Mediterranean Orzo Salad

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It’s August, and we are at top temperatures pushing 100 degrees here in Sunny Florida. There are days when I don’t feel like eating very much let alone be in the kitchen for too long. I look for ways to create tasty dishes, and if possible, I prefer not even to turn the oven on. This dish is a very quick, easy and light one. It has a little of everything. There are fresh vegetables for healthy texture and crunch, fresh herbs, creamy feta for a little salty bite, kalamata olives for an unmistakeable Mediterranean flavor, banana peppers for some heat, and of course orzo, which is a nice rice-shaped pasta for salads and side dishes. It’s all brought together with a simple balsamic vinaigrette. This dish is great as a side to any protein you like, or a vegetarian main dish as well. It’s great to bring along to a potluck, a picnic, or just to have something quick to snack on in the fridge. Get creative and use whichever veggies and herbs you like, as well as adding in some grilled shrimp, or chicken for more options. Whatever ingredients you choose, you’ll find this a quick and easy recipe to enjoy any time of year! So here we go…

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Cut all your vegetables into a medium dice, slice your grape tomatoes in half, chop your fresh herbs, and measure out your feta cheese. You can buy it in a block and dice it or do what I did here and buy it already diced.

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Combine the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper, and whisk to combine and emulsify into a nice vinaigrette.

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Cook the orzo pasta according to manufacturers instructions, run under cool water to stop the cooking process, then drain well.

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In a large bowl, toss the orzo, vegetables, herbs and dressing together first without adding the feta cheese just yet. Only add a little dressing at a time, so you don’t over dress it. Keep in mind that the orzo will absorb the dressing as it sits so you need to add enough, but taste it as you go to check it for flavor and also to see if you need to add more salt and pepper. When you are done combining, add the feta cheese and toss gently so you keep the chunky bits in tact.

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Here you have it! Mediterranean Orzo Salad. Enjoy!

MEDITERRANEAN ORZO SALAD (Yields: 8 Servings)

Ingredients:

1 lb Orzo Pasta

1 1/2 c Grape or Cherry Tomatoes, sliced in half

1 c Green Bell Pepper, medium dice

1 c Orange Bell Pepper, medium dice

1 c Red Onion, medium dice

1 c Cucumber, peeled, seeded, medium dice

3/4 c Kalamata Olives, sliced

3/4 c Banana Peppers, medium dice

1/2 c Fresh Basil, chopped

1/2 c Fresh Flat Leaf Italian Parsley, chopped

1 1/4 c Diced or crumbled Feta Cheese

1 1/2 c Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 c Balsamic Vinegar

1 TBS Dijon Mustard

1 TBS Honey

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Procedure:

  1. Cook orzo pasta in salted boiling water according to manufacturers instructions. Pour cooked orzo into a strainer, rinse under cool water to stop the cooking process, and drain well. Set aside.
  2. Chop all the vegetables and herbs, and set aside.
  3. In a bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine the dijon, honey, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper together, whisk until emulsified into a vinaigrette. Check for seasoning.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the orzo, vegetables and herbs. Toss to combine.
  5. Adding a little vinaigrette at a time, toss together until well combined and dressed with the vinaigrette to add plenty of flavor without over dressing. Check for seasoning.
  6. Finally, gently toss in the feta cheese, being careful not to break it up completely, but leave the cheese fairly chunky.

Enjoy!!

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Asian Noodle Salad

 

imageI just adore the light vibrant flavors of Asian food. I also adore noodles. Boy do I love noodles. So much so that I try to limit myself to making only one pasta dinner a week. Not that there is anything wrong with pasta, it’s just that for me, it’s that one food that I have a hard time with controlling my portions. I’m sure you’ve all experienced that feeling of wanting more of your favorite food, and your belly is saying “I’m all set at this point” but your mouth isn’t quite on the same page. I think one of the things I love most about pasta is the texture. Now, having said all of that, I also love salad. It’s satisfying, flavorful, has interesting texture and really good for you. It is really versatile too.

In this recipe, I combine three of my favorites. I get my noodle fix, but not too much, I get the wonderful Asian flavors I adore in the dressing, and I get the flavors, textures, and many health benefits of all the various vegetables and nuts. You can add whichever vegetables you like here. Be creative! If you want to keep this vegetarian, you can add tofu, edamame beans, or other protein of your choice. You can eat this salad as a light main meal, or along side chicken, beef, pork, fish or shellfish. It pretty much goes with anything in my opinion.

So lets get started by first making the dressing.

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Gather your ingredients and measure them all out into a bowl or some sort of carafe to shake them all up. This dressing gets better as it sits a bit so if you can make it in advance it’s even better.

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When adding the garlic and ginger, I like to use a microplane. If you don’t have one, it’s ok, just mince them very fine so there aren’t any big chunks of raw ginger or garlic in your dressing.

Go ahead and whisk them all together in a bowl, or shake them in a jar or dressing carafe. Let it sit and get all happy and allow the flavors to marry.

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Next gather all your favorite salad vegetables, fresh herbs, sesame seeds and roasted peanuts together. For this salad I chose fresh spinach, sliced romaine hearts, radishes for crunch and heat, sliced, peeled and seeded cucumbers, grated carrots, shredded cabbage, green onions, fresh mint, fresh parsley(cilantro is also good here), white sesame seeds and dry roasted peanuts. Whew! Now that’s a salad!

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Now take your rice vermicelli, place it in a bowl, and pour boiling water over it.

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Work the noodles into the hot water so that they are all covered. Allow them to soften, about 5 minutes. They will still have a little bite to them, but unlike if you boiled them on the stove, they will be just soft enough without going too far and becoming mushy.

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Drain the noodles well and place them in your large salad bowl.

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Now pour just enough dressing over them, and toss them to coat them thoroughly. This will not only season them, but will prevent them from sticking together.

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Finish chopping up all your herbs and vegetables..

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Place all of them, along with the sesame seeds and peanuts on top of your noodles in the large bowl.

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Give your dressing a good whisk or shake, and start pouring over your salad. Do this a little at a time..

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Tossing all your lovely ingredients together, and tasting as you mix. Add more dressing as needed to get it all well dressed but don’t drown it in dressing. You want to still be able to taste all the wonderful vegetables!

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Finally, pick a pretty serving dish, plate this little beauty, sit back and enjoy. I hope you love this one as much as I do! Let me know what you think! 😀

ASIAN NOODLE SALAD (Yields:6-8 Servings)

Ingredients:

For the Salad:

2 c Fresh Spinach

2 c Sliced Romaine Hearts

1/2 Cucumber, peeled, seeded, and sliced

5 Radishes, thinly sliced

2 Green Onions, thinly sliced,

1 Lg Carrot, peeled and grated

1/4 c Fresh Mint, chopped

1/4 c Fresh Italian Parsley, chopped

1/4 c Dry Roasted Peanuts

3 TBS White Sesame Seeds

6 oz Rice Vermicelli

For The Dressing:

1 Small Garlic Clove, finely minced

1″ Nub of Fresh Ginger, peeled and finely minced

3 TBS Soy Sauce

2 tsp Mirin( Rice Wine)

3 Limes, juiced

1/2-3/4 c Canola Oil

1 tsp Sesame Oil

1 tsp Sriracha, hot chili sauce

1 tsp Fish Sauce (optional)

1 TBS Honey

Procedure: 

  1. Prepare the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together in a bowl, or shaking them in a jar or dressing carafe. Set aside.
  2. Place the rice noodles in a medium sized bowl, and cover them with boiling water to soften them, about 5 minutes.
  3. Drain the noodles well, place them in a large salad bowl, and dress with just enough of the prepared dressing to season and coat them well.
  4. Place all the rest of your salad ingredients on top of the noodles.
  5. Slowly add enough dressing, a little at a time, to your salad and toss all together with the rice noodles until the noodle salad is well dressed. Do not over dress the salad so that all the wonderful flavors of the vegetables can be enjoyed. There will be extra dressing left over.

 

 

 

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

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Well here we are, almost another year has gone by…we have been celebrating all the holidays and have eaten countless calories. We have eaten to our hearts content, and then some. This time of year many of us enjoy roasted meats like turkey, ham, beef, lamb and so on. We also tend to eat heavy side dishes and appetizers too. I don’t know about you, but at this point I want something different. So on this “Meatless Monday” I am sharing a very easy, roasted vegetable lasagna with some nice little short cuts for those of us who are very busy with work and life in general. Speaking of which, I have to apologize for the long stretch since my last blog post. A new job and a new home have kept me very busy. I am happy to finally be able to share another recipe with you. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you have the most wonderful New Year!!!

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To start, gather all of your ingredients together. For this recipe, I am using no boil noodles to save time, a good jarred marinara sauce, and a little bottled Italian dressing for the quick vegetable marinade. You can certainly make your own sauce, dressing, and boil regular lasagna noodles. You can also grill your vegetables if you prefer. I’ve done it that way too and it’s great, but this time we are  taking a little help where we can get it😊. You can also add any vegetable that you like, eggplant, asparagus, spinach, there are so many combinations. Have at it! Make it your own!

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Slice up all your vegetables and place them in a large zip lock bag.

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Pour the dressing over the vegetables, close the zip lock bag and rub the marinade all over the vegetables to cover them.

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Lay the vegetables out in a single layer onto sheet pans, and place them into a preheated 400 degree oven to roast for about 15 minutes until nicely caramelized and slight char is achieved.

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While the vegetables are roasting, melt the butter and olive oil together in a large sauté pan.

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Add the sliced onions and a little salt and pepper to the melted butter and oil mixture, and slowly sauté them until they are soft, sweet and light golden brown. Also add the chopped garlic to the onions and cook until fragrant.

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Next mix the pesto into the ricotta cheese.

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In a greased baking dish, cover the bottom with about 1 c of the tomato sauce.

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Place the lasagna noodles on top of the sauce..

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Layer 1/3 of the ricotta mixture, the roasted vegetables, the onions, and mozzarella cheese and more sauce, on top of the lasagna noodles. Repeat this 2 more times, finishing the last layer with sauce and cheese.

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Spray some foil with cooking spray(so it won’t stick to the melted cheese) and cover the lasagna. Place it in a 375 degree oven and bake for 50 minutes. Uncover and cook about 10 more minutes until the cheese melts and lasagna is hot and bubbly.

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Enjoy with a nice garden salad!

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna (Yields: 8-10 Servings)

Ingredients:

2 TBS Olive Oil

1 TBS Butter

1c Italian Dressing

1/2c Prepared Basil Pesto

15 oz Ricotta Cheese

1 28oz Jar Marinara Sauce

1 Box No Boil Oven Ready Lasagna Noodles

2-3 Small Zucchini, sliced

1 Red Bell Pepper, seeded

1 Green Bell Pepper, seeded

1 Yellow Bell Pepper, seeded

2 Medium Onions, sliced

3 Garlic Cloves, minced

2c Shredded Mozzerella Cheese

Procedure:

  1. Place sliced zucchini and seeded peppers in a zip lock bag, pour dressing over them. Close the bag, and rub the dressing all over the vegetables. Place the seasoned vegetables on a baking sheet in a single layer, and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.
  2. Saute the onions and garlic, with a little salt and pepper, in a large sauté pan with melted butter and oil until soft and golden.
  3. Combine the pesto and ricotta cheese together in a small bowl.
  4. Spread 1c of marinara sauce on the bottom of a greased 13 x 9 inch baking dish.
  5. Layer 1/3 of the lasagna noodles, the ricotta mixture, the roasted vegetables, the onions, the mozzerella cheese, and the marinara sauce, in that order. Repeat this 2 more times ending with the sauce and mozzerella cheese.
  6. Cover the lasagna with oiled  aluminum foil, and place in a 375 degree oven for 50 minutes. Remove the foil and return to the oven for 10 more minutes.

Rice and Beans

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When I first met my husband, and started enjoying the many Puerto Rican foods that his family ate, it opened up a whole new world of exciting foods and flavors for me. Not only did I learn about where these dishes came from, and who the recipes were passed down from, but I was fortunate to have my mother in law teach me how to cook them. I would go over once a week and watch her make many dishes but rice and beans was one that I definitely had to learn. I would watch her, ask questions and started to make the dish along side of her to eventually learn how to cook it on my own. Of course, like many families, there were no written recipes to follow so I had to learn from site, smell, taste, and texture. There were many trials and errors but eventually I got it down. Every family has there own variation, and they are all good. This is the one I learned and still make at least twice a week per my husbands request. One of the biggest compliments is when my mother in law told me that I got it, and I was spot on. That was a great feeling 🙂 Nothing in my opinion can ever taste as good as your Mom’s, but I’m happy to pass this recipe on to all of you to try.

The type of pot that I use and most Puerto Ricans have in their kitchen is a caldero. It is an aluminum cast pot with a lid, IMUSA is a popular brand, and they are pretty inexpensive. I think mine was $20.00 or less. Rice and beans are a great side dish that pretty much goes with any protein, whether its roasted chicken, pork, beef, or fish. You can even eat it on it’s own because there is lots of protein in the beans making it a complete meal. I like to use Goya products, because of course that is what I was told is best. The Goya rice that I like to use is the medium grain rice. If you can’t find Goya Alcaparado in your market, some don’t carry it, you can use another brand of pimento stuffed green olives and add some capers to it as well. I like to use pinto beans or gondules (pigeon peas) but there are also other beans that are fine to use too. Whatever you like, go for it and enjoy. Or as they say in Puerto Rico,

Buen Provecho!!

 

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Start by gathering your ingredients and measure them out. This is fairly quick and easy but it’s good to be ready to just add them all to the pot.

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Heat your pot on medium high, add the olive oil, Recaito,  Sazon, Adobo, and tomato sauce. Simmer these together until fragrant.

IMG_1854Next add the drained beans and alcaparado and stir into the condiment base.

IMG_1855Add the water and salt to taste. This may taste a little on the salty side at this point but that is ok. Once it is all cooked into the rice it will not taste salty in the finished dish. Bring this all to a boil.

IMG_1856Once the liquid comes to a boil, add in the rice and stir it all together. Bring this all back up to a boil, and reduce to simmer with the lid off. At this point do not stir the rice mixture anymore.

IMG_1877Once the water has simmered down to pretty much the level of the rice, cover it, reduce the heat to low, and let it cook for 25 more minutes. Do not peak or stir it. trust me, it will be okay!

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After 25 minutes, turn off the heat, remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork. It should be cooked through and not crunchy or mushy, but perfectly wonderful! If it needs more time no worries, just cover the pot and cook a little longer until ready.

 

Rice and Beans (Yields: 4-6 Servings)

Ingredients:

2 TBS Olive Oil

1 1/2 TBS Goya Recaito

3 TBS Goya Tomato Sauce

1 Packet Goya Sazon

2 tsp Goya Adobo

3 TBS Alcaparado

1 Can Goya Pinto Beans or Gondules, drained

1 tsp salt, to taste

3 1/2 c Water

2 c Goya Medium Grain Rice

 

Procedure:

1. Heat a Caldero or large pot on medium high. Add the olive oil, Recaito, Adobo, Sazon, and tomato sauce. Heat until fragrant.

2. Add the Alcaparado and drained beans and stir to combine.

3. Add the water and salt and bring to a boil.

4. Once the water is boiling, add the rice and stir to combine. Bring back to a boil, lower the heat to medium and simmer uncovered until the liquid has boiled down to the level of the rice. Do not stir anymore.

5. Cover the pot, reduce heat to low and cook for 25 minutes. Do not lift the lid to peek into the pot, or stir the rice. I know, it’s tempting, but don’t.

6. After 25 minutes, turn off the heat, remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork before serving.

 

 

 

 

 

Field Trip Friday At Warsaw Coffee Company!

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If you are looking for a great way to start your day, I have  the perfect  place for you. Warsaw Coffee Company is now in full swing here in Fort Lauderdale, and they hit the ground running! Owners Scott Ojeda, Blaise McMackin(Tap 42), and Chef Owner Jason Morale(former executive pastry chef at Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons) bring of wealth of talent, knowledge and experience to their new project. The city of Fort Lauderdale and the local community have welcomed them  with open arms, and already Warsaw Coffee Co. has won awards including their latest, Best Coffee Shop 2015 by New Times Broward Palm Beach! They are located at 815 NE 13th St, Fort Lauderdale, Florida in a beautifully renovated mid century building. The inside has a cool, but cozy industrial feel, if you can imagine, and everything looks great!

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In a hurry? Late for work? There’s a Drive-Thru!
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They not only offer a wonderful selection of coffees, lattes, espresso and teas, but an amazing menu featuring both savory and sweet items to eat as well.

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On our first visit we went early morning for breakfast. We ordered 2 delicious Hot Lattes and an amazing sausage breakfast burrito with avocado, cheddar and roasted tomato all tucked into a spinach wrap. It was wonderful and big enough to feed the two of us, or if you have a hearty appetite this will satisfy your hunger for a while.

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We love that they are dog-friendly so Jasmine was able to come hang out too! 🙂

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On another visit, very hot day I might add, I stopped in for a cool delicious Iced Chai Latte. One of my favorite drinks, and this one was outstanding!

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They have many items to offer, whether you are in the mood for something savory like a sandwich, a wrap, a salad, a pressed sandwich or this Ratatouille Quiche for example…

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Or if you’re craving something sweet there are cookies, pastries, and lots of yummy baked goods….

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They even make an old time favorite Pop Pastry! And yes Everything is made in house, from scratch.

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Now if that isn’t enough, there’s more! They also serve hot chocolate, fresh pressed juices…
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and most recently brought in selection of craft beers and wine.

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To go with these new additional beverages more new menu items such as bruschettas and charcuterie will also be added to their evening menu soon.

For the latest information on Warsaw Coffee Company visit them @warsawcoffee.com, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. But if I were you, I would just go down there and check it out. You won’t be sorry!

 

Some photos are courtesy of other people. I tried to tag each individually, but was unable to so I am noting them here ( the rest are yours truely 🙂 ) :

* Photo courtesy of Warsaw Coffee Co.

**Photo courtesy of Wolfe Real Estate Group

*** Photo Courtesy of Nicole Danna

****Photo courtesy of Jon. B.

*****Photo courtesy of Warsaw Coffee Co.

******Photo courtesy of Warsaw Coffee Co.

*******Photo Courtesy of John Tanasychuk

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Magnificent Mango

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MMMMMMM…Mango…. Such a delicious fruit. Living in south florida we are very fortunate to have an abundance of these beauties all around us. If you don’t have your own tree, you are sure to have a neighbor or friend that has one, more  than willing to share their harvest with you.

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Walking around the neighborhood it is quite a site to see when you pass a mango tree full of fruit ready for picking.

Besides the mango’s delicious juicy flesh, it is also loaded with vitamin C and Folate (B9) making it good for you too.

imageThere are a couple of easy ways to cut a mango. They are slightly oval in shape and have a large pit in the center. If you stand the unpeeled mango up,  try to feel the tip for the shape of the pit and slice off the mango on either side of it.

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You can then scoop out the flesh using a large spoon, and dice it up.

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imageAnother way you can dice the mango is by leaving the cut half in the skin, score the flesh with the tip of a sharp knife in a cross pattern,

imageinvert the skin, pushing the diced pieces outward,

imageand remove the diced pieces that way. The same can be done with avocados by the way. 🙂

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I had quite a few thanks to a good friend, so I diced some of them to freeze for later use. I make mango sorbet, smoothies, salads, and when blended with ice, a little simple syrup, fresh mint, lime juice and rum, makes a delicious Mango Mojito!

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I diced up a separate bowl for Mango Salsa. This is delicious with tortilla chips, on fish, chicken, pork, and also pairs nicely with Brie and goat cheese as a nice appetizer.

imageFor the Mango Salsa, all you need is some red onion, fresh cilantro, a jalapeño pepper, fresh lime juice, a little salt, and of course the mango!

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Depending how spicy you like your salsa, remove the seeds and membrane from the jalapeño. I like a little heat so I leave a little in. Mince it finely.

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imageToss it all together in a bowl, add the freshly squeezed lime juice and salt to taste.

imageCover the salsa, and refrigerate. It gets better as it sits, so making it a little ahead of time is best. It’s so delicious you’ll probable find yourself grabbing a spoonful right out of the bowl. It’s fresh, flavorful and very versatile. Enjoy!!

Mango Salsa ( Yields: 4 Cups )

Ingredients:

3-4 Fresh Ripe Mangos, about 4 c, Medium dice

1 c Red Onion, small dice

1 Jalapeño Pepper, seeded, minced

1/2 c Fresh Cilantro, chopped

1 Fresh Lime, juiced

1 tsp Kosher salt, or to taste

Procedure:

1. In a medium sized bowl, toss together the mango, red onion, jalapeño pepper, and cilantro until well combined. Add the fresh lime juice and salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate before using for best flavor.

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Kalamata Olives and Peas

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This is one of those dishes that was a result of opening up the refrigerator, seeing what was available to cook, and going with the flow. It may seam kind of odd to combine these ingredients together, but honestly, it works. It is a very quick and easy dish that gives you a clean earthy flavor from the asparagus, sweetness from the peas and a bright briny bite (say that 3 times fast!) from the kalamata olives. Of course like most of my pasta dishes, it all starts with some garlic and onion, a splash of white wine and finished with a little parmesan cheese. This dish is a hit at my house, and I make it quite often. If you aren’t a fan of asparagus (I can’t imagine why) you can add whatever vegetables you like. I love this because it is a nice change from a red sauce based or heavier creamy pasta. It is always good to lighten things up a bit. Just open up the refrigerator and cupboards and get creative! What are some of your pasta ideas? I’d love to hear them too!

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Start off by slicing the onion and kalamata olives, mincing the garlic, and cutting the asparagus into manageable bite sized pieces.

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In a large saute pan over medium high heat, heat the olive oil and soften the onions and garlic.

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Once the onions and garlic are softened, add the cut asparagus. Meanwhile, add the spaghetti to a pot of boiling, salted water and cook to al dente. Save about a cup of the pasta cooking water for a little later.

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Next add the frozen peas and saute for a couple of minutes to warm them. Now you can add a little white wine and reduce it down for a about 5 minutes.

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Add the sliced kalamata olives, and toss in the cooked spaghetti and parmesan cheese. If you need to loosen up the sauce a bit, add a little of the pasta cooking water, a little at a time until you reach your desired consistency. Season well with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!!

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Spaghetti with Asparagus, Kalamata Olives and Peas ( Yields: 2 Servings )

Ingredients:

8 oz Spaghetti

1-2 Tbs Olive Oil

2 Cloves Garlic, minced

1/2 Medium Onion, sliced

3/4 lb Fresh Asparagus, large dice

1/2 c Frozen Peas

1/8 c White Wine

1/2 c Kalamata Olives, pitted and sliced

1/4 c Parmesan Cheese, grated

Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste

Procedure:

1. In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil and saute the onions and garlic until soft.

2. Add the cut asparagus and cook for 2 minutes. Add the frozen peas and white wine, and saute together for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Reserve a cup of pasta cooking water before draining the pasta.

3. Toss the cooked pasta water with the sauce, add the kalamata olives,  parmesan cheese, and if needed, a little of the pasta cooking water to loosen the sauce and coat the pasta. Cook all together for one more minute to blend all the flavors. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!