when I replaced the store bought ricotta with Maria Helm Sinskey's Creamy Ricotta recipe (page 126 of Food & Wine November 2008 issue), it raised the rating from delicious to divine. The fresh and fluffy ricotta, together with the fresh herbs, perfectly balances the hearty sausage and tomato sauce.
Course Main
Cuisine Italian


  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves smashed
  • 1 pound spicy and or sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon fennel
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 28- ounce cans of plum tomatoes blended in food processor or blender
  • 1 bunch fresh basil chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsely chopped
  • 1/2 pound mozzerella cut into small cubes, plus about 1/2 cup shredded for topping
  • 3 cups Homemade Creamy Ricotta or store bought ricotta recommended!
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus extra to sprinkle on top
  • 1 pound penne


  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Saute sausage and smashed garlic in olive oil, breaking up sausage as it browns.
  3. Add tomatoes, fennel, basil, salt and pepper and simmer about 30 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, boil water and cook the penne until al dente, and drain but do not rinse, saving about 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Pour the pasta water into the tomato sauce and stir in. {This will help the sauce cling to the pasta.)
  5. In large bowl, mix ricotta, mozzerella, parmesan, fresh basil and fresh parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Combine penne, sauce and cheese mixture.
  7. Spoon into glass casserole or ceramic pie pans. Sprinkle extra mozzerella and paremesan on top.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes, turning up to broil for last few minutes until top is golden and bubbly.

Tips for using Flavored Sea Salts

At the farmers’ markets last summer, we tested over 14 different flavored sea salts. We had sample tastings of everything from Habanero Sea Salt (a Texan favorite) to Ginger Beet Sea Salt (amazing color, but lacking in flavor at the time… this one is back in our test kitchen and we hope to re-introduce it next year). Based upon customer feedback, we narrowed our product offering to the following:

Black Truffle Sea Salt

Smoked Applewood Sea Salt

Lime Sea Salt

Rosemary Lavender Sea Salt

Garlic Sea Salt

Sel Gris (French grey sea salt)

Throughout the summer, loyal customers returned time and again to share how they had used the flavored sea salts. Below are a few of their tips. If you have any other recipe favorite, please let me know. We’d love to add them to our list.

Black Truffle Sea Salt was the hit of the Vail Farmers’ Market. We wish we had a video of the reactions… definitely YouTube material. Maybe next year we’ll become technically savvy enough to to take one. Sprinkle this Italian taste of heaven on:

– popcorn
– french fries (a la Lark Burger)
– hamburgers or steak
– pasta (especially good with Parmesan cheese)
– potatoes, eggs, mushrooms
– veggies (especially snow peas)
– soups, salads and stews…

We really haven’t found anything that doesn’t improve with just a little truffle salt. Be warned, a little goes a long way. The truffle is powerful, and too much is not a good thing. Get creative and enjoy.

Smoked Applewood Sea Salt has become the appetizer accompaniment in our house. Sprinkle a little on:

– blue cheese on a cracker, and serve with red wine (my favorite)
– a kobe beef hamburger
– steak
– eggs (almost as good as bacon)
– chicken, fish, lentils, pork, roast beef, potatoes, beans, tomatoes…
– rim your bloody mary glass!

Lime Sea Salt was very popular with the margarita crowd. Also good with fish, chicken, guacamole, and on fresh fruit.

Sel Gris is a favorite among our restaurant customers. Our chefs use it to finish dishes in their restaurants such as fish, scallops, chicken. This salt is high in minerals and moisture has a very clean taste. This is the salt of salts!

Garlic Sea Salt This is the best you will ever taste. Freshly ground for bold flavor, this is an excellent complement to Italian food – pizza especially. Also broccoli, popcorn, chicken, steak, potatoes, tomatoes, soups, stews, and of course bread!

Rosemary Lavender Sea Salt has fresh ground rosemary, lavender and French grey sea salt. It makes an excellent rub for chicken, pork, and steak. This was very popular with our vegetarian customers… think green beans, snow peas, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes…

These are just a few of our customers tips. There are no rules, get creative and sprinkle away!

Orzo with Feta and Bell Peppers

This orzo salad is a refreshing Mediterranean side dish to your grilled chicken, beef or fish. (I highly recommend this with our chicken kebab recipe.)

Orzo with Feta and Bell Peppers

Course Side
Cuisine Greek
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes



  • 12 oz orzo
  • 2 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
  • 1-1/2 cups feta cheese crumbled
  • 1 yellow bell pepper chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped
  • 4 green onions chopped
  • 3/4 cup pitted kalamata olives optional


  • 1 tsp organic ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice fresh squeezed
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1-1/2 tsp organic oregano dried
  • 1/2 cup olive oil extra virgin


  • 3 tbsp Tablespoons pine nuts toasted


  1. Boil salted water and cook orzo until al dente. Drain; rinse with cold water; be sure to drain well.
  2. Toss with 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in large bowl.
  3. Add feta, chopped peppers, green onions, and olives.
  4. Mix lemon juice, white wine vinegar, garlic, oregano, cumin and mustard in small bowl.
  5. Whisk in 1/2 cup olive oil.
  6. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
  7. Add dressing to orzo salad and toss.
  8. Can be prepared up to 6 hours ahead—covered and refrigerated.

Chicken Rotini Salad with Rosemary

Straight from the American Heart Association’s web site, here’s a yummy recipe for the cholesterol-conscious!

Chicken Rotini Salad with Rosemary

Course Main
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes


  • 4 oz dried multigrain rotini
  • 1 1/2 cups cubed cooked skinless chicken breasts cooked without salt
  • 14 oz can artichoke hearts rinsed, drained, and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes halved (about 5 ounces)
  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach about 1 ounce
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 2.25 oz can sliced black olives drained
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil extra-virgin preferred
  • 1/2 tsp organic rosemary dried
  • 1/4 cup crumbled low-fat blue cheese


  1. In a stockpot or large saucepan, prepare the pasta using the package directions, omitting the salt and oil. Drain in a colander. Run under cold water to stop the cooking process and cool the pasta quickly.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together the remaining ingredients except the blue cheese.
  3. Stir in the pasta. Gently fold in the blue cheese.

Chicken Divan Lasagna

The beauty of this dish is that once you prepare it,  your entire dinner is done.  Vegetables (broccoli and mushrooms), protein (chicken),  calcium (cottage cheese, milk and swiss cheese) and carbs (noodles). Throw it in the oven, pour yourself a glass of chilled Chardonnay, and relax!

Continue reading