Cooking For College Aug 3, 2010 Kicked Up Marinara, Garlic Bread, Homemade Pesto

I had the pleasure of teaching 11 teens in a private Cooking for College class at my neighbor’s house. I was very impressed with how well mannered and charming they were. I broke them up into 2 teams and had them pick team names. So each team had to decide which team members would be in charge of each recipe. The were making Whole Wheat Pasta with Homemade Pesto, Kicked up Marinara, and Garlic Bread. All with in a college student’s budget. We feed 11 teens on $55.00. I will admit that I should have bought one more box of pasta. Luckily the hostess had one.

Kicked Up Marinara Sauce

This is a good one to have in your files because it uses stuff you would/could normally have in your pantry since they won’t spoil. A box of pasta, a jar of spaghetti sauce, can of tomatoes, and a can of cream of mushroom soup. The fresh vegetables add nutrients and sweetness to the sauce so hopefully you can get your hands on them.

Hardware- big pot w/lid to boil the pasta in, big pot with lid for the sauce, colander, wooden spoon, mini food processor/magic bullet, cutting board, knife, flatware spoon, pancake flipper

Software- 1 lb of dry pasta, (whole wheat is best. I like Barilla brand), 1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce, 1 can of S & W Italian style stewed tomatoes, 1 can of Cambell’s cream of mushroom soup, sweet onion not yellow/brown onion, zucchini, baby carrots, 1 carton of fresh mushrooms, olive oil, one package of extra lean ground turkey/lowfat sausage (i like the Aidelli chicken apple sausages)(they are fully cooked), fresh grated/shredded parmasan cheese (not from a green can), dried crushed red peppers (like the ones the pizza places have) optional.

If your onion wasn’t already in the fridge, then put it in the freezer til you are ready for it. Cutting into a cold onion will reduce the vapors that cause you to cry.


  • Get your pot of water on the stove to boil. You should have enough water for the pasta to move around. Cover with a lid.
  • Rinse your mushrooms, carrots, and zucchini.
  • Slice off the bottom of the stems of the mushrooms. Then quarter the mushrooms and set them aside.
  • Put the carrots in the processor. Cut up the zucchini into large chunks and  add them to the processor. Pour in the can of S & W tomatoes.
  • Blend the carrots, zucchini, and tomatoes into a puree.
  • Take the onion and cut off the part without the roots, this should give you an easy place to peel off the paper (inedible) part off of the onion.
  • Dice the onion by cutting the onion in half from the roots to the top, then laying it on the flat side cut down to the cutting board parallel lines 1/2 inch apart. Take care not to cut through the roots they will help keep the onion together as you are cutting.
  • Rotate your knife and cut parallel lines down to the cutting board that are perpendicular to the first set of lines you cut. This should give you nice diced onion pieces. If this makes no sense watch a u tube video on how to dice an onion. Sometimes watching is easier to understand than reading.
  • Once you have your onion diced, get the pot on medium heat for the sauce. Give it a 6 second pour of olive oil to evenly coat the bottom of the pot. (If you see smoke coming off the oil your heat is too high.)
  • After 2 minutes add the onions along with a pinch of salt. The salt allows the water in the onions to come out faster therefore speeding up the carmelization/browning process.
  • Use the flipper to move the onions around. When the onions are light brown you can in the package of ground turkey. Move it around with the flipper breaking up the chunks.
  • When the turkey is no longer pink, add your mushrooms and the pureed veggies. Give everything a stir with the wooden spoon.
  • Add the jar of spaghetti sauce.
  • Add 1/2 the can of cream of mushroom soup. I scoop out the other half of the can and put it in a ziploc bag labeled cream of mushroom and freeze it to use later. Or if you want you can double the other items and make 2 batches since the sauce freezes well.
  • By now your pasta water should be boiling, add the noodles and stir them with a wooden spoon immediately, this prevents noodles from sticking together. Boil according to the package.
  • When the noodles are done, add 2 ladle worth of pasta water to the tomato sauce and stir. The starch in the water will allow the sauce to stick to the noodles better.
  • Turn off the stove. Place the colander in the sink.
  • Dump the noodles into the colander using pot holders to hold the pot handles. Always dump the pot away from you so you don’t splash yourself with hot water.
  • Rinse cold water on the noodles to stop the cooking process.

Place a nice pile of noodles on your plate. Give the sauce a final stir and ladle some on your noodles. Add crushed red peppers if you want a little spice.  Enjoy.

Garlic Bread

Hardware- aluminum foil, cookie sheet, cutting board, knife, butter knife,

Software- room temperature Smart Balance Butter Substitute spread, (has 0 trans fats), baguette, dried oregano, shredded asiago/parmesan cheese, garlic powder


  • Preheat your oven to 350 F. Carefully cut the baguette in half along the length of the baguette.
  • Using your butter knife, spread an even layer of “butter” on the cut side of the bread. Leaving the Smart Balance spread at room temperature allows it to spread easily.
  • Lightly sprinkle the garlic powder all over the “butter”.
  • Sprinkle the oregano on next.
  • Place the two halves back together and wrap the whole baguette in aluminum foil.
  • Put your garlic bread on a cookie sheet and put it in the oven for 20-30 min.
  • Carefully remove it from the oven and turn off the oven.
  • Open the foil off of the bread. Leave the bread on the foil and open up the bread so the cut side is up.
  • Sprinkle the grated asiago/parmesan cheese on top and return to the oven for 5 more minutes. just long enough to melt the cheese.
  • After the cheese has melted a bit, remove from the oven and place on a cutting board and slice into 2 inch pieces.


Leftover pieces, if you have any, can be refrigerated and enjoyed with a bowl of chili/soup another time.


Pesto is one of my son’s favorite flavors. The best part of pesto is that you can make it once and use it for so many things. I use it for tinting my scrambled eggs green to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. It makes a great spread on a grilled chicken sandwich. Or try it in your breakfast burrito. I must give Chef Lee, former chef at the Valencia Country Club, the credit for teaching me this recipe as well as the restaurant trick of using fresh spinach for half of the basil. Fresh Spinach is cheaper than Fresh basil.

Pesto alla Genovese

Software- 1 and 1/2 C fresh basil/spinach leaves (packed), 1/2 tspn salt, 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, 1/4 C freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano (I get Buitoni brand), 2 Tbsn pine nuts or walnuts, toasted. 2 -3  cloves of garlic (depends on the size of the cloves), 1/2 C extra-virgin olive oil, 1 pound of dry or fresh pasta, use a bumpy pasta so the pesto has ridges to stick to. I use dried farfalle or dried penne and I also like it on Buitoni spinach tortellini.

Hardware- Mini food processor, cutting board, knife, spoon, mixing bowl, colander, large pot to boil pasta, mug to reserve pasta water.


  • wash your spinach and basil. pinch off any large stems. the thin ones are fine since they will get blended. stuff them into the processor.
  • peel your garlic and toss into the food processor, start with just 1 large or  2 small cloves since raw garlic can be spicy. You can always add more.
  • add all the rest of the ingredients except the pasta. Hit the processors button and let it all whirl together.
  • Give the pesto a taste and tweak as needed.
  • Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.
  • Drain the pasta but set aside one cup of the hot pasta liquid. You can use it to thin the pesto if it is too thick. Plus the starch in the water will make the sauce stick better to the noodles.
  • Pull out the blade in the food processor.
  • Scoop out the pesto into a mixing bowl
  • Add the hot pasta on top and mix to coat the pasta with the pesto.
  • If the sauce is too dry and pastey, add the pasta water, and more olive oil.



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