Sesame noodles are one of my very favorite things in this world. They’re great on their own for lunch, or you can toss it with any number of meats or veggies to make a more substantial meal. I’ve always loved the pre-packaged sesame noodles that I could buy in the deli of a local grocery chain. But, as with most things, I knew a homemade version had to be much better.

For December, its been unseasonably warm here in Maryland. In all honesty, I’m ready for that cold snap – but it hasn’t come yet. It feels so odd to be hunting for our Christmas tree in 65 degree weather! I normally wouldn’t be hungry for a cold pasta dish in December. But, last week I had about a half pound of pasta leftover from a meal – so I halved the recipe and took some pictures. They made a delightful side dish for a roasted pork loin that I made later in the week.

I like to add a smidgen of peanut butter, for a Thai twist. Also, some Sriracha for a little kick of heat. I used a thicker pasta noodle for this batch, but usually use a thin spaghetti. I usually like to add a bit of diced roasted red pepper as well, but I didn’t have any handy. No matter, it’s still perfect. A great dish to enjoy for lunch throughout the week!

Shrimp scampi is one of my all-time favorite dishes. Unfortunately, I could never seem to get it quite right at home. My main qualm seemed to be that it was always too dry. My natural inclination was to add more butter. But, I needed more flavor than butter alone could lend. So, I tried adding more lemon juice. Too sour. While I love lemony pastas – they should never make you pucker. Many recipes I’d seen used white wine in the sauce, which was a welcome idea. Additionally, one of my favorite local restaurants adds tomatoes and fresh basil to their rendition of shrimp scampi, which I thought was wonderful. I  knew that I wanted to incorporate that as well. I figured with the addition of white wine, and tomato…hopefully, that would amp up the sauce factor.

This recipe is definitely a keeper! Plenty of kick from the garlic. Bright flavor from the lemon. A kiss of warmth from the red pepper flakes. And, the white wine just wraps it’s arms around everything and brings it all together. This is another meal that goes from stove to plate in a matter of minutes. I usually start sautéing the shrimp immediately after I begin cooking the pasta to get everything on the table at the same time.

I’ve always been a firm believer in pork cuts in a tomato sauce. It adds an unbelievable richness and depth of flavor that cannot be attained with simply beef. But, to make a proper “gravy”, it’s an all day process. Browning the sausage, beef, and pork. Sauteing the onions and tomato paste, reducing down the sauce for-ever. Delicious, but time consuming.

My mom always made spaghetti sauce to use up leftover ham. Apparently, her mother opted to use ham in her sauce as well. It’s delicious, easy, and a change of pace from your run-of-the-mill spaghetti sauce using ground beef. Since I’ve got a house full of boys, I opt to add ham as well as ground beef. But, feel free to make the recipe using exclusively ham. Great way to use up those Easter leftovers!

I confess, I used to be a boxed macaroni and cheese person. As a teenager, I worked front desk at a local hotel. An older lady there made the best baked macaroni and cheese. While at the time I diddn’t have my heart set on re-creating the dish, it managed to stick with me for a decade. My mom always made homemade macaroni and cheese, but it wasn’t a cheese sauce. It was elbows, butter, and lots of cheddar cheese layered and baked. Still delicious, but there’s something about a gooey, cheesy sauce that really captured my heart.

Fast forward 10 years, I decided to try to find a recipe that I would consider “a keeper” for baked macaroni and cheese. I tried several recipes I’d found on the internet that looked good, but none really resonated with me. Then, I decided to give the recipe off the side of the elbow macaroni box a shot. Low and behold, I fell in love. I’ve changed it some over the years, but I’m glad I gave that “side of the box” recipe a shot. You never know! Feel free to top with a seasoned breadcrumb if you like, but I think that’s more of a “Yankee” thing, and just not the way I was raised. I like my macaroni and cheese soft and creamy. But, I have done it that way before…and it was delicious. Enjoy!