Today, I'm featuring a flavor packed pasta dish for two that you can throw together quickly using common pantry items.  It's the perfect weekday meal solution, especially on a Monday night when -- if you are like me -- you are feeling less motivated in the kitchen.  

Since the pasta leans slightly more toward the indulgent side, I served it with a light side salad.

Pepperoni Pasta
Total Time: 15 minutes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes

What you'll need

1 1/2 cups uncooked large pasta shells 
1 cup garlic croutons
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese 
1/4 cup olive oil
about 2 ounces of pepperoni, sliced into thin strips
pasta water
pepper

Directions
1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
2. Meanwhile, add croutons and parmesan cheese to a food processor.  Pulse until well blended. 
3. Once pasta is cooked, strain the noodles and reserve the pasta water. 
4. Add olive oil to a medium saucepan; cook over medium heat.  Carefully add the noodles; mix well until noodles are well coated in the oil. 
5. Stir in crouton mixture and pepperoni slices.  
6. If pasta appears dry, add a couple of spoonfuls of pasta water until moist. Season with pepper to taste.
7. Serve with a side salad and enjoy!
 
 
Today, I'm featuring a quick and easy pasta dinner that is packed with vegetables and a touch of cream -- allowing you to indulge without over-indulging.  

Vegetable Orzo Alfredo
Total Time: 30 minutes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes

What you'll need
1/2 cup uncooked orzo
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 sweet onion, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 zucchini, shredded
1/4 cup milk
2 ounces cream cheese, cubed
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
salt and pepper to taste
grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions
1. Cook orzo according to package directions.
2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion, bell pepper and garlic; cook 2 minutes. 
3. Stir in zucchini; cook 10 minutes or until some of the moisture has evaporated.
4. Pour milk into the skillet; stir in cream cheese until melted. Mix in basil and tomatoes.
5. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. 
6. Serve over the cooked orzo.  Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from AllRecipes.com
 
 
As you may have noticed, I love combining my two great food loves -- Italian and Mexican.  And today's featured recipe for two is no exception to how delectable this food matchup can be.  The light, creamy texture of the orzo, paired with crisp corn, green chiles and tomato combine to create a dinner for two sensation. 

Tex Mex Orzo
Total Time: 20 minutes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes

What you'll need
1 tablespoon olive oil 
2 tablespoons shallot, finely diced 
1 teaspoon ground cumin 
1/2 cup uncooked orzo
3/4 cup lower-sodium chicken stock 
1/2 can (5 ounces) Rotel diced tomato with green chiles 
1/2 can (about 5.5 ounces) Mexicorn, drained
2 teaspoons lime juice
pepper

Directions
1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add shallot and ground cumin; saute for 2 minutes, or until tender. 
2. Stir in uncooked orzo.  Mix well until orzo is evenly coated in olive oil. 
3. Add chicken stock and diced tomatoes with green chiles; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low; cover and cook for 9 minutes.  Taste orzo, and add more chicken stock if required. 
4. Once orzo is cooked, stir in Mexicorn and lime juice.  Cook for an additional 2 minutes.  Season with pepper to taste. 
5. Serve and enjoy!
Recipe adapted from Eat Yourself Skinny
 
 
Today, I'm serving up another yum-ified pasta.  However, this time I'm taking you South of the border by incorporating all of the delicious attributes of Chicken Enchiladas.  You'll love the punch of flavor and cheesy goodness that this Mexican favorite brings to your pasta dish.  

Chicken Enchilada Pasta
Total Time: 40 minutes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes

What you'll need
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked & shredded
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 (4 ounce) can diced green chiles
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 (10 ounce) can green chili enchilada sauce
1/2 cup red enchilada sauce
1 cup shredded cheese (I used colby & monterrey jack)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup uncooked Penne pasta

Directions
1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
2. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet.  Add onions and red pepper; cook for 3 to 5 minutes.  
3. Add garlic; cook for an additional 3 to 5 minutes.  
4. Add cooked chicken, green chiles, cumin, chili powder, salt, & enchilada sauces.  Let sauce simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. 
5. Stir in cheese until it is melted and heated through.  
6. Reduce heat to low and stir in the sour cream.  Continue to stir until sour cream is well mixed and heated through.
7. Combine sauce with cooked pasta.  Mix well until pasta is evenly coated. Serve and enjoy!
Recipe adapted from Pearls, Handcuffs & Happy Hour
 
 
Treat yourself to a decadent bowl of Shrimp Linguini this Monday evening.  With a parmesan cheese and garlic base, succulent shrimp and crisp asparagus, it's the perfect cure for the Monday blues.

Shrimp Linguini in a Garlic Parmesan Sauce 
Total Time: 35 minutes + time to marinate
Prep: 15 minutes + time to marinate
Cook: 20 minutes

What you'll need
For the Marinade

1/2 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1/4 cup white wine
1 tablespoon olive oil 
3 cloves garlic, chopped

For the Pasta
1 cup uncooked linguini 
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup white wine
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 asparagus bundle, cut into 1-inch pieces

Directions
1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine marinade ingredients; mix well.  Stir in shrimp.  Let shrimp marinate for 30 minutes. 
2. Cook pasta according to package directions. 
3. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add flour and continue to stir until butter and flour create a paste.  Cook for 1 minute.  
4. Add chicken stock, white wine, garlic and milk to the saucepan; bring to a boil.  Stir until sauce thickens.  Add parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper. 
5. In a medium skillet, add asparagus and a drizzle of olive oil.  Cook over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes.
6. Add shrimp to the skillet.  Cook until shrimp is no longer opaque.  
7. Add cooked linguini and sauce.  Mix well until pasta, shrimp and asparagus are evenly coated in sauce. 
8. Garnish with shredded parmesan cheese and chopped parsley before serving.  Enjoy!
 
 
Mixing Marinara with Alfredo was new for me, and let me tell you -- I'm so glad I tried it.  Talk about a great combination of flavors!  I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised, they are both "to-die-for" sauces.  Take that combination, and add in the delight of browned chicken, creamy orzo and peas, and you've got yourself one decadent dinner. 

Baked Chicken and Marinara over Alfredo Orzo with Peas
Total Time: 30-35 minutes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 25-30 minutes

What you'll need
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 
garlic salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter
2-3 slices fresh mozzarella cheese
1 cup marinara sauce 
1/2 cup uncooked orzo
1/2 - 1 cup light alfredo sauce  
1/2 cup frozen or canned peas
fresh basil 

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
2. Generously season chicken breasts with garlic salt and pepper. 
3. Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Turn heat up to high, add in chicken breasts.  Brown chicken, about 2 minutes per side.
4. In a small baking dish, add a thin layer of marinara sauce to help prevent chicken from sticking.
5. Place browned chicken breasts over the marinara sauce.  Pour remaining marinara over the top of the chicken breasts.  Top with mozzarella cheese slices.  Lightly season with salt and pepper. 
6. Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until cheese is melted and chicken is cooked through. 
7. Meanwhile, cook orzo according to package directions.
8. Add Alfredo sauce to the saucepan.  Mix well until orzo is evenly coated in sauce. 
9. Stir in peas.  Continue to cook on low until peas are warm, about 5 minutes. 
10. Spoon orzo into a bowl.  Top with chicken breast and garnish with fresh basil.  Serve and enjoy!
 
 
Today's featured recipe for two requires minimal ingredients and effort, yet it produces maximum flavor.  Even better, it provides a nutritious dose of vitamin packed fruits and vegetables.  Thus, generating a "good-for-you," good tasting, Popeye approved meal.

Sun-Dried Tomato and Spinach Pasta
Total Time: 20 minutes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes

What you'll need
1 - 1 1/2 cups uncooked pasta 
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 leek, chopped
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes
8 oz package of frozen spinach
parmesan cheese

Directions
1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
2. In a medium skillet, sauté garlic over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure garlic does not burn. 
3. Add spinach and tomatoes to pan; cook for approximately 3 minutes.
4. Stir in pasta.  Mix until pasta is evenly coated in oil and vegetables.  Let simmer for 3 to 5 minutes.  
5. Remove from heat and top with parmesan cheese.
6. Serve with a side of garlic cheese toast.  Enjoy! 
 
 
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My love for buffalo wing sauce has infiltrated its way into my love for pasta in today's featured recipe for two -- Garlic Buffalo Capellini.  This pasta dish delivers a spicy, garlic flavor that any buffalo wing fan will love.  However, a word of warning, this pasta does have a kick, so be prepared to take a walk on the hotter side. 

Garlic Buffalo Capellini
Total Time: 30 minutes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes

What you'll need
1/4 cup buttermilk 
2 tablespoons buffalo wing sauce (I prefer Franks Red Hot Wings Buffalo Sauce)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 bell pepper (any color), diced
2 celery stalks, sliced
3 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/4 cup pasta water
6 ounces uncooked cappellini pasta (a little under 1/2 box)
1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions
1. Cook pasta according to package directions, reserving 1/4 cup pasta water for later.
2. In a medium skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic, onion, celery and bell pepper.  Saute for 2 to 3 minutes. 
3. Stir in buttermilk and buffalo wing sauce.  Mix well and let simmer for 10 minutes. 
4. Add cooked pasta to the skillet with pasta water.  Toss into sauce.  Add tomatoes and let simmer for 2 minutes. 
5. Serve and enjoy!
 
 
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Don't let the title of today's recipe fool you into thinking it's loaded with fat and calories.  Even though it contains a light cream sauce, this pasta dish is approximately 400 calories and 16 grams of fat per serving, which is not bad for a cream based pasta. 

Fortunately, it tastes just as good as when you treat yourself to a creamy (and fatty) restaurant pasta.  However, in this case you don't have to take home a doggy bag filled with guilt.


Creamy Garlic and Tomato Pasta
Total Time: 25 minutes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes

What you'll need

2 cups pasta of your choice, uncooked
7 ounces diced tomatoes, drained
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup chicken stock 
1 cup frozen peas
1 tablespoon butter

Directions
1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
2. In a medium skillet, melt better and sauté garlic over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes. 
3. Add diced tomatoes, cream and chicken stock.  Mix well.  Let simmer for an additional 2 minutes. 

4. Stir in cooked noodles. 
5. Add frozen peas.  Simmer for 5 minutes. 
6. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
7. If desired, top with shredded parmesan cheese. Serve and enjoy!
 
 
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There is nothing I love more than the comfort of a good pasta dish.  And today's recipe for two gives me just that.  It's warm, hearty and delicious.  Plus, the ground Italian sausage provides lively flavors, and the zucchini gives this dish a wonderful crunch, making it -- what I believe to be -- the total pasta package!

Pasta Casserole
Total Time: 30 minutes
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes

What you'll need
2 cups penne or rigatoni pasta, uncooked
1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
8 ounces ground Italian sausage (you can use lean turkey sausage if you want to cut down on fat and calories)
1/2 zucchini (or 1/4 zucchini and 1/4 yellow squash)
1 leek, diced
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup chicken stock 
2 tablespoons basil, chopped
1 tablespoon ricotta cheese or Boursin cheese (optional)
salt and pepper

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
2. Cook pasta according to package directions. 
3. In a medium skillet saute sausage over medium heat until it is cooked through.
4. Stir in leek and zucchini.  Saute for 1 minute. 

5. Turn heat to high, add wine.  Stir until wine is evaporated. Add chicken stock and stir until it is slightly reduced.  Return heat to medium and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. 
6. Add basil, marinara and 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese.  Mix well.  
*Note -- you can also mix in 1 tablespoon of Boursin cheese or ricotta cheese for a little extra flavor.
7. Stir in cooked pasta.  Mix well until noodles are evenly coated in sauce.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
8. Transfer to a casserole dish and top with 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese. 
9. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until heated through. 
10. Serve and enjoy!