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Who's Cooking: Michelle Laux

Michelle Laux shows off her signature dish: spinach

Michelle Laux shows off her signature dish: spinach and pink cream sauce rigatoni. (May 13, 2011) Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

A high school teacher, Michelle Laux lives in Brookhaven Town with her husband, Andy, and son, Andrew, 1.

What's your cooking philosophy? In addition to tasting delicious, food should look pretty. I enjoy the artistic aspect of creating a meal or dessert. Also, I feel good when we're eating something healthy. We can enjoy all types of treats when we practice portion control and complement the dish with a healthy ingredient.

Where do you get your recipes? I subscribe to Food Network magazine, so I try many of their recipes. I have family recipes that I use, and I reinvent old ones. Like this recipe for spinach and pink cream sauce -- I'm really into trying to include "super foods," so I added spinach to the usual pink cream sauce. Spinach is listed as a "super food" in a book called "Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life." I try to incorporate other super foods, too, like blueberries, avocados, kale, almonds.

And the pancetta? The pancetta isn't really healthy, but you can eat it in moderation.

When do you entertain? I entertain every Sunday, when we have family dinner and my extended family joins us. It brings me great joy creating meals and desserts for my family and friends. It's my way of showing them how much I love and appreciate them.

What are you serving for those meals? I cook mostly Italian cuisine. Chicken and artichokes I made recently; for sausage and peppers I use chicken sausage. And I always make dessert.

What kinds of dessert? I make all sorts: rainbow cookies, rice pudding. And I make gourmet cupcakes: mint-chocolate chip cupcakes, jelly-ring cupcakes, which are chocolate cupcakes filled with raspberry preserves, frosted with chocolate buttercream and topped with a jelly ring and drizzled with more raspberry preserves.

Where do you get such ideas for cupcakes? I experiment. And I have a Facebook page, Sweety Treats by Michelle, devoted to cooking, so I can network with other cooking enthusiasts. I share pictures of things I make. I get ideas for making new recipes and desserts.

Spinach and Pink Cream Sauce Rigatoni

1/2 medium onion, diced

Olive Oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup cubed pancetta

2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

Salt and pepper, to taste

¼ cup chopped fresh basil

1 pound rigatoni

1¼ cups heavy cream

½ cup grated pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for garnish

1 cup shredded mozzarella

1 bag of fresh spinach, washed

Whole basil leaves for garnish

1. Film a saucepan with olive oil and saute onion over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add garlic and pancetta. Cook for a few minutes and add crushed tomatoes. Add salt, pepper and fresh basil, and bring it to a boil for about 5 minutes. Lower heat and cook for another 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, cook rigatoni according to package directions. In a separate saucepan simmer spinach in a little water until cooked.

3. Add heavy cream, ½ cup grated pecorino Romano cheese and mozzarella to the tomato sauce and simmer a few more minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cooked, drained spinach.

4. Drain the rigatoni and add to tomato-spinach pink sauce. Garnish each plate with grated pecorino Romano cheese and top with a fresh basil leaf. Makes about 6 servings.

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