Adding Some Pizazz to Weeknight Tortellini

Despite what you might think based on all of the semi-complicated recipes on this blog, there are plenty of nights when Matt and I resort to quick and easy dinners like take-out pizza, frozen dinner entrees, and basic pasta. One of our go-to pasta dinners is tortellini with a sprinkle of garlic powder and Parmesan cheese (healthy, I know!), but last week we decided to add a little pizazz to the dish by incorporating a few simple ingredients.

This entire meal only takes about 15 minutes to make… including the time it takes for your tortellini to cook! The asparagus gets added to the pasta water for the last few minutes and, after straining, all of the ingredients are tossed together in the same pot, making this a simple one-pot meal.

Quick and Easy Pesto Tortellini with Asparagus and Tomatoes (makes 3-4 servings)

You will need…
1 lb. Tortellini (we love Drake’s Frozen Cheese Tortellini)
1 bunch Asparagus, cut into 2″ pieces
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
2-3 tablespoons Pesto (I used 2 “Pesto cubes” that I froze in an ice cube tray last week)
1 cup Cherry Tomatoes

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the tortellini according to package instructions. When there are 3-4 minutes left on the cook time, add the cut asparagus to the pasta water and allow the pasta to finish cooking. Drain pasta and asparagus and return the empty pot to the stove over medium-low heat. Add the Olive Oil and drop in your pesto “cubes.” Stir constantly as the pesto thaws. (If using fresh pesto you can skip this step.)

I made this pesto last week using basil and garlic from our garden. For easy storage I spooned the pesto into an ice cube tray and made 10 frozen pesto cubes — perfect for use in quick weeknight meals!

Add the hot pasta and asparagus back to the pot and stir to combine with the pesto (if the pesto wasn’t already completely thawed it will be after a few stirs!). Add in the uncooked tomatoes, stir a few more times, and serve!

Baked Tortellini with Peas and Ham in Cream Sauce

Happy Easter!  We spent our holiday weekend eating delicious, rich meals including my mom’s asparagus strata, Matt’s sister’s homemade strawberry shortcakes, and our very own scalloped potatoes with artichoke hearts and fontina cheese.  We decided to keep the heavy food trend going today by using some leftover ham to make baked tortellini with peas and ham in a cream sauce.  I used this recipe from the Food Network as a guide but made some of my own changes such as lightening the sauce a bit with fat-free half and half, subbing in the Easter ham for prosciutto, and broiling the individual-sized entrees in the oven just before serving.

Baked Tortellini with Peas and Ham in Cream Sauce

You will need…
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup of leftover ham (or you can use prosciutto), thinly sliced in 1″ strips
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup fat-free half and half
Approx. 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Approx. 1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup peas
1/3 cup Parmesan Cheese (or Parmesan/Romano blend)
12 oz. Tortellini, cooked according to package instructions
1/4 cup reserved pasta liquid

Melt the butter in a dutch oven.  When butter is melted, add the garlic and saute for 1 minute.  Add the ham and saute for an additional 4 minutes or until the ham starts to brown slightly.  Add the heavy cream, half and half, salt and pepper and stir.  Simmer for 8-10 minutes or until cream mixture is reduced by half.

After mixture is reduced, mix in the peas and cheese, then add the tortellini and reserved liquid.  Stir well to combine, then transfer tortellini into two small baking dishes.  Broil for 4-5 minutes until top begins to brown, then remove from oven and enjoy!