From Pen to Pan: Pasta

No doubt, pasta is one of the most versatile dishes for the modern palette. It simultaneously acts as both the go-to meal for college students and a hoity-toity dish of the elite. This week, Pen to Pan seeks to illustrate such a dichotomy with Logan serving up a transcontinental dish inspired by Top Chef, while Colleen adds class to a regular take on the pesto pasta.

Padma Lakshmi’s Spicy Shrimp Spaghetti

Padma Lakshmi is my idol. She hosts the most tantalizing show on television, “Top Chef,” lists Istanbul as her most favorite vacation destination and has a fancy for dating old, wealthy men. Not that I’m interested in old, wealthy men myself. To add to her idol status, I saw one of her recipes in a magazine a long time ago and couldn’t help but fall in love with it. Over the years though, I’ve learned how to add my own twist to it, but it did take lots of less than delicious batches before I found my own concoction that makes this pasta recipe one of my favorites to eat. To make cooking time faster you can use pre-cooked shrimp instead of raw, but in my experience, the fresher the better.


1 box of spaghetti

1 tbsp. of olive oil

4-5 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tbs. of crushed red chili flakes

2 tbs. of soy sauce

½ tsp. of Sambak Oelek chili paste (found at any ethnic market)

2 cups of shrimp (large or small, up to you)

½ onion, sliced

½ red bell pepper, sliced

½ cup of fresh basil leaves


1.         Boil the pasta until fully cooked, probably around 10 minutes. Once done, strain, but do not rinse pasta.

2.         Place a large pan on medium heat and heat garlic, olive oil, shrimp, onions and bell pepper. Once onions are translucent, add in Sambak Oelek chili paste and continue to sear.

3.         Add cooked pasta and soy sauce. Stir well until the pasta is coated with veggie and spice mix.

4.         Add fresh basil leaves and mix until leaves are tender. Add crushed red chili flakes for taste.


Colleen’s Practically Perfect Pesto Gnocchi

I came up with this idea whilst browsing the aisles of the local Trader Joe’s. During this time, I was living with a roommate from Germany who was not used to pre-made meals in the United States, and so she showed me the art of Gnocchi, or small potato pasta balls. After watching her create a lovely grilled dish, I decided to add my own take to gnocchi, including: pesto, mozzarella, avocado and spinach leaves.  I wish this could take less than 15 minutes (as the goal of my column has been to do so); however, it will take a bit more because of the boiling and straining of the gnocchi involved.


½ avocado

1 package of potato gnocchi

2 tbs. of pesto

¼ cup of fresh mozzarella

1 handful of spinach leaves


1.         Boil package of potato gnocchi in hot water for about 10 minutes. This will make usually three or four servings of pasta.

2.         While pasta is boiling, slice avocado into squares, and place in a bowl. Add mozzarella.

3.         Take boiled gnocchi and strain it, pouring cold water over it so the pieces don’t stick together. Then place ¼ of the gnocchi in a skillet and store the rest in Tupperware for later.

4.         Grill gnocchi over stove on skillet for five minutes on medium heat, until crisp, golden brown.

5.         Once desired texture is achieved, add to bowl.  Drizzle pesto over gnocchi, and add spinach leaves for your pasta. Enjoy!