Simple Italian Dinners

Shrimp, Tomato, and Spinach Pasta in Garlic Butter Sauce, recipe provided below (adapted from Julia's Album)


  • 1 pound fresh shrimp, uncooked, shelled and deveined
  • 5 medium tomatoes, fresh, chopped into large cubes
  • 1 cup cooked spinach
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 small lemon
  • salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or more)
  • paprika
  • 10 oz fettuccine pasta
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated, for serving


  • Heat a large skillet on medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil until melted. Add fresh shrimp and half the minced garlic. Make sure shrimp is not crowded. Cook for 1 minute on one side until pink on that side. While it's cooking, generously sprinkle paprika and salt over uncooked side of the shrimp. Flip the shrimp over and cook for another 1 or 2 minutes until pink on the other side.
  • To the skillet with shrimp, add chopped fresh tomatoes, cooked spinach, and remaining amount of minced garlic. Add 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or more). Mix everything well, remove from heat while you cook pasta.
  • In the mean time cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water to prevent pasta from cooking and getting mushy.
  • Add pasta to the skillet with shrimp and vegetables with 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter. Add freshly squeezed lemon juice (depending on the juiciness of your lemon, it could be 1/4 of small lemon or 1/2 lemon). Don't add too much lemon juice. Season with salt and more crushed red pepper. Warm it up on medium heat until shrimp is cooked through, and all ingredients are heated through.
  • To serve, top with grated Parmesan cheese.

Eggplant Parmesan Boats, recipe provided below (adapted from Closet Cooking)


  • 2 medium eggplants (~6 inches in length), cut in half lengthwise
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup mozzarella, shredded
  • 1/4 cup parmesan, grated
  • basil for garnish


  • Scoop the middle of the eggplant out leaving about 1/2 inch around the sides and chop and reserve the scooped out eggplant.
  • Brush the inside of the eggplant shells with oil and roast in a preheated 400F/200C oven, with the inside facing up, until just tender, about 10-15 minutes, before setting aside.
  • Meanwhile, cook the sausage and onion in a pan over medium heat, breaking the sausage up as you go, until the sausage is cooked, about 10 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute.
  • Add the chopped reserved eggplant and cook until tender, about 5-8 minutes.
  • Add 1 cup of the marinara sauce, season with salt and pepper to taste and cook to heat, about 3-5 minutes, before removing from heat.
  • Spread the remaining marinara sauce over the bottom of a baking dish, place the eggplant shells in with the fleshy hollowed out sides up, fill them with the sauce, top with the cheeses and bake in a preheated 400F/200C oven until the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbling, about 10-15 minutes, before serving garnished with fresh basil.

Pesto Pasta with Grilled Chicken, recipe provided below (adapted from Spiced Blog)


  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 16 oz farfalle pasta
  • 1 cup basil pesto (homemade or storebought)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, cut into thin strips (i.e. chiffonade)
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)


  • Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.
  • Grill the chicken over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes per side, or until completely cooked. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and slice into strips.
  • Meanwhile, boil the pasta until al dente according to the package instructions. (Note: I usually cook the pasta for 1-2 minutes less than the package suggests so that the pasta still has some texture.) 
  • Rinse and drain pasta and set aside. (Tip: When using pasta for a salad, toss it in a large bowl with a couple Tbsp of milk once it's cooked. The milk helps prevent the pasta from sticking together.)
  • Using a large bowl, mix together the pesto, pasta and chicken. Stir until well combined and place in the refrigerator until chilled.
  • Stir in the cherry tomatoes and fresh basil immediately before serving.
  • Finish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional).

Chicken Caprese, recipe provided below (adapted from Gimme Some Oven)


  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to uniform thickness
  • 1/2 cup good-quality balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup fresh mozzarella, torn into small pieces
  • 1 cup lightly-packed fresh basil, torn


  • TO MAKE THE CHICKEN: Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. (You will know that it is ready when the oil is shimmering, or it sizzles when you place a drop of water in the oil.) Add the chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until the chicken is fully cooked and the juices run clear. Remove chicken and set aside.
  • TO MAKE THE BALSAMIC REDUCTION:Heat balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until boiling. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10-15 minutes until reduced by half. Remove and set aside.
  • TO ASSEMBLE THE DISH:Plate the chicken, then top with sliced tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. Drizzle with the balsamic reduction. Serve warm.

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe & Sausage, recipe provided below (adapted from The Kitchn) 


  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 bunches broccoli rabe, thick stems discarded
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound Italian sausage, crumbled
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1 box Barilla Collezione Orecchiette
  • 1/2 cup Romano cheese, grated
  • salt


  • Bring two 1-gallon pots of water to a boil.
  • In the first pot, add a bit of salt and the baking soda. Cook broccoli rabe tops for 10 minutes, then drain and set aside. When cool, chop roughly.
  • Meanwhile, add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a skillet and sauté sausage over high heat until brown. Add garlic and red pepper and cook for one minute. Stir in cooked broccoli rabe.
  • In the second pot, cook pasta two minutes less than package directions. Drain, reserving some of the cooking water. Toss pasta and sauce in a skillet with some cooking water until the sauce is coating the pasta and pasta is perfectly cooked. Stir in cheese and remaining olive oil before serving.

Bon Appétit!

Ashley PolicastroComment