Comfort Food: Pizza and Pasta

Pizza With Portobello Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Calabrese Salami

This is an easy dinner using grocery store pitas and gourmet ingredients such as portobello mushrooms, beautiful tomatoes and Calabrese salami.  Pizza with fresh flavours are easy to make at home – no delivery necessary!  

Penne with Vodka Sauce

This delicious recipe is from The Food Network.  They only change I have made is to reduce the amount of vodka in the sauce because I feel 1 cup is too much.  I love any kind of pasta, but one of my particular favourites is this homemade vodka sauce.


  • 1 quart Simple Tomato Sauce, recipe follows, or store-bought marinara sauce, blended until smooth
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 pound penne


Simmer the tomato sauce and vodka in a heavy large skillet over low heat until the mixture reduces by 1/4, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Stir the cream into the tomato and vodka sauce. Simmer over low heat until the sauce is heated through. Stir in the Parmesan cheese until melted and well blended.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and transfer it to the pan with the sauce, and toss to coat.

Simple Tomato Sauce:

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

4 to 6 basil leaves

2 dried bay leaves

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional

In a large casserole pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add celery and carrot and season with salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil, and bay leaves and reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and simmer for 1 hour or until thick. Remove bay leaves and taste for seasoning. If sauce tastes too acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, to round out the flavor.

Pour half the tomato sauce into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Continue with remaining tomato sauce.

If not using all the sauce, allow it to cool completely and then pour 1 to 2 cup portions into plastic freezer bags. Freeze for up to 6 months.

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

Homemade macaroni and cheese is one of my favourite recipes.  If you have only ever had macaroni and cheese from the box, you are missing out.  This recipe is always satisfying and easy to make.  I feel better knowing that vibrant orange food colouring and unnecessary preservatives are not added.  Modifications to this recipe could be other cheeses – cheddar, mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Gouda – the list goes on.

The macaroni and cheese at Oliver and Bonacini’s Cafe Grill offers add on options: aged white cheddar and goat cheese, bacon, or roasted chicken and sweet garden peas.  Oliver and Bonacini’s Cafe Grill makes my favourite restaurant version of what I make at home. Jonathan and I have visited the Oliver and Bonacini restaurant locations in Toronto and Waterloo – easily one of our favourite restaurants.  I am in love with Italian food and it is a nice treat on occasion to have someone else cook for you and clean up the mess.

My version usually has old cheddar and a little mozzarella.  I made this for Jonathan with asparagus on the side and it was a tasty meal.  Jonathan wanted to add crushed chili peppers, but I insisted that he try it without for the first time. Throughout our life together I am sure I will make this recipe many times.


2 cups of uncooked elbow macaroni

¼ cups of butter or margarine

½ teaspoon of salt

¼ teaspoons of pepper

¼ cup of flour

2 cups of milk

2 cups of cheese


Blend melted margarine, salt, pepper and flour in saucepan over medium heat.  Add milk and stir till bubbling.  Add in cheese and stir until the cheese is melted.  Cook pasta and then place in a casserole dish and pour cheese mixture onto of the pasta.  Bake in oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Thursday Night Dinner – Prosciutto, Arugula, and Mushroom Pizza

One my favourite things to do for dinner is to create a gourmet pizza.  Tonight Jonathan and I decided on some tasty prosciutto, the ever trendy arugula and delicious mushrooms.  While grocery store pitas do not rival the crusts of Woodenheads in Kingston, or Pizzeria Libretto in Toronto, they make a lot less mess for a Thursday night.

With the pitas as a crust, tomato sauce (any kind you have available), mozzarella, diced tomatoes, shredded prosciutto, mushrooms and arugula, came a flavourful and healthy dinner.  After drizzling a small amount of extra virgin olive oil on top, the pizzas were baked in the oven at 350 degrees F until the cheese was melted and the crust was a beautiful golden brown.

I would love to have gourmet pizza at my wedding, but perhaps it’s not classy enough; then again, maybe the wine would make up for it?  Also, I’m not sure Martha Stewart – or our Moms! – would approve of the idea. What we will probably eat at our wedding is whatever the wonderful chefs at Splendido dream up, using the best of fresh, seasonal Ontario ingredients.

Regardless, we have over a year to dream up possible menus.