Healthy and Sane

Birthday celebration dinner

March 29th, 2010 · 19 Comments · entertaining, pasta, pork

Last night we celebrated my father in law’s birthday. Instead of going out to eat, I decided to cook dinner for everybody. I’m always up for this task! :mrgreen:

I kept the menu simple but of course made sure to cook some of my FIL’s favorites – pasta bolognese, fresh homemade rolls… + a special surprise dessert. :)

Since pasta was going to be the main star ingredient, I wanted to make sure we got the best fresh pasta we could find. Good thing we had a Groupon from Dave’s Fresh Pasta in Sommerville. It was a bit of a drive (not far but with a billion traffic lights in took forever) but the place was so cool! Dave’s offers pasta and ravioli (with the most unique fillings!) made fresh daily. They also have monthly specials for ravioli and sauces.ย  For the pasta, you can indicate the kind you want (I chose whole wheat) and the cut (see picture for options below).

Pappardelli is my favorite pasta cut and I thought it would go perfectly with the pork bolognese dish I had in mind.


I made a full-fat dessert but decided to keep dinner “lighter” by following this recipe from Cooking Light for spaghetti with pork bolognese. It sounded quite rich already. I believe the “trick” is to use a mixture of ground pork tenderloin (very lean) and regular ground pork (fattier). The guy at the Whole Foods meat counter laughed at Adam when he asked for ground pork tenderloin, but I knew we could just grind it ourselves. We got a pound of pork tenderloin, and after 10 pulses in the food processor, it was perfect! [PS – if you do this, don’t pulse for more than 10 pulses, otherwise it will become a pork paste – not exactly the consistency desired here]. I also omitted the onions and celery (we don’t care for either) and used organic bacon instead of pancetta since we already had it in the house. The sauce took a while (not hard, just time consuming) but at the end we had a giant bowl of papardelle with pork bolognese for our (um, my) efforts. ๐Ÿ˜€

This pasta was rich with A LOT of pork.

I also made some no-knead overnight parmesan and thyme rolls (recipe from Cooking Light can be found here). The picture in the magazine just looked too good and the no-knead promise eluded me into thinking that this was going to be easy. Well, there were certainly a few problems with these guys for me. My yeast seemed dead (I tried it twice and didn’t see any bubbles but went ahead anyway), it didn’t roll very pretty so I cut the rolls in half (I think that was a good decision anyway); I didn’t let it rise for a full hour (since I wasn’t sure that the yeast was fully active, I didn’t bother waiting the entire time)… but they came out all right! ๐Ÿ˜€

My plate:

I didn’t realize that the traditional bolognese is made with red meat (I knew it, it just didn’t click that this was not what I was making) but it was still pretty good. Not to-die-for amazing but quite good. Adding a pinch of nutmeg and simmering with the cinnamon stick did add nice warmth to this dish. As to the rolls – I really enjoyed the thyme, and they were a little nutty from the olive oil. A little butter went a long way on these. ๐Ÿ˜€

The pasta was quite rich so I ate only a little over half of it, but I did have this whole glass of Honey Moon Vognier. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Oh, and a slice of Boston cream pie!

It’s my FIL’s favorite, and we all enjoyed it. And yes, you’re going to have to wait for more details on it until the next post.

What’s your favorite kind of cake?

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19 Comments so far ↓

  • #1 - Maria

    What a fun celebration! I am a cookie girl, but I do like lemon cake and some chocolate ones:)

  • #2 - Tiffany

    Yum! That looks amazing!

    Where in Somerville is this amazing pasta place? I HAVE to check it out!

  • #3 - Sophie @ yumventures

    Boston cream pie is definitely on my “to make” list! Amazing pasta, I love how you went all out with the homemade rolls too!

  • #4 - Carly

    My favorite layer cake was my wedding cake – chocolate with peanut butter filling. Other than that, I’m more of the molten chocolate cake girl or a piece of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting :)
    What a great looking dinner – rich and delicious as birthday dinners should be!

  • #5 - Eve @ nutritionbyeve

    Wow – you were ambitious this weekend! I love bolognese sauce. It really adds so much flavor to start with bacon or pancetta and then I usually add ground sirloin (I don’t think ground turkey works as well). But at restaurants I think they use all fatty cuts of meat and more heavy cream than we might want to know :)

  • #6 - Catherine (we cook when we can)

    I love Dave’s Fresh Pasta, especially since they’ve expanded their market. It is very difficult to walk out of there empty handed

  • #7 - Matt

    Red velvet cake for me please :)

  • #8 - One Healthy Apple

    This looks like a fabulous menu- lots of care went into it! I love cake- it’s my favorite food!

    My favorite has to be Opera cake- hazlenut, coffee, chocolate ganache. Yes please!

  • #9 - Shannon

    oh my gosh, what a spread! sometimes yeast needs a little sugar to show bubbles, so i’ll add a sprinkle of sugar or a small drizzle of honey… but sometimes i wonder, too! man, you’re making me hungry with all this delicious food :)

  • #10 - Lauren @ Eater not a runner

    LOVE Dave’s fresh pasta, it is such a fun store. And Boston Creme Pie too?? Yum!

  • #11 - Caroline

    Literally salivating over the fresh pasta! Yummmmmm…..

  • #12 - Kelly

    Boston creme pie, yum! I’ve been meaning to try Dave’s and I should- your pasta looks delicious!

  • #13 - Gabriela (froyolover)

    Jeez, Louise!
    That was quite a celebration!
    Have great week, Elina!
    Brazilian XOXOยดs,

  • #14 - Lele

    I miss Dave’s fresh pasta SO BAD. I dated a guy who lived down the street from there, and it was kind of dangerous… especially since Kick Ass Cupcakes (another amazing place that you would loooove- they have a website, you can see their crazy exotic flavors!) is on the same street!

  • #15 - Lauren

    Looks like a fantastic meal! There’s nothing like fresh pasta, and your lightened bolognese sauce looks delicious. I love the idea of grinding pork tenderloin in the food processor… I might have to give that technique a try!

  • #16 - kitchenbelle

    Oh my goodness, your bolognese looks out of this world! YUM! Funny, my dad’s favorite cake is Boston Cream Pie (who knew it was a “dad thing”?!) and I made it for his birthday last year!

  • #17 - Lara (Thinspired)

    Do you eat red meat usually? Reading that and thinking back on what you eat, I don’t see it too much on here. Just wondering ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Favorite cake. This was a question on another blog I read today, too, and I think my answer was something like this:

    Red velvet. No, German Chocolate. No, carrot! I can’t decide ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • #18 - Elina

    Lele – I’ve been dying to try kick-ass cupcakes forever. I’ve actually heard mixed reviews about the place but something tells me I’ll love it. Maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t know it was so close to Dave’s. :)

    One Healthy Apple – I’ve never heard of the Opera cake. Must find a recipe asap. It sounds like it’s right up my alley.

    Hehe, Lara – I like that. I don’t know if I could decide either. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Yes, I eat red meat – preferably grass fed organic beef. Actually planning on having it tomorrow. ๐Ÿ˜€

  • #19 - Dominique

    Wow, the photos of your dinner are totally making me drool–and jealous! It totally makes the dinner I’m currently eating seem a little sad (orzo and kidney beans).