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Recipes & Entertaining Ideas

Filtering by Tag: Buffet

Pesto & Arugula Pasta Salad

Marc J. Sievers

There is something so satisfying about making a big batch of really good pasta salad.  It can be so simple, just a few tosses of fresh ingredients while the pasta is hot, and you have an easy and incredibly flavorful dish.  I will admit that pasta salads were not my favorite as a kid—they always seemed to taste bland, and like the refrigerator.  No good!  But I have since solved the flavor challenge.

This recipe actually came about from a recent trip to Hawaii.  Ryan and I were visiting our best friends for a milestone birthday.  But, the day we were flying back to Chicago, they both got stuck at work.  Before we let ourselves out of their apartment to go to the airport, knowing that they were going to be home very late, I wanted to leave them a surprise dinner in their refrigerator!

After a few minutes, I found everything I needed to create a Pesto & Arugula Pasta Salad.  Best of all, it only took 15 minutes and we were out the door and our friends had an easy and delicious dinner waiting for them.  Needless to say, they were very happy to come home after a very long day to a ready-made meal that kept perfectly well!  This is easy summer “cooking”, at its best!

Watch: Pesto & Arugula Pasta Salad

Pesto & Arugula Pasta Salad

Ingredients (serve 4-6)

  • Fusilli – 1 pound, cooked al dente

  • Pesto – 7 ounces, store-bought

  • Grape Tomatoes – 2 pints, halved

  • Parmesan Cheese – 1 cup, freshly grated, Parmigiano-Reggiano recommended

  • Baby Arugula – 2 cups, washed and dried

  • Green Onions – ½ cup, thinly sliced

  • Basil – ⅓ cup, rough chopped, fresh

  • Parsley - ⅓ cup, rough chopped, fresh, Italian Flat-Leaf variety recommended

  • Red Pepper Flakes – ½ teaspoon

  • Lemon Zest – 1 small lemon, zested

  • Sea Salt – 1½ teaspoons

  • Black Pepper – 1 teaspoon, freshly cracked


  1. After the pasta has been cooked and drained, and while it is hot, place it into a large bowl.

  2. Immediately add all of the ingredients to the hot pasta and toss until evenly mixed.

  3. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.

Tip: You can make this in advance and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  Before you serve it, check to see if it needs more salt, pepper, and even another handful of fresh arugula or basil mixed in.  I have noticed that as food sits in a cold temperature, some of the flavor “disappears”.  After all, who wants bland food?! 

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Simply Fabulous - A Thanksgiving Table

Marc J. Sievers

Every year I dress my Thanksgiving table using everyday linens, plates, and glassware and add new design elements with flowers, candles, and colors.  This year I decided to try something new with textures and colors.  Instead of opting for traditional autumnal colors I experimented with lime, ivory, and purple and boy-oh-boy am I glad I did!  The color palette is fresh and clean and the pop of purple really adds a sophisticated touch. I love using simple round glass vases for arranging all types of flowers.  This year I wrapped them in burlap and ivory grosgrain ribbon.

The burlap adds a rustic element and the ribbon softens it, furthering my style of rustic-chic living.   Everything is held together with double-sided tape so after the holiday my vases can easily return to plain glass for another treatment (my mind is already wandering for Christmas!).  The ivory ribbon really pulls out the color in the flowers and adds a modern clean-line touch.

Tips for flower arranging:

  1. Flowers are a must for any soirée! Buy flowers and arrange them one or two days in advance of your soirée with warm tap water. This allows the blooms to relax and open which will make your arrangements appear fuller and more natural the day of your gathering.

  2. Buy flowers with little to no scent for the dining table or sideboard. You never want the scent of flowers to compete with the aromas of your food. Keep heavily scented flowers for the guest bathroom or foyer.

  3. Instead of placing one flower arrangement in the center of the table try placing three or five (use odd numbers) smaller arrangements in a single row that spans the entire length of the table.

  4. Cut the stems on the diagonal to allow them to drink the most water. Change the water daily to keep your arrangements fresh and vibrant.

Simple turnips have been transformed into tea light holders for my table this year!  I just love the earthy texture and pattern they have and they look fabulous with the purple tulips and pompom mums that I chose.  It almost looks as if they are made of clay.  I decided to place them down the center of my table but you can place them in clusters on silver trays, on a buffet, or even at each place setting if you are hosting a sit-down dinner.  Carve out a small hole on the top of each one just large enough to fit an unscented teal light in, then trim the root from the bottom so it can stand upright.  I added glass tea light holders amongst the turnips to add some elegance and sparkle.

Because I am hosting Thanksgiving this year potluck-style I need simple food markers to label each dish for my guests.  I will use simple green pears with brown tags, with each name written out in pencil (this also gives me flexibility in case a guest brings something different than what was planned).  The bright green pears will stand out nicely against the food and tablescape.  The little brown tags and twine can be used year after year!

I hope my tips, tricks, and photos bring you lots of inspiration!  Use them as a guide and create your own beautiful setting that reflects your personal tastes, favorite colors, and style.  Happy creating!

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