Christmas Pasta

Christmas is by far my favorite time of year.

Around Christmastime I’ll never complain about the cold and the snow.

The snow is the perfect backdrop to sparkling lights!

Christmas is sneaking up on us quickly, so I'd say it's time for some Christmas-themed pasta to warm our bellies on these cold nights.

The red sauce is simple but deeply "tomato-y"--and only takes minutes to make.

It starts with slowly simmering tangy olive oil and garlic until their flavors fuse together...

...And ends with tomato paste and canned tomatoes for a rich, but bright flavor.

And because we all know that you can't have the red without the green at Christmastime, we'll also whip up a green sauce with a Basil Pesto base.

To the traditional pesto, we'll add avocado and lemon--creating a creamy and colorful sauce that's the perfect counterpart.

Each is good on its own, but together they're incredible!


Christmas Pasta

servings: 6 Servings


  • 1 pound rotini pasta
  • ¼ cup olive oil + a splash
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • One 14.5-ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1 avocado
  • ½ cup Basil Pesto
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • ¼ cup toasted breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley


  1. Place a large pot of salted water over high heat for cooking the pasta. When the water boils, add the pasta and cook until al dente according to the package directions—or about 10 minutes. Then drain, toss with a splash of olive oil to keep the noodles from sticking together, and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet over medium-low heat, add the ¼ cup of olive oil and the garlic and cook until the oil has become infused with the garlic and the garlic is translucent and golden, but not browned—about 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine. Then add the diced tomatoes, salt, and chili flakes. Simmer the sauce until it thickens slightly and comes together— about 10 minutes.
  3. While the tomato sauce simmers, cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, and use a soupspoon to scoop half of the flesh into the bowl of a food processor (reserve the other half for another use). Then add the Basil Pesto and lemon juice and puree this mixture until smooth.
  4. Transfer the basil mixture to a large bowl and toss it with half of the pasta. Toss the other half of the pasta in a separate bowl with the tomato sauce. To serve, place both the green and red pasta on each plate and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and parsley.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking

Find more recipes like this in Meat on the Side!


You might also like these recipes:

Beet Pasta with Brown Butter Arugula Pesto



I’ve been lucky enough to have spent 11 Valentine's Days with my husband.





Sometimes the older you get--or the longer you've been with someone--you start to think things like Valentine’s Day are silly.



Read More

Sundried Tomato + Pesto Mac and Cheese Cups

Baked Boxed Mac and Cheese Cups 2_SMALL(1).jpg

Why make your mac and cheese into a cup?

Baked Boxed Mac and Cheese Cups 1.jpg

Why not?!

It’s cute, your kids will be more likely to eat it no matter what is inside, and you can serve it at parties!

And did I mention how cute it is?!

Baked Boxed Mac and Cheese Cups 2.jpg

For this hacked version of mac and cheese, I'm adding sundried tomatoes and pesto.

Two easy-to-find, jarred ingredients that suddenly make mac and cheese feel elegant!

Baked Boxed Mac and Cheese Cups 3.jpg

All you need to do is make the mac, add the sundried tomatoes, top it with pesto and parm, bake and serve!

Baked Boxed Mac and Cheese Cups 4.jpg

The tomatoes deepen the flavor, while the zingy pesto adds a fresh note!

Baked Boxed Mac and Cheese Cups 5.jpg

It’s mac and cheese that you can suddenly serve to guests!

Or just devour standing in the kitchen on a Tuesday night.

Either way, you win.

Baked Boxed Mac and Cheese Cups 6.jpg

Sundried Tomato + Pesto Mac and Cheese Cups

makes: 10 cups


  • One 14-ounce box of macaroni and cheese (with liquid cheese packet)
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped sundried tomatoes
  • ¼ cup basil pesto
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and prepare a non-stick muffin tin with cooking spray. Place a medium pot of salted water over high heat for cooking the macaroni. When the water boils, add the macaroni and cook until al dente—about 9 minutes; drain when finished. Return the cooked pasta to the pot and turn the heat down to medium, then stir in the cheese packet and tomatoes.
  2. Scoop ½ cup of the macaroni mixture into each of the prepared muffin cups, then top each cup with about 1 tablespoon of the pesto and about ½ teaspoon of the parmesan.
  3. Bake the cheese cups until the pasta on the top of each is lightly browned but not crunchy—about 12 to 15 minutes. Allow the cups to sit in the pan to cool for at least 10 minutes before unmolding them.
: @NikkiDinki

: @NikkiDinkiCooking
Baked Boxed Mac and Cheese Cups 1_SMALL.jpg

Find more recipes like this in Meat on the Side!


You might also like these recipes:

Avocado Spinach + Pesto Pasta



Normally when I cook I put on some music, I pour myself a glass of wine, I stir slowly and gracefully chop; I take my time and I create masterpieces. It’s fun, relaxing and a totally unrealistic way of cooking for most people.





I’m sure everyone would love to have it be a relaxing part of their day but the truth is that when your afternoon has quickly ran into evening and you’re starving, you really just want something fast without a laundry list of ingredients. So when writing my book Meat On The Side I made an effort to make all my recipes easy and without too many ingredients.



Read More

Brown Butter Arugula Pesto



I’ve been obsessed with traditional basil pesto for a very long time.






When I first tried it I was at a point in my life when green things still made me feel a little queasy--but once I closed my eyes and took a bite, I realized how crazy flavorful and addicting pesto can be.



Read More

Pesto Crusted Halibut + Grape Risotto



Since being pregnant, I have been on a real fruit kick. I think I- or maybe I should say, the small human being in my tummy is craving sugar. SUGAR SUGAR SUGAR...and water!!


There is nothing like waking up in the middle of the night desperate to slurp water out of the faucet. Isn't pregnancy beautiful?!





So fruit is kind of the perfect food that my body wants right now. Sweet with natural sugars and jam packed with juicy goodness.


And yes, I'll admit, a little better for me than the sour patch kids and gummy worms which have been finding their way into my candy drawer lately.



Read More

Basil Pesto



I'm a traditionalist when it comes to my Pesto. I like it just the way an old Italian Grandmother would make it. A few simple, fresh, quality ingredients tossed with some hot pasta and call it a day.





If you start using walnuts or almonds or anything besides pinenuts, I start getting angry. Throw in some parsley with the basil and I might just lose it.



Read More

Cilantro Pesto


2 cups packed cilantro leaves

½ cup parmesan cheese

¼ cup pine nuts, toasted

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 jalapeno, roasted, seeds + ribs removed

Juice of 1 lime

3 cloves garlic

½ cup olive oil

Put all ingredients in a food processor except for the olive oil.  Process till finely chopped.  Stream in olive oil while the food processor is on and allow everything to mix till well combined.

Makes 1 and 1/4cup


You might also like these recipes:

Red Pepper Pesto


¼ cup Pinenuts

2 Roasted Red Peppers

1 tsp Thyme Leaves

3 Garlic Cloves

1 Shallot

½ cup Parmesan

2tsp Kosher Salt

¼ Olive Oil

Pulse everything in a food processor until well combined and pureed. Toss over pasta, rice or serve over fish or chicken. 


You might also like these recipes:

Basil + Mint Pesto



Everybody loves herbs, basil is an Italian staple, Rosemary is meat’s best friend and parsley seems to find it’s way into everything...and mint...well mint...well mint...makes...a great cocktail?!

True enough, but let’s give poor mint a little more credit!!





Mint’s fresh and vibrant flavor simply screams summer. And quite frankly Mr. Mint is sick of being thought of as a dessert/cocktail-only herb. He is ready to please you palate and make his mark on your dinner plate.

So to celebrate him and his delightfully minty ways I bring you...this pesto!!





Read More