Sundried Tomato and Shittake Pasta

Italian Food | Pasta Recipe - Sundried tomato and shittake pasta ingredientsWhen the weather gets cold outside I have a tendency to indulge in warm, comfort food. Soups, stews and roasts feature heavily in my menus. There are few things more comforting than sitting under a blanket with a good book, snow swirling outside the windows, and delicious smells drifting from the stove. The steam envelops the room in warmth and my belly grumbles in anticipation of things to come.

However, all my comforting meals usually have a heavy meat component. All that meaty goodness is not so great on my digestion (and my waistline!!!!). So I have decided to keep trying to add more veggie based dishes to my winter repertoire. I’ve come up with this pasta dish because the shittake mushrooms still give me the meaty texture and the cream cheese allows for the comforting creaminess without being too heavy. I hope you give this a try as well.

1 garlic clove chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
3 shittake mushrooms sliced
3 sundried tomatoes sliced
1/4  cream cheese brick
2 cups pre-washed baby spinach leaves
pappardelle or other ribbon pasta (cook according to package directions)
1/2 cup of pasta water reserved 
Prep time: 10 minutes     Cook time: 10-15 minutes

1. Add olive oil to a saute pan and turn the heat on medium. Put the garlic and sundried tomatoes into the pan and gently fry to flavour the oil and warm the ingredients.

Stirring garlic and sundried tomatoes for Italian Pasta dish

2. After about 2-3 add the sliced shiitake mushrooms. Keep frying them until they soften and release juices.

Stirring in shiitake mushrooms into my easy pasta recipe

3. Add the cream cheese to the pan and stir to form a creamy sauce. Use the reserved pasta water to thin out if the sauce becomes to thick,

Cream cheese added into pan into my italian pasta dishStirring in the cream cheese into my pasta sauce

4. Place half the spinach into the pan and stir into the sauce to wilt down.

Stirring in the spinach into my easy Italian pasta recipe

5. Add the second half of the spinach, then the cooked warm pasta and combine into the sauce.

Pappardelle added to the pan into my sundried tomato, shiitake mushroom and cream cheese pasta recipeCombing ingredients and pasta - pappardelle, shiitake mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes and cream cheese6. The dish is ready to plate when the ingredients are all combined and warmed through. Don’t forget to garnish with some parmigiano after plating.

Italian Food - Recipe for shiitake mushroom, sundried tomato and spinach pappardelle pastaThis pasta dish tastes very luxurious because of all that creaminess and the flavours are strong and burst in your mouth. With this one, a little goes a long way…your taste buds and your waist line will thank you!


Destination Dining in London

Dining Room at Dolcetto Risto in London OntarioIf you’re looking for a casual, modern restaurant that serves housemade Italian food in London, Ontario, look no further than Dolcetto Risto. Located in the southwest corner of the ever expanding city limits, this Italian restaurant is quite the distance from the dining-focused downtown core. The location is actually part of an outdoor mall, surrounded by a gym, a grocery store, a bank, and a coffee shop. That is not necessarily a bad thing since parking is more than ample. And in my opinion, every part of this city deserves a unique dining spot and this one, because of its location, is definitely a destination.

In a style I like to call Scando-italian, the large open dining room features polished concrete floors, streamlined wood furniture and accents, and large windows that allow in generous light and open to a patio in the warmer months. The neutral vibe reads calm, but the atmosphere is lively and energetic, especially when you peek into the kitchen which stands in full display to the rest of the dining space.

View of Bar at Dolcetto Risto in London OntarioDining area at Dolcetto Italian Restaurant in London Ontario Regardless of where you are seated, the food remains the draw. The boy and I have made the visit a number of times. Each time we make an effort to try something different but a few items stand out as favourites. The large veal and ricotta meatballs, the calamari salad, and the creatively garnished, thin crust pizzas top the list.

With the weather on the milder side this weekend, we found ourselves in the Byron area and I suggested Dolcetto as a lunch spot (the boy didn’t need much persuading!). Seated by the large windows and basking in the sun streaming in, we placed our order. We started off with complementary fresh focaccia and an olive oil and balsamic dip. The soft, salty bread soaked up the oil beautifully and helped to bide time before our meals arrived.

The attentive server kept our water drinks filled until our food was served. The boy chose a trio of crispy arancini (risotto balls) on a bed of tomato sauce.They arrived hot and crunchy on the outside and hot and cheesy on the inside. I wanted a heartier meal and chose broad pappardelle noodles topped with a short rib ragu in a wine sauce. I was surprised at the amount and, to be honest, I couldn’t finish the entire plate. Of course, it was a great excuse to have it for lunch the next day.

Foccaccia with olive oil and balsamic dip at Dolcetto Risto in London OntarioArancini at Dolcetto Italian Restaurant in London OntarioPapardelle with short rib ragu at Dolcetto Italian Restaurant in London OntarioA forkful of papardelle at Dolcetto Risto in LondonAnd if you haven’t guessed by now I have a bit of a sweet tooth so no dining experience would be complete without dessert. We chose to share a double plate of cannoli. The sweet ricotta cheese filling was speckled with chocolate from a local producer, Habitual Chocolate (I absolutely love it when local businesses support each other – a huge kudos to Dolcetto!). However, unlike the traditional version of a cannoli shell, Dolcetto makes they’re own using a pizzelle press for a lighter and fresher taste. The result is a large crispy exterior which is the perfect foil to the creamy core. A perfect pairing with a cup of strong coffee!

Double cannoli at Dolcetto Risto Italian Restaurant in London OntarioNow I can’t wait until the weather gets warm and once again I indulge in some freshly baked pizza and a glass of wine on the patio. I hope you guys can find your way here and give this Italian restaurant a try!

Dinner in 1, 2, 3!

I can’t believe how early the daylight starts to fade away this time of year. It’s like the season is throwing a blanket around me and urging me to go home and snuggle into bed. I’m not new to this time change thing but it seems like the impending darkness is something I choose to forget in lieu of getting that extra hour of sleep.

The problem with feeling sleepy so early in the evening is that I don’t feel like spending time in kitchen whipping up cozy meals for two for longer than fifteen minutes. Mind you I’ve always gone the fast and fresh route as far as my meals are concerned any time of year. That is not too say that I don’t greatly admire people who devote their time to long, involved, home cooked meals. My Mom’s cabbage rolls are heaven on earth but the hours she puts in to make them is something I just can’t fathom. I’ve got things to do, people to see, places to be! And truly, there is nothing wrong with fast meals… as long as they are delicious. I’m sharing two of my go to Italian recipes for quick weeknight dinners great at any time of year!


Ingredients for easy to make Italian tomato sauce | Cobblestones and CappuccinosThe key to this sauce is that you will not be cooking but rather warming all the ingredients in order to keep the sauce tasting as fresh as possible. So start cooking your pasta and half way through you can begin the sauce.

1 pint of cherry tomatoes halved
1 clove of garlic peeled
1/4 cup of good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of parmigiano reggiano shredded
small bunch of basil torn
salt and pepper to taste
Prep Time: 5 minutes     Cook Time: 10 minutes

1. Place the oil and clove of garlic in a pan and turn the heat on medium-low. Olive oil has a low smoking point so you don’t want to overheat the pan. You are simply warming the oil and infusing it with garlic. If you want a stronger taste to the garlic then feel free to chop it, otherwise just leave the clove whole. This should take only a minute or two.

2. Take out the garlic clove and throw in the cherry tomatoes and torn basil leaves. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir to warm them through. Be sure that the tomatoes don’t over cook and start to fall apart and shrink.

3. Place the cooked pasta, with a small amount of reserved pasta water, in the pan with the tomatoes. Toss with the sauce making sure to coat the strands with the warm olive oil and sprinkle with the parmigiano reggiano.

I like to serve this sauce with spaghetti or linguine. That way the light sauce isn’t overwhelmed by a heavy pasta.



Italian Pesto sauce ingredients | Cobblestones and CappuccinosThis sauce is made in minutes as long as you have all your ingredients on hand. It’s a riff on the basil and pine nut pesto which are harder to locate. I often make this pesto in large quantities and freeze in ziploc bags for later use.

2 cups of baby spinach washed and packed down
1 clove of garlic peeled
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon 
1/2 cup walnuts toasted
1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano cheese shredded
salt and pepper to taste
Prep Time: 5 minutes     Cook Time: 10 minutes

1. Place spinach, walnuts, garlic, cheese in a food processor. Pulse together until coarsely chopped. Scrape down the sides before proceeding.

2. Add oil and squeeze the lemon into the mixture. Process until smooth. Scrape the sides then season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Drain pasta and coat with the pesto.

I like to use heavier pastas like penne or rotini for this sauce. The pesto sits nicely in all those tiny crevices.

Both versions of sauce with pasta reheat nicely for lunch the next day. Sometimes I’ll add cooked chicken breast or pre-cooked shrimp before reheating. I hope you give these a try and enjoy!