There are some dishes that just scream a certain season to me. A big pot of chili or anything involving a gourd in the fall. Hearty, meat-heavy dishes that are roasted or stewed or crockpot-ed in the winter. But summer… Probably the most seasonally iconic dishes are summer ones! There are just so many – burgers on the grill, corn on the cob, popsicles, salads topped with fruit, triangles of juicy watermelon, and a newspaper-covered picnic table with Old Bay seasoned whole crabs piled on top! Right up there at the top of the summer food list is caprese salad. Fresh, cool, and best with ripe summer tomatoes, caprese salad is definitely quintessential summer fare. So today when coming up with this dish, I thought that the mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil of a caprese salad would make for an interesting summery twist on Mac n cheese!
We have a caveat to our post today though. Neither of us actually ate this dish. I made it for our friends who just had a new baby! They swear it was good, so we’ll just have to take their word for it. Relatedly, the base Mac & cheese recipe here (also the base for Goat Mac), is a great option if you want to make something ahead to bring to someone! You can make it up until the last baking part and then whomever you bring it to can bake it for the appropriate length of time later (which you may need to increase by 10 minutes or so from the immediate baking time as below).
Summer Mac n Cheese
- 3 cups milk
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup AP flour
- 5 cups dry small pasta (penne, farfalle, elbows, etc)
- 16oz mozzarella cheese
- Salt & pepper
- ~10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
- Pre-heat the oven 400 degrees.
- Heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat until very lightly simmering. Meanwhile, bring a large pot over water to a boil.
- Once the large pot of water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente.
- In another saucepan, melt the butter over low-medium heat. When the butter has melted, begin to slowly whisk in the flour. When the flour is absorbed, remove the pan from the heat.
- Meanwhile, place the grape tomatoes in a bowl and toss them with the olive oil, 3 chopped basil leaves, and salt & pepper.
- Roast them on a small sheet pan for ~15 minutes, until they are just starting to wrinkle and split. Remove from the oven.
- Moving back to the stove, slowly whisk all of the milk into the mixture. (It will initially get incredibly thick, then begin to thin out.)
- When all of the milk has been added, return the pot to medium heat and whisk continuously for ~3 minutes.
- Now add in the cheese and continue whisking.
- When sauce has come together, combine the sauce with the pasta and place in baking dish. Top with the tomatoes and remaining basil.
- Bake for just an additional 10 minutes, so it all firms up.
Awhile back, I (probably via Pinterest let’s be honest) came across Seasons & Suppers. This food blog, or “online food and cooking diary,” as its author describes it, is honestly what I aspire for our blog to be. First off, we like to think of our site as our own personal culinary diary as well. Secondly, her photography is gorgeous. Gorgeous is an understatement. Breathtaking. Spectacular. Drool-inducing. Stunning. Insert whatever superlative adjective you prefer. And all of the recipes I see on the site, I immediately want to make. Somehow, Jennifer (the author) produces dishes that are homey and down-to-earth, without “fancy” ingredients or techniques, yet every dish seems fit to serve the Queen of England. I distinctly remember the day I discovered the site. I just kept clicking and pinning, clicking and pinning. I wanted to save ALL of the recipes to attempt myself! With all of this being said, this is the first recipe of hers we’ve attempted. Why? I don’t know, but I suspect that deep in the recesses of my brain I don’t want to see my results side by side with hers.
When we decided to have pasta for dinner tonight, I immediately thought of this recipe I’d seen from Seasons & Suppers a few weeks back – Lemon Ricotta Pasta with Prosciutto and Pea Shoots. How perfect for spring! Ricotta provides for a lighter sauce than many other pasta dishes (like our favorite Homemade Pasta Carbonara) and the lemon certainly adds spring-like brightness. We did make a few changes for our version, namely the addition of basil and homemade pasta, but what a beautiful inspiration! One tip: eat immediately after serving. As the ricotta cools, it becomes less sauce-like. It tastes delicious either way.
In conclusion? Go check out Seasons & Suppers for beautiful food photography and a plethora of recipes. And then try this pasta dish, whether her version or ours!
Prosciutto & Basil Topped Lemon Ricotta Pappardelle
(Adapted from Seasons & Suppers, clearly)
- 1 1/3 cup AP flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 1/2 cups ricotta
- 2 lemons, zested & juiced
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Pinch of salt
- 6+ slices of prosciutto, torn
- Fresh basil
- Prepare pasta as described in Our How To Make Basic Pasta.
- Once the dough has set, roll out and divide into quarters. Using the pasta roller attachment on the stand mixer, flatten out (to #5 if using KitchenAid’s model) or do it by hand. Slice into ~ 1/2 inch ribbons. Let the flattened dough rest on a floured surface.
- Meanwhile, in a deep sauté pan, or a sauteuse pan, heat the olive oil over medium. Once hot, add the shallots. Cook for 5 minutes, until fragrant.
- Mix together the ricotta, 1/3 cup of lemon juice & 2 tbsp zest, and several turns of fresh ground black pepper. Pour into the pan with the shallots. Turn heat down to low.
- When ready to cook the pasta, bring large pot of water to a boil. Salt liberally. Cook pasta for just 2 minutes, until al dente.
- Drain the pasta, reserving some pasta water. Add pappardelle to the pan with the ricotta sauce and toss well. Thin the sauce as desired with reserved pasta water (we did not use any). You may increase the heat here if your sauce isn’t quite hot, but do so gently.
- Once the sauce is warmed to your liking, serve the pasta into bowls and top with torn prosciutto, basil, a pinch of salt, and more fresh pepper if you desire.
You’ve heard of fruit pizzas right? They’re shaped liked pizzas, but that’s really where the similarities end. To the best of my knowledge, fruit pizzas are essentially entirely sweet, with a base more like cookie dough, topped with fruits and sugar. You eat them for dessert, not dinner. That is not what we’re doing here tonight. This blackberry pizza is mostly savory, with the addition of the sweet and tangy blackberries.
How did I come up with this crazy idea? I didn’t. This was a Pinterest find, from a blog called A Whisk and Two Wands. The pictures caught my eye – gorgeous contrast of the dark berries and white cheese! Furthermore, Selim loves pizza, we’re trying to eat more fruit, we had blackberries and basil in the fridge, and I had the time to make some dough today. All good reasons to give this unique idea a whirl tonight!
We really enjoyed this as an alternative to a “normal” pizza for dinner tonight. However, I think it would really be perfect as an appetizer in smaller portions for your next dinner party!
Balsamic Basil Blackberry Pizza
(Adapted from A Whisk and Two Wands blog)
- 2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 cup hot water, divided
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tsp salt
- Olive oil
- 12oz blackberries
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 8 turns of fresh ground black pepper
- Just a pinch of salt
- 10 large leaves of fresh basil, roughly chopped, reserving 2-3 leaves
- 16oz log of mozzarella
- First, prepare the dough. (You also could skip this step entirely and buy prepared pizza dough.) In a small bowl, stir together the yeast, sugar, and 1/4 cup of warm water. Let sit for ~10 minutes until frothy.
- In a large bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Pour the yeast mixture over-top. Add the remaining water slowly, stopping and stirring frequently. Mix with a spoon in the bowl until you have a well-combined ball of dough. (You may need slightly more or slightly less water to form a nice ball of dough. If it ends up too wet – add additional flour.)
- Then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured, clean, dry counter-top. Knead the dough for 10+ minutes. The dough should be firm and elastic.
- Pour just a tiny bit of olive oil onto a paper towel and swipe around the bottom and side of a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with a damp towel. Allow to sit for 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size.
- Meanwhile, prepare the blackberry sauce. Pour blackberries into a saucepan over low-medium heat. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, pepper, and chopped fresh basil. Cover and cook for ~5 minutes so the berries soften.
- Uncover and mash the blackberries with your stirring spoon or the back of a fork.
- Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens. This should take ~10 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Once dough has risen, turn it out on a lightly flowered surface. Divide in half. Roll out the dough into two large circles.
- Bake the pizza dough without topping for 5 minutes and then remove from the oven.
- Spoon the blackberry sauce onto the dough as you would a normal pizza, leaving a bit of the edge uncovered for a crust.
- Slice mozzarella and place chunks all over the pizza. (May not use the whole 16oz log of mozzarella.)
- Bake for an additional 8-10 minutes, watching the edges of the crusts to make sure it’s not over-browning.
- Top with the remaining fresh basil before serving.
In our relationship, Selim is definitely the one with the imagination. When you tell me we’re having guacamole, I think – avocados, lime, cilantro, onion, salt… Why would you do anything else, when the original is so delicious? Luckily, I have him to push me outside of my box every now and then. Just because the original is amazing doesn’t mean that a variation isn’t delicious in its own right. [Just wait until we share Selim’s Bacon & Blue Cheese Guacamole – people rave about it!]
This unique guacamole has great herbaceous flavor from the fresh basil. The basics are essentially the same as traditional guacamole, but the substitution of that one herb is fairly dramatic in my opinion. The Pecorino adds a depth of flavor, but it does not taste overtly cheesy. We enjoyed this just as we would your standard guac – with tortilla chips and bell pepper slices.
- 4 small, ripe avocados
- 1/8 of a small onion, finely diced
- 2-4 garlic cloves, minced (depending on how much you like garlic)
- Juice of 1/4 of a lime
- 6 large fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
- 2 oz finely grated Pecorino cheese
- Salt to taste
- Chop the avocados into chunks. Using the back of a large spoon, smush the avocado – we like the consistency to remain a little bit chunky.
- Combine the avocados with the rest of the ingredients. Stir to combine well.
- Refrigerate if not eating immediately.