Quick, what’s gooey, melty, cheesy, and great comfort food?This egg and pasta gratin has crispy eggs, tender noodles, and lots of cheese. It’s almost a cousin to pasta carbonara (but no bacon).The flavor is simple and delicate and the recipe incorporates two of my favorite “food groups”: pasta and cheese!
It’s adapted from a a new cookbook I just got (because given a bookstore gift card as a gift, I naturally headed straight for the cookbook section!). The cookbook is called Fast Food My Way and it’s chock full of inspiration. As you may have guessed from the title, all the meals are relatively easy and quick. They’re just perfect for those days when you don’t feel like fussing (or simply don’t have the time).Of course, you can also make this for a leisurely weekend brunch or scale the recipe up and serve it to guests.
The whole thing fits in perfectly with my own philosophy, which is delicious food for one person, made from real ingredients. Because, just because you’re cooking for one rather than two or more doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a home-cooked meal.And, of course, making it yourself is much cheaper than going out, or ordering a meal kit.
As written, the flavor is pure comfort food; not spicy or salty. However, if you want, you can add other flavors (more on that in the substitutions and variations section).
Crispy eggs, gooey cheese, and tender pasta combine to make this dish great comfort food. Great for a fast meal, or to warm up with on a cold day.
4 oz short pasta (I used cavatelli)
1 T olive oil
1.5 teaspoons fresh chives, minced
Grinding of black pepper
1.5 teaspoons butter (preferably unsalted, if you only have salted butter, skip the added salt)
2 large eggs
1/3 C grated hard cheese, such as Swiss or Emmenthaler
Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a saucepan. Add salt. Pour in the pasta and cook for about 10 minutes (or until it is al dente)
Toss the olive oil, chives, salt, and pepper together in a medium to large bowl (it should be big enough to hold the finished dish; I used a large soup bowl).
Once the pasta is cooked, turn off the heat, but don’t drain it yet.
Grab a soup ladle and pour a ladleful of the pasta water into the bowl.
Now, drain the pasta, and put it back in the pot. Scoop up a ladleful of the pasta, and add it to the chive/water mixture. Mix it all together thoroughly.
Keep both the remaining pasta in the pot and the pasta in the bowl warm while you make the eggs.
Next, heat the butter in a skillet. Add the eggs and cook on medium-high heat with the pan covered for about 2 minutes. The eggs should be set (the whites will be firm, while the yolk is still soft).
Sprinkle a generous tablespoonful of the cheese on top of the pasta in the bowl. Next, add one of the cooked eggs. Add more cheese, then pasta from the pot, then cheese, and then the second egg, then more pasta in succession.
Egg and Pasta Gratin Substitutions and Variations
Add crumbled bacon on top
Go for more sweetness and crunch with a sweet bell pepper
The inspiration for this recipe comes from a long-ago birthday dinner at a tiny neighborhood Italian restaurant. The restaurant is now (sadly) closed, but their smoked salmon pasta with tomato cream sauce lives on!
The pasta is bathed in a velvety, slightly pink, tomato sauce with a touch of cream. It’s delicious and elegant too. Make a double batch and serve it for company (they’ll think you’ll worked on it all day).
This only requires a little bit of smoked salmon (about a slice or two), so you won’t bust your budget cooking it. Even better, check to see if your market or deli sells smoked salmon ends. They’re much cheaper, and taste just as good as the fancy slices. Besides, a beautiful slice hardly matters when you are going to cut it up into small pieces!
If you don’t have any smoked salmon handy, you can use leftover cooked salmon instead. Add it right at the end. The idea is just to heat it up. You don’t want to overcook it.
To save some time (and get dinner done faster), put the water for the pasta in the pot first, and start bringing it to a boil. While the water is heating up, chop the onion. Then get the second pan going with the butter and oil. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta to the pot. Finish the sauce in the second pan while the pasta cooks. That way, you have dinner in about 20-25 minutes and nothing sits around getting cold.
I should probably refer to this pasta e fagioli soup as “blizzard soup.” The forecast called for up to 20 inches of snow (though we only got seven). I was determined to keep the stove going and get a batch of hot soup. Besides, there is more snow coming tomorrow!
Therefore, I deliberately made this the “hard” way. First, I soaked the beans overnight. Then I cooked the beans and sort of followed a recipe from The New York Times. I cut it in half and added pancetta (don’t know why they left that out).
I even made my own vegetable stock. If you spot potatoes and carrots in the photo, it’s because they were in the homemade vegetable stock recipe . Neither one is traditional for pasta e fagioli soup, but I left them in anyway. Why toss perfectly good veggies? I didn’t include them in the recipe here though.
You can use vegetable stock, or chicken stock if you prefer. I would have made chicken stock but I didn’t have enough chicken bones. And I certainly wasn’t going out to get some in a blizzard!
Don’t be put off by the long prep time on this recipe. That includes soaking the beans overnight. You can speed this up by using my quick soak method. That cuts the soaking time down from 8 hours to only one.
If you’re really in a hurry, and don’t have the time or patience to soak and cook the beans for an hour or more, use a can of white cannellini beans instead. Make the rest of the soup, then add the can of beans. Just cook them long enough to heat through.
Pour the soaked beans, along with the water, into a large pot (a Dutch oven will do nicely).
Add the onion and turn the heat to medium. Bring it to a soft boil (bubbling slowly,).
You may see foam rising to the top. You can remove that with a spoon (it's not harmful, it's just not attractive).
Add the garlic and the bay leaf (you can put the bay leaf in a tea ball so it's easier to remove).
Simmer the beans for 30 minutes.
Add salt to taste and let the beans cook another hour. Check to see that they're soft. If not, cook another half an hour.
Taste the beans and add more salt if needed. Take out the bay leaf. Drain the beans with a colander over a bowl. Keep the broth, you'll use it for the soup.
Heat oil in dutch oven. Add the onion and cook for five minutes or until the onion softens.
Add the rosemary, garlic, and pancetta.
Cook for a minute. The scent should start to waft through your kitchen.
Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt, and pepper
Cook for 5-10 minutes.
Add the bean broth you set aside, and the stock.
Add the bouquet garni, Manchego rinds, and more salt.
Turn the heat to medium-high until the soup boils. Then reduce the heat and let it simmer for half an hour.
Add the pasta and cook for 10 minutes, until it's al dente.
Taste and add more salt and/or pepper if needed.
Remove the cheese rinds and serve.
Use dried beans if you have them, and have the time. If not, this works with canned beans too. If you use canned beans, drain the can first. Place the beans, water, and the remaining ingredients from the bean recipe in your pot. Simmer for 30 minutes. Then move on to the rest of the soup.
You can tie the bouquet garni ingredients together (if you use fresh herbs). If not, put them in a tea ball. It makes it easier to remove them.
Substitutions and Variations for Pasta e Fagioli Soup
Save time and use canned beans
Try different kinds of beans: pinto, kidney, or cranberry
Use chicken stock instead of vegetable stock
Use bacon or pork fat instead of pancetta (I even used soppressata salami once)
Add one potato (cut into chunks) to the soup
Chop up a handful of spinach and add that with the pasta
In a hurry for dinner?Pasta is your friend. This pasta dish with olives, tomatoes, and capers (or pasta puttanesca) has a slightly racy name. Nobody really knows why. One theory says the dish was popular with the ladies of the evening because it was easy to cook and the ingredients were cheap.Another says that the sauce’s aroma helped lure in customers.
Whatever the reason, it certainly is budget friendly and you can make it in about 20 minutes.
Whoever is responsible created a dish that’s packed with flavor. There’s pungent little bits of garlic, slightly briny capers, and Niçoise olives.
Capers, in case you don’t know, are the buds of a Mediterranean plant that are picked and then pickled (try to say that three times fast).I always thought Niçoiseolives were a variety, but I found out today that they’re really called Le Calletier.Niçoise is just the method of curing them.
I adapted this recipe from The Silver Palate Cookbook. They suggested using whole canned tomatoes, and then squeezing them out and chopping them up. That’s too messy for me. You can use crushed tomatoes, purée, or even tomato sauce in a pinch.
Traditionally, this recipe also includes anchovies.However, I am a fish wimp. The strongest fish flavor I like is salmon.Also, anchovies were $32 a pound.Nope. Not happening. Nuh uh.
The other great thing about pasta puttanesca is that you can use canned tomatoes, jarred capers, dry pasta, and spices you probably already have sitting on your shelf.
This recipe for spaghetti with spinach and lemon cream sauce was a bit of an accident. I innocently ordered a bunch of spinach (along with other groceries) from Fresh Direct. I expected, well a standard bunch of spinach. What I got was a “spinach tree.” It’s enormous. It’s so large I had to prop it up against a bottle of seltzer and a plant to take a photo of it.
So, if anyone from Google noticed a spike in searches for ‘spinach recipes’ over the last few days, it was me.
I adapted this recipe from the Smitten Kitchen. She used basil (or arugula), and while I have basil growing in my window, I don’t have arugula.
Besides, there’s that enormous bunch of spinach to use up!
So, I combined the two. A bit of basil, and a handful of spinach, some diluted Greek yogurt instead of the heavy cream (didn’t have the cream and couldn’t leave to get some), and dinner is served!
A great summer pasta dinner with fresh lemon, spinach, and a bit of cream.
one handful spaghetti (about 4 ounces), it should be about the diameter of a quarter
1 lemon (for juice and zest)
1 T extra virgin olive oil, plus a bit more when you serve the pasta
1 T heavy cream*
2 T finely grated Parmesan cheese (plus more when you serve the pasta)
Handful of spinach, washed thoroughly, shredded, or chiffonade (stack the leaves, roll them up so they look like a cigar, and then chop them cross-wise)
salt and freshly ground pepper
Boil a pot of water (a dutch oven will work nicely because it's wide enough to hold the pasta). Salt the water and then add the pasta. Cook about 8 minutes until it's al dente.
As you wait for the pasta to cook, zest the lemon (you'll need about 3/4 of a teaspoon of zest). Then, squeeze the lemon to juice it (this works best if it's warm; if you had it in the fridge, pop it in the microwave for 10 seconds to warm it up). You'll get about 1-2 tablespoons.
When the pasta is ready, drain it, keeping about 1/3 C of the water.
Take a small saucepan and heat the olive oil, cream, lemon zest, and about half the reserved water. Cook that on high heat for a minute. Put the pasta back in the larger pot, add the lemon zest mixture, and stir until the pasta is coated with it.
Add the parmesan, and half the lemon juice. Stir and toss together thoroughly (I used a spaghetti spoon and a standard fork ) until the sauce is distributed evenly over the pasta.
If you want your pasta "saucier" add more of the cooking water. Taste and add more lemon if you like.
Stir in the basil and the spinach. Season with salt and pepper. Top your pasta with extra olive oil and parmesan cheese and serve.
Substitutions and Variations for Spaghetti with Spinach and Lemon Cream Sauce
If you don’t have heavy cream, melt 1/3 C unsalted butter and add 3/4 C whole milk. This makes about a cup.
Use plain Greek yogurt and thin it out with a little milk. If you do this, add a little hot water to the mixture first, before putting it in the pasta. This will prevent it from curdling.
Use frozen peas instead of spinach (add to the pasta while it’s cooking and save yourself an extra pot to clean; put the peas in for about 3 minutes).
Add some leftover cooked chicken for more protein.
I love the Smitten Kitchen blog (as does a friend who is a professional chef). Deb’s recipes are consistently good. And, her original kitchen was nearly as small as mine. Which just proves you don’t need a lot of space, drawerfuls of gadgets, or an enormous pantry to create delicious food.
Everything is made from real ingredients, and ingredients that are easy to find. I know it really bugs me when some recipe calls for a teaspoon of some exotic ingredient I’ll never use again! One thing about this book is that the format spreads the recipes over more than one page, so it can be a bit hard to follow.
It’s a small thing, but this spoon makes it much easier to toss your spaghetti and coat it with the sauce. It’s also a lot easier to get it out of the pot and into a bowl for serving. And because it’s OXO, it’s comfortable to hold too.
This is one of my favorite tools. It’s just the thing for zesting lemons (and getting only the zest without the bitter pith). Hard cheese can be tough to grate with a box grater, but this produces perfect little curls that practically melt into your pasta. It’s also ideal for grating nutmeg, ginger, or even garlic. Since it’s long and thin, you can just perch it right on top of the bowl while you grate. Note that it’s sharp, so be careful!
More Recipes for One Person with Spinach or Spaghetti
This penne with feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and olives recipe is fairly hands-off, simple, and delicious. And, of course, it’s just one serving!
It also allowed me to make some progress using the enormous jar of sun-dried tomatoes that’s been in the back of my fridge forever! Add some pasta, a bit of feta cheese, olives, and a few leaves of fresh basil, and you get a tasty lunch with only a few minutes of real work. (I have a basil plant growing in my window, so that basil was really fresh).
The feta was leftover from making a feta and spinach omelette, so it also helps toward my goal of not wasting anything. I just hate having a couple of tablespoons of sauce, or a few random bits of fruit or vegetables turning into a science experiment.
Now, on to more tasty mental pictures.
Since the tomatoes are dried, you’ll have to start by heating them and softening them up a bit. You can do this overnight (if you’re organized), or just start them a few minutes before you start boiling the water for the pasta.
Once the tomatoes are soaked and the pasta is cooked, the rest of the recipe takes only a few minutes to prepare. Just cook the garlic, toss the remaining ingredients in the saucepan you used to cook the penne and heat them up with the pasta.
Since the entire meal only uses one pot, it’s also easy to clean up afterwards. I don’t have a dishwasher, so easy cleanup is good!
The nice thing about sun-dried tomatoes is that they do last a long time (if you happen to have bought a giant jar because the price was great). In addition to pasta, you can toss them on pizza, mix them in with eggs, add them to pesto, or put them in meatloaf.
My mom only eats black olives and my dad only likes green ones. I never really liked olives of any kind that much until I tried these. They were set out as a bar snack (of all things). They are bright green, mild, and don’t taste sour or briny like most olives do. They’re great with this pasta dish, and also marinated in olive oil with slivers of garlic and rosemary (which is how the bar served them). Delicious and great for a wine and cheese cocktail hour (either just for you or for company).
More Single Serving Recipes with Pasta or Feta Cheese
It was recently Chinese new year, and I had a craving for spicy sesame noodles. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the “right’ sort of noodles. Most of the sesame noodles recipes use long pasta noodles, usually linguine. I didn’t have linguine, only penne. So, I made do with what I had at hand. Feel free to use either one. It doesn’t matter.
Also, the recipes I found online were either much too sweet, or called for other ingredients I didn’t have. The one from Allrecipes was too sweet and had too much oil. It was also meant to serve eight people, rather than just one person. I found another recipe from The New York Times, but that one called for tahini or peanut butter, which I didn’t have. I did like the idea of including ginger though.
This is really spicy, so if you prefer a milder version, leave out the chili garlic sauce.
There are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of mac and cheese recipes out there: three cheese, four cheese, and on and on. This savory mac and cheese recipe is a bit different. First, it’s both savory and cheesy, second it’s sized for just one person. No leftovers.
I got the idea for this recipe from a friend who made it with sun dried tomatoes. I tried it that way, but wasn’t mad about the combination. However, the idea to add bay leaf and garlic is inspired. I know it sounds odd, but the garlic becomes mellow once you cook it, and the bay leaf complements the cheese.
I’ve used three cheeses: cheddar, mozzarella, and manchego. My friend used cheddar and parmesan. You can follow my version, or his, or make up your own. Provolone would work too. I even recently had mac and cheese that had muenster in it, which worked surprisingly well.
One thing though, he used low fat milk, which I would never do. You can, if you want to.
I just got this little dish and I’m really pleased with it. It’s oven, dishwasher, and microwave safe, and it fits in the toaster oven so I don’t have to heat up my big oven to make something small. It’s called a quiche dish, but it was great for mac and cheese, and I intend to use it for single serving apple crisp and brownies. It’s even pretty enough to serve in. The other nice thing is you can buy just one, rather than a set.
This au gratin dish, from the same company, is also a good option. It has handles to make it easier to pick up and take out of the oven (which I wish I had thought of). It would also make a nice dish for serving scrambled eggs.
It’s creeping crud season, and while I’m not quite sick, I’m definitely not feeling quite well either. I was browsing through Pinterest and spotted a spicy beef noodle soup recipe. I was about to save it when I realized I already had one! So I made that instead.
The beauty of this is that it’s really easy, and quick, as well as being spicy (good for fighting germs), hot (the steam is good for fighting congestion) and comforting on a cold day. I sort of got this recipe from my online friend Terry. She had posted a “recipe” (no amounts or detailed directions, just the ingredients) for a spicy beef noodle soup that sounded awfully good.
She used red pepper which I didn’t have, as well as a specialty Korean chili sauce (which I also didn’t have). However, cooking is part following what someone else is done, part inspiration, and part improvisation, so I went with improvisation.
I did have cabbage, and I also had leftover steak, sriracha, and chili garlic sauce. I figured those would work just fine for my beef noodle soup.
If you don’t have turkey stock, you could use beef or even chicken if you prefer (see improvisation!). If you want to make your own turkey stock, the recipe is here.
Either way, once you have the stock, the rest of the soup is really easy to make and only needs a few ingredients.
Start the noodles first, then while they’re cooking, heat the stock in a separate pot and add the other ingredients. Or, you could throw everything (except the steak!) in one pot. If you do, the noodles will absorb a lot of the liquid, so you’ll need more.
Since I had the leftover steak, I didn’t even have to cook that. If you don’t, cook that while the noodles are cooking, and then add it to the soup at the last minute.
Another thing about this spicy beef noodle soup is that with all that garlicky, spicy goodness it will kill any germs that may be plaguing you!
I love this stuff. It’s got a stronger kick, and less sugar, than the sriracha, plus the extra heat (and spiciness) from garlic. It’s great in meatloaf, on eggs, in soup, or in a sauce. Think garlicky salsa.
Huy Fong, Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce, 17 Ounce Bottle If you prefer a hint of sweetness, you might like this instead of the chili garlic sauce (or use them both). Squeeze it over eggs, into soup, on enchiladas, or burritos. It’s also good for stir-fry. Think of it as ketchup with a kick.
Summer is not quite here, but I got some lovely tomatoes and eggplant at the market. There was also some fresh mozzarella cheese in the fridge, and a friend posted a lovely photo of her caprese salad. Caprese salad is simply fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil leaves. It’s a great summer side dish that requires no cooking at all. Inspiration struck, and I thought I’d put them together to make pasta alla norma (pasta with eggplant).
Pasta alla norma is a slightly spicy pasta dish with fresh eggplant, and tomato sauce, topped with manchego cheese. This is a great meal when you’re in a hurry, as it’s pretty easy to throw together. And, since we’re only making one serving (and using tomato sauce instead of the original whole tomatoes, the cooking time is cut from nearly an hour to about 25 minutes. If you don’t have tomato sauce, cut some tomato paste with water and add garlic powder, onion powder, dried basil, and dried oregano to get the same effect.
The recipe is typically made with long pasta, but I only had short, curly pasta so I used that instead.
The original recipe (from the New York Times) called for lots and lots of olive oil. I think the term they used was “abundant” olive oil. I love olive oil, but so does eggplant. It just slurps it up! However, I found that by cooking the eggplant on a low flame, it used a lot less olive than it would otherwise.
If you’re really concerned about the oil, you can drizzle the eggplant with it, and then roast it at 400 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes.
Pasta alla norma (with eggplant and red pepper flakes)
2-3 slices of eggplant, cut into thin strips (like fries)
2-3 T olive oil
1 clove garlic, sliced
generous pinch dried pepper flakes
3 T tomato sauce
1/4 cup pasta
manchego cheese or other hard Italian cheese (grated) for topping
Fill a 2 quart saucepan about halfway with water, heat on high, and bring it to a boil.
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on low heat. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
While the eggplant is cooking, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes.
Remove the eggplant from the pan.
Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, oregano, and tomato sauce to the frying pan.
When the garlic softens, add the eggplant back into the pan.
Drain the cooked pasta and add it to the eggplant mixture.
Stir to combine the pasta and the eggplant.
Pour the finished dish into a bowl and top with grated cheese.
If you don't have Manchego cheese, you can use Romano instead.
This is so simple, it’s hardly a recipe at all. Just layer slices of fresh tomato, fresh unsalted mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves. Top with a generous drizzle of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.