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PGF: Spicy Meat Sauce

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A spicy tomato sauce that is ready to eat in under 20 minutes! Serve with GF pasta, wheat pasta, or spiralized vegetable noodles!


I have a lot of fond memories of making this pasta sauce with my sister. As children we both enjoyed cooking but just could not manage to do it together. It always ended up with the two of us in a huge fight, stomping off to our rooms. For years we just avoided being in the kitchen together! Once we hit college age we managed to put our bad cooking experiences behind us and started working together in the kitchen. We developed a groove. I did all the work with raw meat and Lauren was in charge of all of the stirring. I often did cutting, she did measuring. Once we knew what we each liked and wanted to do in the kitchen working together was much easier! {Funny, as I type this I realize how similar this is to marriage. Figuring out HOW to work together is key!}

This spicy meat sauce was a favorite recipe for us to make together. I would add things to the pan and Lauren would stir it up. We had our jobs and it all worked out!


What flavors inspired our meat sauce? Anything and everything spicy! Crushed red pepper flakes, chili powder, cayenne pepper, garlic . . . basically everything spicy that we could find in the cupboard. We’d shake in some spices, taste test, adjust seasonings, taste test, adjust seasonings, taste test . .. . you get the idea.


Everyone we served the Spicy Meat Sauce to loved it! When I found out I had celiac disease, this was a familiar meal that was easily modified to meet my needs. I prepared the meat sauce as usual, but replaced regular pasta with gluten free pasta.


In 10 years, this Spicy Meat Sauce recipe hasn’t changed, but what I’ve served it over has. Before getting my celiac diagnosis 8 years ago I was crazy about pasta! Now, things are different. Often, I prepare this sauce with a pot of GF pasta and a pot of wheat pasta to make the meal Portionally Gluten Free (PGF). Gluten free spaghetti is expensive, but regular pasta is less than a dollar a box! That way I get to eat something safe for me, and my husband can chow down on pasta and sauce without breaking the bank. Making a PGF pasta dinner is surprisingly easy. I boil two pots of water. The GF pasta gets cooked in one pot and the wheat pasta in the other. I use separate stirring spoons for each pan. When the pasta is done cooking, drain and plate the GF pasta, followed by the wheat pasta (I highly recommend sing separate strainers for wheat and GF pasta. Read more about PGF specifics here).

Lately, I’ve been trying out this sauce with vegetable noodles. As a somewhat new spiralizer owner I’ve been making every veggie I can think of into noodles. Served with zucchini noodles, the meal becomes surprisingly analogous to the taste of regular pasta and sauce. Sweet potatoes noodles are a fun compliment for this spicy sauce. Add a little feta cheese for some saltiness and you’ll be in healthy pasta heaven!


PGF: Spicy Meat Sauce

  • 1 lb ground beef or turkey
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 20 oz plain tomato sauce
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 tsp mexican seasoning
  • 1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 3 shakes cayenne pepper
  1. Put the beef/turkey in a non stick skillet (or regular skillet, with an added 1 tbs olive oil) over medium high heat. Brown the meat, breaking it into small chunks using a spoon/fork/spatula as it cooks.
  2. When most of the meat is brown, add the onions and garlic. Continue cooking until no pink remains.
  3. Add the tomato sauce and spices and stir.
  4. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for a few minutes up to 15 or 20 minutes.
  5. Serve with pasta (gluten free, or whatever works for your diet) or vegetable noodles. For a PGF meal, prepare gluten free and wheat pasta in separate pots using separate stirring utensils and strainers. Serve the GF pasta, topped with sauce before serving the wheat pasta topped with sauce.
Serve this with

PGF: Macaroni & Broccoli

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Macaroni & Broccoli is a quick, healthy pasta dinner. It can be difficult to make a quick GF dinner, and even more tricky if you’re trying to make that meal healthy, too. Since the base of the dish is pasta and there are no strong flavors this healthy, gluten free dinner will please picky eaters, too.

Really, this is so simple to make that it hardly needs a recipe. I set two pots of water on the stove over high heat. While the water is coming to a boil I chop some broccoli florets and garlic. When the water is boiling I add some brown rice pasta to one pot, some regular pasta to the other and steam the broccoli. If I’m not feeling lazy I may saute the garlic in a little oil, but it’s not a necessary step.


It goes without saying that you NEED to be careful when cooking GF pasta and wheat pasta side by side. Use two separate pots and get out two separate stirring spoons. I like to keep my GF pasta, pot, and stirring utensil on one side of the stove and the wheat-laden food on the other side. Package up any leftover pasta right when you are done with it to avoid any cross contamination! I time the pasta cooking times so that the GF pasta will be done first. I drain it, put in on the table, and then drain the wheat pasta when the GF portion is totally out of the way. If you take these simple precautions to avoid cross contamination your meal will be safe! (Of course, you could also make this meal entirely with GF pasta, or even entirely with wheat pasta if you don’t have a gluten intolerance).

Once the pasta is cooked I stir some broccoli and garlic in to each pot and dinner is ready! Super easy and dinner will be on the table in under 30 minutes! For a fuller meal, serve with a salad and some grilled chicken. You’ll still have a quick, simple dinner!


PGF: Macaroni & Broccoli

See post for additional tips on safely cooking GF and wheat pasta simultaneously.
  • 1 c GF pasta
  • 2 c wheat pasta
  • 1 large or 2 small heads of broccoli
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbc olive oil
  1. Fill two saucepans with water and heat over high heat.
  2. While waiting for the water to boil, cut the broccoli into small florets and mince the garlic.
  3. Place the broccoli florets in a steamer basket. Fill another sauce pan with an inch or two of water and put the steamer basket in the pan. Heat to boiling, and then reduce the heat to low and let the broccoli simmer for about 8 minutes, until tender. Remove from heat. (See this post for step-by-step instructions on steaming broccoli).
  4. In a small bowl, mix the minced garlic with the olive oil. If you’d like, you can saute the garlic and oil in a small saucepan over medium heat, until the garlic has softened, but this step is not required.
  5. When the pasta water is boiling, add the GF pasta to one pan and the regular pasta to another. Stir each, being sure to use separate stirring utensils. Cook each pasta according to package directions and then drain, starting with the GF pasta.
  6. Return the pasta to their respective pots. Add about 1/3 of the broccoli and 1/3 of the garlic/oil mixture to the GF pasta. Stir until the oil has coated the pasta.
  7. Add the remaining broccoli and garlic/oil to the regular pasta and stir to coat the pasta with the oil.

PGF: Pasta with Sausage & Spinach

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This 20 minute, 7 ingredient dinner is perfect for a busy day. Pick a sweet or spicy sausage to fit the flavor to your own tastes.

Pasta w Sausage and Spinach

This dinner was birthed out of Christmas chaotic-ness. It was about 7pm and I’d spent all of my cooking energy on cookies. I’d meant to go grocery shopping but ran out of time. I checked for leftovers, but there weren’t any in the refrigerator. My next thought was to make pasta and sauce, but I didn’t even have any pasta sauce in the house! So I scrounged through the near empty refrigerator, found a bag of spinach and some uncooked ground sausage that was nearing the expiration date and got to cooking.

In the time it took to cook pasta I actually ended up with a really delicious dinner. I took a few bites, and was pleasantly surprised, so I snapped a few photos before I devoured the entire plate.

Pasta w Sausage and Spinach 2

This is a PGF (portionally gluten free) recipe. Reflective of how I cook at home, I’ve written this recipe to make half a batch with GF pasta and half a batch of wheat pasta. The recipe calls for 1 pound of pasta total and that pound can be split up in whatever combination of GF/wheat suits your situation.  Like I said, I usually do half and half, but there are lots of options. If you have just one person out of a family of 4 or 5, make just 1/4 of a pound of GF pasta and up the wheat pasta to 3/4 (or vice versa). You can make a full pound of GF pasta, a full pound of wheat pasta, etc, etc.

Pasta w Sausage and Spinach 3

When you’ve finished cooking the pasta it’s time to stir in the sausage and spinach. Don’t worry about measuring out the exact right proportions of spinach and sausage to match the two batches of pasta. Just eyeball it or do a rough measurement; this is not the type of recipe that requires an exact measurement!

Pasta w Sausage and Spinach 4

Pasta with Sausage & Spinach

Although this recipe is written to split half and half between GF and wheat you can easily vary the amount of either type of pasta. See the post above for more info on doing that.
  • 1/2 pound GF pasta
  • 1/2 pound wheat pasta
  • 1 pound ground sausage
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, cut into thin slices
  • 3 cups chopped spinach
  • 1/4 c shredded asiago cheese (may use parmesan)
  1. Fill 2 pots with water and bring to a boil. When water is boiling add the GF pasta to one pot and the wheat pasta to the other. Cook each pasta for time listed on the package. If/when you stir the pasta, be sure to use a separate spoon for each pot. Drain pasta when it has finished cooking (I drain the GF pasta in a colander and the wheat pasta using the lid of the pan it was cooked in to avoid contamination) and return to the pot.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and garlic and sautee for 3 or 4 minutes, until the onion is soft.
  3. Add the sausage into the skillet and brown, breaking up into small bits.
  4. To the GF pasta, stir in half of the sausage, half of the spinach, and half of the cheese. Add the other half of the sausage, spinach, and cheese to the wheat pasta.
  5. When serving, be sure to use two separate spoons.

Healthier than the Box Cheeseburger Macaroni (GF)

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Christmas season is in full swing now and I feel like I should be posting a cookie recipe, not a dinner. I’m sure I will be doing plenty of cookie baking and sharing in the coming weeks (including my eBook with cookie recipes), but, in this hectic and busy time of year we need to eat more than cookies! This skillet dinner is warm, comforting, and ready in under in 30 minutes.

Hamburger Helper was the first meal I ever cooked on my own. My Mom has always loved the stroganoff variety so that was a frequent and favorite dinner in our household. Since it was a fairly simple dinner I would often be the one responsible for mixing up the sauce or making the ground beef, and eventually making the entire meal. I suppose all cooks have to to start somewhere!

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Although Hamburger Helper was a totally viable dinner option in my childhood it is not now! When I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in my 20s it immediately became a forbidden food. Still, sometimes I crave it, even though I know it is both full of gluten and not exactly healthy.

Enter this recipe. It is delicious. It will take you the same amount of time to cook as the boxed variety. The ingredient list is short and includes more whole foods and less processed foods. Adults and kids will love it. And best of all, you don’t have to feel a bit guilty about eating this or serving it to your family!

Healthier than the Box GF Cheeseburger Macaroni

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 lb. lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 lb elbow shaped GF brown rice pasta
  • 2 c water
  • 1 1/4 c tomato sauce
  • 1/2 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 c shredded cheddar cheese (this makes it very cheesy, feel free to use less)
  1. Add the chopped onion and ground turkey to a large skillet. Cook over medium high heat until the turkey is browned, breaking it into small bits as it cooks.
  2. Stir in the water, tomato sauce, mustard powder, onion powder, and garlic powder. When combined, stir in the pasta and bring to a boil.
  3. Cover and simmer (reduce heat to a medium/low) for 15 minutes, or until pasta is done.
  4. Turn off the heat and stir in the cheese.  Serve with steamed vegetables or a salad.

Magic Dragon Noodles

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I saw these Dragon Noodles on Budget Bytes and so wanted to eat them. Quick and spicy noodles? I’m in! Chances are that if you are reading this blog you know that GF noodles just don’t always cut it. Sometimes you can sub them into a recipe and no one is the wiser (like casseroles), but other times the results are undesirable. Mushy, overcooked noodles that are all stuck together – anyone else have that happen to them?

IMG_4413 copyEnter Miracle Noodle! Have you heard of these? They are GF, don’t need to be cooked like regular noodles, and have zero calories. These aren’t a great substitute for noodles all around, but they are awesome for stir-fry like dishes. The noodles will heat up right in the frying pan along with any sauce, meat, and veggies you want to add.

That’s part of why I call these noodles “magic”. You literally just open up the package and heat them up on the stove or in the microwave. Then there’s the whole calorie-less noodles thing. It’s easy to rationalize the butter and eggs that go into the sauce when you know you have saved so many calories! Finally, this is just so quick and easy to prepare! When you get a tasty, low calorie meal in under 10 minutes I would say that is pretty darn magical!

IMG_4436 copyThe sauce on these noodles is super spicy! If you enjoy hot and spicy foods then you will love this. If you’re not so keen on that then cut down on the sriracha and you’ll enjoy this much more.

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Magic Dragon Noodles

Recipe Inspiration: Dragon Noodles on Budget Bytes
  • 1 package of Miracle Noodles
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbs brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs soy sauce (or Bragg’s Amino Acid)
  • 1 Tbs sriracha
  • 3 Tbs chopped green onions
Cooking Directions
  1. In a small bowl combine brown sugar, soy sauce, and sriracha.
  2. Melt butter in a medium sized skillet over medium heat.
  3. When butter is melted add the egg and scramble.
  4. Once the egg is cooked add the noodles and sauce to the skillet and stir to combine.
  5. Top with green onions before serving.

Spinach & Garlic Noodles

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In this time, when GF pasta is so readily available at grocery stores, it might seem silly to make your own. Even though I love all things cooking I still use store bought pasta most of the time, just because of the convenience factor.

One thing I really miss with GF pasta is the many, many varieties. Walking down the pasta aisle in the grocery store there are a plethora of shapes, sizes, and flavors to choose from. The GF section has a few options; maybe spaghetti, elbows, and ziti. Sometimes I miss the fancy pasta! Farfalle, acine de peppe, vegetable flavors, whole wheat – I can’t get any of these in GF (at least at my local, and not so awesome, grocery store. Maybe if you live in a big city you have more options).

I make GF pasta to fill that fancy pasta void in my life. With a basic dough, some creativity, and a pasty/pizza dough cutter your plain GF pasta will get much more interesting!

This dough comes from a recipe from The Gluten Free Gourmet Cooks Comfort Food, and it is indeed more time consuming than using dry pasta, but requires little manual labor. You just throw the ingredients in the food processor and let it do the work (You don’t need a fancy food processor to do this. I have an 8 cup generic Sears brand food processor I got for $17 a few years ago. Its low quality, but it gets the job done)! The dough comes out soft and mold-able, making the rolling and cutting a breeze. When it’s time to cook, the pasta will only need 2 or 3 minutes in boiling water before it is done.

This dough can be modified to have many flavors, but this spinach and garlic variety is one of my favorites. If you’re not a garlic lover, I can vouch for how tasty the pasta is without the garlic, also, because I’ve made it that way a number of times, too. I cut mine into long fettuccine-like noodles but the shape options are endless!

Spinach & Garlic Noodles

  • 1 c packed spinach leaves
  • 1/4 c water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 c white or brown rice flour
  • 1/2 c tapioca starch
  • 1/2 c cornstarch
  • 1/4 c potato starch
  • 3 tsp xantan gum
  • 1 tsp gelatin powder
  • 1 Tbs ground flax
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
Cooking Directions
  1. Microwave the spinach and water for 90 seconds.
  2. Drain any excess water from the spinach (whatever comes out naturally, you don’t have to press any extra water out of the leaves) and puree in the food processor. You may have to scrape down the sides a few times.
  3. Add the eggs and oil to the food processor, and mix until combined.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor and mix one final time. The dough is ready when it has formed a ball. You may have to scrape down the sides of the food processor a few times in this step, too.
  5. Once the dough is mixed, roll it out on a lightly floured surface to about 1/16 – 1/8 inch thick. I’ve found it to be quicker to do this in three smaller batches.
  6. Slice the dough into long strips with a pastry or pizza cutter.
  7. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once water is boiling, add a couple handfuls of the freshly cut pasta. Be careful not to overfill the pot. Stir to make sure none of the noodles are sticking together.
  8. The pasta will float to the top when it is finished cooking, this will take 5 minutes or less so keep your eye on the pot as it cooks. Remove the pasta with a slotted spoon, and repeat with any remaining pasta.

The Best Gluten Free Casserole

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I’m calling this “The Best Gluten Free Casserole”, but we refer to it as “GF Casserole”. As if there is only one GF Casserole. Well, once you eat this, you may very well never need another casserole recipe in your life. It’s that amazing.

GF Casserole

There are a lot of flavors and textures – something I am not usually a fan of (I call myself a “purist” because I like to keep my food separate). There’s a pasta layer, a tomato-y ground beef layer, a smooth and creamy sour cream and onion layer, all topped with cheese. Everything melts together and somehow the mess on your plate is the best tasting casserole you’ve ever had.

This is the mess I was talking about . . .

This is the mess I was talking about . . .

If you’re anything like me you probably noticed that description sounds anything but healthy. Usually, I run from any recipe that calls for an ingredient with “cream” in the name, or at least find a way to creatively skip it or replace it. I try to avoid carb heavy meals and always include a sufficient serving of vegetables. So, yes, this casserole doesn’t fit into my usual meal requirements. It’s also not the worst meal choice I could make. I mean, there’s always ice cream for dinner. Or something fried. Its just impossible to eat perfectly all the time, though. This is definitely one of my favorite food splurges.

GF Casserole 2

In addition to its tastiness, this can be a super convenient meal. It takes a little bit of work to make it, but you can get a lot of meals out of that effort. Any leftovers you have will reheat so well in the microwave you will think its fresh out of the oven. You may want to make more than you need just so that you are sure to have leftovers! For the same effort as making one casserole you can also make a double batch and freeze the second one after it is all assembled. Yay for having a quick, delicious meal ready to just be throw in the oven on a busy day!

One more thing to mention before I give you the recipe. This is not an original recipe of mine, and I don’t know what the source is. I remember my father making this shortly after I was diagnosed with celiac and I have the recipe with our notes in one of my recipe binders. I know I’ve seen very similar casseroles in cookbooks and on Pinterest. I’m posting my version today to hopefully spread the deliciousness to even more people!

GF Casserole 4

The Best Gluten Free Casserole

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 lb. pasta
  • 3 oz. cream cheese
  • 1c sour cream
  • 6 green onions, sliced
  • 3/4c shredded cheddar cheese
Cooking Directions
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. While pasta is cooking, brown the ground beef in a large skillet.
  3. Add tomato sauce to the ground beef, reduce heat to low, and cook for about 10 minutes.
  4. Spread pasta in the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking dish. I spray the dish with olive oil or cooking spray before putting the pasta in.  I find the dish to be too heavy if I use all of the pasta, so I cover the bottom of the baking dish with pasta and then save whatever is left for something else.
  5. Top the pasta with the meat and sauce mixture. Spread it out evenly over top of the pasta.
  6. Put the cream cheese in a microwave safe bowl and heat it for about 20 seconds. This will make it easier to stir.
  7. Mix the sour cream and green onions with the heated cream cheese, and spread this on top of the meat mixture.
  8. Finally, sprinkle the top with cheese.
  9. Bake at 350°F for 25 – 30 minutes.
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