Easy Pizza Rolls

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These quick and easy pizza rolls are a delicious twist on a beloved classic. Keep the few ingredients on hand and you can have glorious, cheesy finger food ready in a flash!

My husband Justin has many, many good qualities. Of course he does, I married him! He is intelligent, funny, understanding, hard-working, crazy handsome and an all around sweetheart. There is no one else with whom I would rather spend my life. But… If I had to pick one minor, teeny tiny little flaw, it would be this: he forgets to fill me in when he’s inviting people over to our house. It throws me for a loop every time. I obviously want to be showered and presentable when we have guests. More importantly, I want to be gracious. I get it from my grandma, who was completely unable to allow people to enter under her roof without feeding them. Every time we would visit, she had sodas for the kids, beer for my dad, tea for my mom and cookies in the cabinet above the microwave. If you wanted something more substantial, all the better. An impromptu Italian feast would be placed in front of you before you could blink. I witnessed her casual hospitality so regularly that it is ingrained in me. It’s a reflex. If you come over, you’re going to eat.

So, I tend panic when I learn last minute that we will have guests. What can I offer them? These pizza rolls are an easy and delicious answer.  Made with a mere handful of pantry and refrigerator friendly staples, they require only 5 minutes of hands-on prep time and under 30 minutes in the oven. That leaves just enough time to do a quick tidying up and to put on a fresh coat of mascara before the guests arrive.

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Start by rolling out a refrigerated can of pizza dough onto a cutting board or countertop. Use your fingers to press the dough into a roughly 11×13 inch rectangle. This is not the time to break out the ruler. Spread some jarred pizza sauce over the dough, then layer on pepperoni and mozzarella cheese. Provolone would work, too! Roll it all up, jelly roll style, and cut into 12 equal pieces. Place in a 9×13 baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Slather them with a savory mixture of butter, garlic and Italian herbs, then toss ’em in the oven. Once they come out, sprinkle with a little Parmesan cheese and serve! I like to have some extra pizza sauce on hand for dipping. And there you have it- a no-brainer, back pocket kind of recipe for easy, cheesy, delicious pizza rolls that will be ready in the time it takes you to shove all of the counter chaos into a drawer before company arrives.

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Easy Pizza Rolls

Ingredients:

  • 1 can refrigerated pizza dough, such as Pillsbury
  • 1/2 cup jarred pizza sauce, plus more for serving
  • 5 oz. sliced pepperoni
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella OR 12 slices of mozzarella cheese
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13 baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Roll pizza dough out onto work surface. Use fingers to press dough into a roughly 11×13 rectangle.
  3. Spread pizza sauce in thin layer across dough.
  4. Place pepperoni on top of sauce in an even layer. Sprinkle or place cheese evenly on top of pepperoni.
  5. Starting with the long side of the rectangle, roll the dough jelly roll style into a cylinder. Pinch closed at the seam.
  6. Cut the cylinder into 12 equal pieces. I do this by cutting the cylinder in half, then each half in half, then 3 pieces from each quarter.
  7. Place cut pieces into pan.
  8. Melt the butter and stir in the garlic and Italian seasoning. Pour over the pizza rolls.
  9. Bake pizza rolls 25-30 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and dough is puffed and lightly browned. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over pizza rolls while warm. Serve immediately.

Makes 12 pizza rolls

Classic Pot Roast

Classic Pot Roast

Pot roast is the definition of comfort food for me. Nothing gives me the warm and fuzzies the way a fall apart tender roast does. The aroma of a pot roast slowly simmering away transports me to the wintry Sunday afternoons of my childhood. My mom in the kitchen, my dad in front of the fire watching football, my sister and I working on homework and sneaking a nap. On days when a pot roast is in the oven, I can close my eyes, inhale, and time just vanishes. I’m home. That’s part of what makes a dish like this so comforting, isn’t it? The familiarity, the echo of a feeling of being cared for. I love that every time I prepare this dish, I can feel the warmth that permeated our home on those cold winter days.

Of course, an equally important criteria for comfort food is that it be delicious. Warm memories will fall flat in the face of a disappointing dinner. Too often, pot roast can wind up a little lackluster- tough meat and watery, flavorless gravy. I want a dish that can live up to the high standard of my memory. Fortunately, this recipe is a home run in that regard. It is simple, smells divine and, most importantly, is so, so tasty. The beef is flavorful, juicy and tender. The vegetables are caramelized and velvety. And the gravy is rich, smooth and so quick to come together.

There are few secrets that make this classic pot roast so phenomenal. A trio of flavorful, umami-boosting ingredients really enhance the beefy flavor. Tomato paste is caramelized until sweet and brown. Balsamic vinegar adds a wonderful acidity and soy sauce brings a meaty depth of flavor. The roast is cooked at a relatively low temperature for a long time, giving the meat plenty of time to bend to our will and shred easily.

The silky, savory gravy is ridiculously easy to whip up, thanks to a beurre manie. Fancy name, easy technique. Simply mash together equal parts softened butter and flour until a smooth paste forms. Once the roast is done, remove the meat and vegetables from the cooking liquid with a slotted spoon. Whisk the beurre manie into the liquid and, voila, luxuriously lump free gravy in an instant.

Cold, bleak winter days so often leave us seeking comfort.  Find it in the kitchen with this classic recipe and relish the warm memories it will evoke, and those it will create.

Classic Pot Roast

Classic Pot Roast

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2.5 lb chuck roast
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 medium onions, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  1. Place oven rack in lower third of the oven. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Pat chuck roast dry with paper towels. Sprinkle salt and pepper evenly over all sides.
  3. In medium size dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Brown roast on all sides, about 6-8 minutes total. Remove roast from pot to a plate.
  4. Add carrots and onions to dutch oven, brown 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomato paste and allow to cook for 1 minute.
  5. Add beef broth, balsamic vinegar and soy sauce to dutch oven and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Return roast to the dutch oven. Add rosemary and thyme.
  6. Cover dutch oven and transfer to oven. Cook for 3 hours, turning roast once halfway through cooking. Roast is done when it falls apart easily.
  7. Transfer roast to cutting board and remove vegetables from dutch oven with slotted spoon. Remove the herb stems and discard.
  8. In small bowl, mash together butter and flour until they make a smooth paste. Stir butter/flour mixture into the liquid remaining in dutch oven until incorporated.
  9. Slice and/or shred beef. Transfer beef and vegetables to serving platter. Pour gravy into serving vessel. Serve and enjoy!

Serves 4

Classic Pot Roast

Eggplant Parmesan

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I think liking eggplant parmesan is a sign of maturity. It so often sits neglected on the menu of your favorite Italian restaurant, as the spaghetti and meatballs, chicken parmesan and lasagna all steal the spotlight. But it only takes that one night out, where you decide to try something other than your standard go-to order and give eggplant parm a try. And then, provided you are in an establishment that knows what it’s doing, you realize what you’ve been missing. Such was my experience. After years of ravioli, pasta and meatballs, one day I decided to give eggplant parmesan a try. I’m not sure what motivated my choice. It certainly can’t be because I thought I was saving any calories- there’s plenty of cheese and carbs to be had in eggplant parm. I can only chalk it up to maturity. I finally decided to step outside of my red checkered tablecloth comfort zone and was handsomely rewarded. And now, my love for this classic has grown to the point that I’m really hoping maturity is not a nicer way of saying “old”.

Of course, there’s always the chance to you will visit an establishment that does not know what it’s doing when it comes to this dish, and as an eggplant lover that breaks my heart. I’ve had soggy eggplant. I’ve had deep fried eggplant. I’ve had eggplant where the coating slides off in one fell swoop (why?!) The obvious solution is to have a killer recipe for eggplant parmesan at your fingertips so that you are sure to enjoy tender, cheesy eggplant perfection when the mood strikes. THIS is the recipe you (and I) need. It is decadent, cheesy and oh so delicious.

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Now, there are a few steps to this recipe and it is not super quick. But, none of the steps are complicated and you can assemble it ahead of time and bake when you need it. So with a little planning you can have delicious eggplant parmesan any time you wish.

The most important step to this whole recipe is the one that takes the longest but is also the easiest. Eggplant naturally holds a lot of moisture. The excess moisture can lead to mushy texture and an inability for the coating to adhere to the eggplant. This recipe calls for you to liberally salt the eggplant slices and place them in a colander for an hour or so.  The salt will draw the excess moisture from the eggplant, which will remedy both the textural and coating concerns. Don’t worry about ingesting too much salt- you wipe off the salt along with the excess moisture before cooking. Use this time to take care of other kitchen tasks (meal prep!) and to set up an assembly line for the rest of the recipe.

If you plan to make this ahead, prepare the dish through assembly (layering the eggplant, sauce and cheese), then cover with foil. I haven’t tried freezing it at this point, but I’m sure it would keep well if tightly wrapped. From the fridge, I would allow to rest at room temp about half an hour before baking.

So, if you know a fellow mature eggplant loving soul or are looking to turn someone into a convert, I suggest making this recipe as a special treat. I’ve gotten rave reviews from both eggplant lovers and the eggplant-averse alike- you will, too!

Eggplant Parmesan

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium eggplant, sliced into 1/4″ thick slices
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup olive oil, plus more as necessary
  • 16 oz fresh mozzarella, torn into 1 inch pieces
  • 8 oz shredded mozzarella
  • 3- 3 1/2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1/4 cup shredded basil
  • kosher salt and pepper

Instructions

Begin by salting the eggplant to remove excess moisture. Sprinkle eggplant slices generously with salt and place in colander (or two). Allow to sit in colander for 60-90 minutes to allow moisture to be drawn from eggplant. When ready to proceed with recipe, use paper towels to wipe moisture and salt from eggplant.

Preheat oven to 375.

Set up your dredging station with three wide, shallow dishes, such as pie plates. In the first dish, mix flour with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. In second dish, whisk together eggs and milk. In third dish, mix panko breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, garlic, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Dip each eggplant slice first into the flour, then the egg/milk mixture and then the breadcrumbs. Place eggplant slices on rimmed baking sheet once they have been dipped.

In large nonstick skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Working a few eggplant slices at a time, sauté eggplant approximately 2 minutes per side until golden brown.

Spread 1/2 cup marinara sauce across the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Place eggplant slices in single layer. Top each slice with a dollop of sauce and a piece of fresh mozzarella. Sprinkle about half of the shredded mozzarella over the top. Place remaining eggplant slices in another layer and top again with sauce, fresh mozzarella and shredded cheese.

Bake eggplant for 30 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Turn on broiler and broil an additional 5 minutes (keeping a close eye so dish does not burn) until cheese is browned. Top with shredded basil and serve.

If making ahead, prepare recipe as far as layering the eggplant, sauce and cheese. Cover with foil. Allow to sit at room temperature 30 minutes before baking.

Serves 8-10

Super Simple Skillet Shrimp

Super Simple Skillet Shrimp

Well hi, strangers! How is the holiday season treating you? If your days are anything like mine, it’s been a whirlwind so far. But a lovely, twinkly, holly jolly whirlwind. This time of year it’s a challenge to eat healthfully. Between parties and preparation, cookies and cocktails, it’s very tempting to say “to heck with it”, indulge with abandon and vow to do better in the new year. The problem with that strategy, of course, is that we wind up feeling a little…less than stellar during December. And in a month where we’re more likely to see old friends and family than any other, it would be nice to feel (and look) our best. Luckily, wholesome meals can easily fit into this busy holiday season. This Super Simple Skillet Shrimp is ready in a flash and is so tasty and filling you may just find the willpower to say no to the cookie tray.

Super Simple Skillet Shrimp

Over the past year I’ve come to favor shrimp as my go-to salad protein. It cooks quickly and seems more inspired than plain old grilled chicken. This method has become my favorite way to prepare it. Four simple ingredients- shrimp, salt, pepper and butter, are all it takes. Since shrimp is so lean, I splurge by cooking it in a little butter. The butter solids brown and stick to the shrimp, creating a delicious crust. You’ll swear that there’s more going on, but I promise, it’s that easy. Your protein will be done within 10 minutes total and ready for whatever you have planned- salad, pasta or platter. I like to make a big batch on Sunday to put on salads throughout the week. Lunches at my desk are not quite as sad when I have yummy, and healthy, shrimp salad to look forward to.

As always, a couple of tips to make sure you get the best result: Make sure the shrimp is dry when you put it in the pan- you don’t want any residual moisture when you put it in the skillet. The yummiest part of this recipe are the brown bits of butter stuck to the shrimp and those won’t develop if your shrimp is wet. Pat dry thoroughly with paper towels. Next, allow the butter to sizzle before putting the shrimp in the pan. The shrimp cook super fast, so if you don’t let the butter come up to temp before placing the shrimp in the pan, you won’t get those delightful browned bits. Finally, allow adequate space between shrimp while cooking. You don’t want them on top of one another. If needed, you can do it in two batches and add a tiny pat more butter if the skillet looks dry. It cooks quickly enough that the first batch will stay warm while you cook the second.

How are your preparations for the holiday going? I’ll be sharing some cookies and indulgent recipes in the coming weeks. Please let me know if you have any requests! My Grandma’s Anise Italian Cookies are always a must have. Happy Holidays, guys!

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Super Simple Skillet Shrimp

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb peeled, deveined shrimp, patted dry with paper towels
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Instructions:

Make sure shrimp is thoroughly dry by patting with paper towels. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of the shrimp.

In large nonstick skillet, heat butter over medium high heat. Once sizzling, add shrimp in single layer, being sure to allow adequate room between shrimp. Cook shrimp for 1-2 minutes, until pink on one side and butter solids have browned and stuck to shrimp. Flip shrimp and cook an additional minute. Shrimp may be cooked in batches if your skillet is not large enough to cook them all at once.

Serves 3-4.

Super Simple Skillet Shrimp

Truffled Pappardelle with Pancetta and Asparagus

truffled-pappardelle-with-pancetta-and-asparagusHave you carried over any routines from your childhood household to your adult life? I have retained so many that I’m 95% sure I have morphed into my mother. (Which is a pretty awesome thing, my mom is the best!) For example, like my mother before me, my Thursday nights are for cleaning the house while Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune play in the background. The first 15 minutes after arriving home from work are reserved for a fresh cup of coffee and a magazine. And Friday nights are “no cook” nights. While there were occasional Friday evenings where we had tuna noodle casserole, by and large our Friday nights were pizza nights. Nothing was so simultaneously thrilling (pizza!) or terrifying (I didn’t want to open the door and awkwardly pay the delivery guy) as seeing the Pizza Hut delivery car pull into the driveway.

For the past 5 years, my husband and I have carried on the Friday night pizza tradition. However, in the past few months pizza hasn’t really been hitting the spot. I want something…else. Sometimes we’ll pick up Chinese from the place around the corner. Other times, if I’m reeaaally nice, I can convince Justin to drive out to our favorite Thai restaurant to grab takeout. And no, I really don’t feel like eating out on Fridays. For one, I’m exhausted, and two, my cats have been home by themselves all week and need our attention, thankyouverymuch. Surprisingly, the most satisfying Friday night dinners in recent history have been the ones where I’ve gotten over my initial weariness, poured myself a glass of wine and gotten to work in the kitchen. Maybe it’s the little thrill of bucking tradition. More likely it’s been the phenomenal and phenomenally easy pasta dinners I’ve thrown together. Today’s Truffled Pappardelle with Pancetta and Asparagus is one such home run.

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This recipe was inspired by the meal I ordered at our anniversary dinner a few weeks ago at  Chow Bistro. It’s one of those recipes that is delicious and impressive and has the added bonus of being unexpectedly simple to make. Perfectly al dente pasta is tossed with crisp bits of pancetta, lightly charred asparagus and coated with savory, slightly funky (in the best way) truffle butter. Plus, it’s topped with a fried egg. Fried eggs = happiness in my book. If truffle butter is a deal breaker for you, or if you simply can’t find it, you can easily substitute browned butter. The result is a rich and special occasion-worthy pasta dish that is done within 30 minutes. Go ahead and invite some friends over for a weeknight or Friday night dinner- they’ll think you’re a rockstar with this meal.

Pappardelle is a medium wide egg pasta usually sold in adorable little “nests.” The cute factor obviously makes it that much more tasty. While the water is coming up to a boil and the pasta cooks, diced pancetta is browned in a large skillet. Once the pancetta is crisp, remove it from the skillet and rest in a bowl lined with paper towels. Toss the asparagus into the skillet and quickly cook it in the fat rendered from the pancetta. If you have time before the pasta is done, you can take the asparagus out of the skillet, fry the eggs and set them aside. Otherwise you can quickly fry them up after the pasta is plated. Once the pasta is done, toss it into the skillet with a generous amount of truffle butter, the asparagus and pancetta and toss until everything is coated in decadent, buttery goodness. Shave parmesan over the pasta, top each serving with a fried egg and eat! Give this a try one Friday night, or any night. The only loser here is the local pizza shop- they’ll miss you!

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Truffled Pappardelle with Pancetta and Asparagus

If you cannot find or do not like truffle butter, you can substitute an equal amount of browned butter. Truffle butter can be found near finishing butters in grocery store.

Ingredients:

  • 9-10 oz dried pappardelle pasta (1 package)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 oz diced pancetta
  • 1 bunch asparagus, about 1 lb, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 Tbsp truffle butter (or browned butter, if desired)
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 eggs

Instructions:

Fill large stockpot with water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add salt to water. Add pappardelle and cook until al dente, per package instructions (around 7 minutes.) When pasta is done, reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water and drain.

In large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add pancetta to skillet and cook until browned and crisp, about 4 minutes. Remove pancetta from skillet to bowl lined with paper towels. Add asparagus to skillet and cook until lightly charred, about 3 minutes. Season asparagus with salt and pepper. Remove asparagus from skillet and add eggs. Season with salt and pepper and fry until the whites are set and yolk remains runny. Set eggs aside.

Reduce heat under skillet to medium. Add truffle butter, pasta, pancetta and asparagus. Cook until truffle butter is melted and all ingredients are coated. Taste and season again with salt and pepper. If the pasta looks dry, add reserved pasta water in small increments until you reach desired consistency. Note that this will not be a heavily sauced pasta.

Portion pasta onto plates and top each serving with parmesan and fried egg.

Serves 3-4

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Grandma Pisani’s Pasta Fagioli

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My grandma’s recipe for pasta fagioli departs from the typical soup version of the dish. Instead this is a hearty pasta dish, quick and economical enough to make on a weeknight when the pantry is bare. Grandma’s pasta fagioli is the definition of comfort food: warm, delicious and packed with love and happy memories. 

My love for cooking started in my Grandma Pisani’s kitchen. She has a tiny stool that says “Happiness is Retirement”, or something to that effect. When I was a little girl, Grandma would pull the stool up to the counter and patiently walk me through the steps of her recipes. She started with the  quick and simple ones, keeping in mind my small hands and attention span. Scrambled eggs, or “eggies”, as we called them, were an early favorite. As the years progressed, we moved on to grilled cheese and pan fried sausages, to cookies and Christmas kolachi. Grandma let me taste each ingredient, so I knew the difference between butter and oleo (margarine), between provolone and cheddar. The dishes we made were never complicated or fancy but were always delicious and full of her boundless love. They are the recipes I turn to when I’m feeling blue, homesick or under the weather. On a dreary Sunday afternoon, nothing makes me happier than making a big batch of meatballs and sauce, Grandma-style. The savory aroma and divine taste evaporate all of the years and miles and place me right back in Grandma’s kitchen, where nothing very wrong could ever happen and all problems could be cured with a cookie, a cup of tea and a hug.

Fortunately, not all of Grandma’s greatest hits are weekend-only affairs. This pasta fagioli is a perfect example. Lightning quick and made entirely of pantry staples, this is a busy weeknight’s saving grace. The entire dish is done in the time it takes the water to boil and pasta to cook. Chopping a little garlic is the extent of the culinary skill needed to pull this one off. Saute the garlic in some olive oil flavored with a pinch of red pepper flakes and Italian seasoning. Add some tomato sauce and red beans (red because my Dad and uncles used to pick the beans out- lunatics!- so Grandma used red beans to make this task easy for them) and simmer while the pasta finishes. Reserve some pasta water, drain pasta and toss in the sauce. Add pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce so it coats the pasta. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle on some shredded Parmesan and dinner is on the table. This is humble, good food, perfect to warm bellies and souls as the cold months approach.

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Grandma with all of her grandchildren ❤

As is typical for a family recipe, there are a million stories and memories associated with this pasta fagioli. When my parents started dating, my dad brought my mom to dinner at Grandma’s house unannounced one evening. It was the first time my mom was meeting my dad’s family and Grandma was less than thrilled with her lack of notice. She had made this pasta fagioli and homemade pizza(!) and was embarrassed at the modest dinner she had prepared. Of course, my mom was floored by the delicious home cooked meal she was served and has raved about the pasta fagioli ever since. Which just goes to show, simple can be best and Grandma knows what she’s doing. Love you, Grandma!!!

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Grandma Pisani’s Pasta Fagioli

This pasta fagioli is a hearty and economical pasta dish. The sauce just lightly coats the pasta. If you prefer a more saucy pasta, you may increase the amount of tomato sauce in the recipe by 1.5 to 2x the amount called for. 

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups ditalini pasta
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 15 oz. can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • salt and pepper

Instructions:

Bring large pot of water to a boil. Season water generously with salt. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes.

While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil over medium heat in large skillet or saucepan. Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds. Add red pepper flakes and Italian seasoning and cook another 30 seconds. Reduce heat to medium-low and add tomato sauce and kidney beans. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Simmer sauce gently until pasta is done.

Once pasta is done, reserve 1 cup of pasta water and then drain pasta. Add pasta to sauce and toss to coat. Add reserved pasta water as necessary to ensure sauce evenly coats pasta. Taste and season again with salt and pepper. Top with Parmesan cheese and serve.

Serves 4-6.