Tag Archives: Italian

Week Night Lasagna

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The in-laws were coming to visit, and I really didn’t want to cook anything too elaborate.  I have to admit- we were in a rut.  Sure, there are literally thousands of recipes on Pinterest, all recipes, etc. but I just wasn’t in the mood to cook.  I had to grab some cheese sticks for the littles when inspiration struck in the refrigerated section of the grocery store!!  I saw the package of three cheese ravioli in the “family pack”, and I knew what was for dinner.

It only took a few minutes to assemble and was ready to pop in the oven as soon as it reached temperature.  A half an hour later, dinner was done.  And even better than that- dinner was GOOD!  There was just enough left over for my husband and I to take to work for lunch the next day.  Sweet!!

WEEKNIGHT LASAGNA

  • 1 lb ground beef, turkey, or Italian sausage
  • 20 to 24 oz. package refrigerated cheese ravioli
  • 12 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 24 oz. pasta sauce
  • 2-3 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 400*F.
  2. Brown and crumble meat in a skillet over medium high heat.  Drain well.  HINT: this can be done a day ahead.  Just put it in an airtight container and store in the fridge until you’re ready to cook!
  3. Spray an 8″x8″ pan with cooking spray, then spread about 3 Tbsp sauce on the bottom.  Layer ingredients (ravioli, meat, sauce, cheese), and repeat layers.  Sprinkle grated Parmesan on top, if desired.
  4. Bake in center rack of oven until cooked through.  Sauce should be bubbly, and cheese layer nicely browned at the edges, about 30 minutes.  Let stand about 5 minutes (10 is even better), then dig in!

Pizza Rolls

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Sometimes, life is crazy.  Sometimes, life is BUSY!  And then there are times when things slow down.  When the house is so quiet, you can hear the dog snoring from 3 rooms away.  It gets that way when the kids are at grandma and grandpa’s house 4 hours away.  Sure, you could get caught up on laundry and dishes.  Or you could COOK.  Cooking it is!!

This recipe is something I’ve wanted to do for a while.  Kind of like a cinnamon roll, but savory.  Salty.  Cheesy.  Yummy!

Sure, this recipe takes a while to put together, but most of the time is rising time.  Promise.  It’s really not that complicated.  If my kids were a bit older, I would let them ‘decorate’ their own section of dough before rolling it all up.  That would be fun.  Can’t wait.  Well, yes I can.  You two can stay small, okay?

Hope you enjoy this recipe.  And if you’re in the mood for something sweet, this dough makes FANTASTIC cinnamon rolls. 🙂

Pizza Rolls

FOR THE DOUGH:

  • 1/4 cup warm water (115°F)
  • 1 envelope (2-1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1-1/2 cup warm whole milk (115°F)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2-1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 3 cups bread flour, plus more for kneading
  • 3 cups all purpose flour

FOR THE FILLING / TOPPING:

  • 2 cups (2-8 oz. cans) tomato sauce with basil, oregano, and garlic
  • 4 cups mozzarella cheese, divided
  • pizza toppings, cut into very small pieces (1/4″ dice), 1/2 cup each (up to 4)
  • Your favorite marinara sauce for dipping
  1. Place warm water in a small bowl with about 1 tsp sugar.  Sprinkle yeast over the water and stir gently.  Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the warm milk, 1/4 cup sugar, eggs and salt.  Whisk in the foamy yeast mixture.
  2. With mixer on low, slowly add the 3 cups of bread flour.  Give it a good whirl, then switch the attachment to the dough hook.  With the mixer on the lowest speed, slowly add the all purpose flour.  The resulting dough should pull away from the sides and bottom of the bowl.  You may need more or less flour depending on the humidity that day.  Once the dough ball forms, let the dough rest for about 10 minutes.  This rest helps the flour to hydrate a bit and will also aid in the formation of gluten while kneading.
  3. Mix on medium speed for 6 minutes, adding flour, a Tbsp at a time, as needed to keep the dough from sticking to the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and form into a large ball.  Grease a large bowl and place the dough ball inside, turning once to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled in size.
  4. Butter two 9″x13″ pans.  Deflate the dough by gently pushing down and turning it over in the bowl.  Divide in half with a sharp knife.  Return one of the halves to the bowl and recover with plastic wrap.
  5. Roll out the other dough ball into a rectangle that is 1/4″ thick on a piece of lightly floured parchment paper.
  6. Spread tomato sauce over the rectangle of dough, leaving 1″ at the far long end of the dough rectangle.  Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the sauce.  Top with pizza toppings.
  7. Roll up lengthwise, ending with the 1″ filling-free edge.  Pinch the seams to seal.  Cut into 1″ slices – I like to do this with unflavored dental floss.  Just place the floss under the log of dough and position where you want to cut.  Bring the ends of the floss up over the dough, cross from one side to the other, and pull.  Perfect slice every time!  You should end up with about 12 slices.  Repeat with remaining dough ball.
  8. Place about 12 dough slices in each 9″x13″ pan.  Don’t overcrowd the rolls – they will need room to rise.  Cover each pan with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about an hour.
  9. Preheat oven to 375°F.  Bake the rolls one pan at a time, unless you are lucky enough to have a convection oven!
  10. Bake for 20 minutes, then sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella cheese.  Return to oven and bake another 20 minutes.
  11. Let cool about 15-20 minutes, then dig in!

VARIATION:

Cinnamon Rolls:

Follow directions through step 5.  Butter the rolled out dough with 4 tablespoons of softened butter, then sprinkle with about 1/2 cup of brown sugar.  Sprinkle with cinnamon.  Roll up, cut, and place in a greased 9″x13″ pan.  Sprinkle a bit more brown sugar and cinnmon on top, then place a little dollop of butter on top of that.  Bake as directed and serve with cream cheese frosting!  For the cream cheese frosting, blend together 1 block (8 oz. ) cream cheese (I use the 1/3 less fat kind) and 1 stick of softened butter.  Add 2 cups of powdered sugar and 2-4 Tbsp milk (depending on how thin or thick you want it).  Spread over warm rolls and enjoy!

Pesto Rolls:

Follow directions through step 5.  Spread with 1 cup pesto and 2/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Roll up, cut, and place in buttered dish.  Sprinkle with 1/3 cup parmesan cheese and allow to rise.  Bake at 375°F for 40 minutes, rotating the pan after 20 minutes.  Let cool and enjoy!!

Balsamic Chicken with Crushed Tomatoes

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Confession time!  I had to look up how to spell “balsamic”.  I always want to spell it wrong.  And I want to pronounce it incorrectly.  Doesn’t “bal-sal-mic” have a better ring to it?  Ok.  No.

No matter how you spell or say the word “balsamic”, it still tastes good.  Really good!  And there are few things about balsamic vinegar that people should know.  This is the kind of stuff that culinary dreams are made of.  Seriously.

When looking in the grocery store for balsamic vinegar, it can get a bit overwhelming.  Do you really need that really expensive stuff, or can we just get away with the cheap stuff this time?  Really, what’s the difference?  Well, I have a little trick for transforming the cheap stuff into the sweet, sticky nectar we all expect when we open the bottle of the expensive stuff.  Not the $600-bottle-expensive-stuff-that-was-made-by-a-little-old-man-in-Italy-on-his-deathbed-so-there-will-never-be-another-bottle-of-this expensive.  More like turning a $10 bottle into one that tastes like the one that costs $100.

Ready?  Here it is.  Concentrate it by pouring your cheap-o balsamic vinegar into a saucepan and letting it simmer until it reduces by half.  It should be slightly thick and be able to coat the back of a spoon.  If you taste a bit, it should be a little sweet and tangy.  If it’s not sweet enough for you, you could stir in a tablespoon or two of honey while its still warm.  Once cool, pour it back in the bottle.  Easy peasy!

I only do this step for a balsamic vinegar that I don’t cook with.  You know, if you use it in a salad dressing (Caprese, anyone?) or as a bread dipper with olive oil.  If I cook with the balsamic vinegar, I just go ahead and use the cheap stuff.  The heat will cook off the water anyway!

Either way, I hope you LOVE this recipe.  I did!  I wanted seconds.  Or thirds.  Or fifties.  Ok, not fifties.  That would hurt.  A. LOT.

Balsamic Chicken with Crushed Tomatoes

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  • 2 chicken breasts (about 1 lb)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp Italian Seasoning
  • Sea Salt
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • pint grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 cups cooked noodles (cook according to box directions)
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Dry chicken breasts with paper towels.  Sprinkle with sea salt and Italian Seasoning.
  3. In an oven-proof skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil until it shimmers.  Add the chicken and cook until browned, about 3 to 4 minutes per side.
  4. Add tomatoes and nestle them around the chicken pieces.   Pour balsamic vinegar over the chicken and tomatoes, and quickly place the skillet in the oven.
  5. Bake until most of the tomatoes have burst, 25 to 30 minutes.
  6. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.  Place skillet with tomatoes back on stovetop over medium heat.  Add garlic.  Using a potato masher, mash the tomatoes until they form a chunky sauce.  If desired, simmer for a few minutes to thicken.  Be careful not to grab the handle of the skillet.  ITS HOT!
  7. Just after draining noodles while they’re still hot, toss to coat with butter.  Place half the noodles on each plate.  Top with a chicken breast and pour half the crushed tomato sauce on top.

Deep Dish Pizza

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I will admit– I am a thin-crust pizza girl.  It’s not that I don’t like deep dish or ‘pan’ pizza, I just prefer my crust to be SUPER crispy.  But making my own crust takes time.  And I didn’t have that kind of time!

This recipe comes together VERY quick.  You can make it and have pizza on the table faster than having one delivered.  Plus, you can add whatever pizza toppings you want, and it won’t cost you another dollar per topping. Unless you like weird expensive stuff on your pizza, like lobster or saffron.  Ewwww!!!

Deep Dish Pizza

Serves 6

  • 1 tube Pillsbury Pizza Dough
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef or Italian Sausage, cooked, drained and crumbled
  • 14 oz. pizza sauce (I like Classico)
  • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • pizza toppings (I used 1/4 cup sliced olives and 1/4 cup sliced mushrooms)
  • 1-1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.  Spray a 9″ x 13″ pan with cooking spray.  Pop the tube of dough and press it into the pan, making sure it comes about half way up the sides.  Don’t worry if the dough gets a hole in it while you’re taking it out of the tube– just pinch it together to seal.
  2. Combine the beef or sausage, sauce, and Italian seasonings in a bowl.  Spread evenly over the crust.  Top with pizza toppings and cheese.
  3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until crust is golden and done.  Let cool on a rack for about 5 minutes, then slice into 6 large pieces.

I served mine with salad.  Yum!

Chicken Parmesan

 

Hi!  Guess what my favorite thing to order at Olive Garden is.  C’mon, guess!  I’ll give you a hint.  See that pic up there?  It looks like that.  Only with less love.

You got it!!  Look at you!  So smart.  I can’t wait to share this recipe with you.  This recipe is even better than my grandmothers.  Mostly because my grandmother never made me Chicken Parmesan.  Not being Italian and all….

Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did!  The outside of the chicken was super crispy while the inside was tender and juicy.  YUM!

Chicken Parmesan

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  • 1 lb. chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch thick cutlets
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp seasoned salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (not the kind in the green can.  The GOOD stuff)
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  1. In a wide shallow dish, combine flour and seasoned salt.  In the next wide shallow dish, beat the egg with about 2 tsp water.  In a third wide shallow dish, combine the cheese and bread crumbs.
  2. Dip the chicken in the flour, turning to make sure all sides are coated.  Shake it a little to make sure the excess flour comes off.  Next, dip the flour-coated chicken in the egg wash, turning to coat.  Let the excess egg drip off, then go for the cheese and breadcrumbs! Turn again to make sure all sides are well coated.  Let rest on a plate and repeat with the other pieces of chicken.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large oven-proof skillet over medium heat.  Once the oil is hot and shimmering, add the chicken.  Cook until the meat is cooked through and the crumb is golden brown, about 4 minutes per side.
  4. Remove chicken to a plate, wipe out the skillet, and put the chicken back in the skillet.  Top each piece with about 2 Tbsp marinara sauce and 2 Tbsp mozzarella cheese.  Place under the broiler until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned.
  5. Serve with spaghetti or angel hair pasta and marinara sauce.  Garlic bread wouldn’t hurt.  Maybe a nice salad.  Oh!  And who could forget dessert?  Man.  I must be HUNGRY!

 

Tiramisu

Wow!  It’s the end of August.  How crazy is that?  Doesn’t it feel like the summer has flown by?  And it was HOT this summer, wasn’t it?  It’s still in the 90’s all this week.  We’re generally at least 10 degrees cooler by now.

I’m not complaining.  I’m relishing every last moment of summer.  Sweet crispy cucumbers, juicy tomatoes, snappy beans and summer squash.  But what about the sweet side of things?

My husband got a craving over the weekend.  A craving that required no actual cooking.  Nice!

This recipe is very easy to put together.  Just be sure to let it sit at least 4 hours before digging in– overnight is even better.  Hope you enjoy!

Tiramisu

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  • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 6 oz. strong brewed coffee
  • 2 oz. grand marnier liquor
  • 1 package (200 g) lady fingers (I like the crispy kind)
  • 4 Tbsp mini chocolate chips, divided
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa, divided (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
  1. Blend the mascarpone and sugar until well whipped.  It should look a lot like whipped butter.  Add in the vanilla extract and blend well.
  2. In a separate bowl, whip the heavy whipping cream to the firm peak stage.
  3. Mix about 1/3 0f the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture and blend well.  Gently fold in the remaining whipped cream.
  4. Mix the coffee and liquor.  I find its easier to put it in a squueze bottle.
  5. Line the bottom 0f an 8″ x 8″ pan with a single layer of lady fingers.  Squeeze about half the coffee-liquor mixture on top, evenly coating the cookies with liquid.
  6. Dollop half of the mascarpone mixture on top and smooth out with a rubber spatula.  Sprinkle about 2 Tbsp mini chocolate chips on top.
  7. Arrange a final layer of ladyfingers on top and coat the cookies with the remaining coffee-liquor mixture.
  8. Dollop the remaining mascarpone mixture on top of the ladyfingers and smooth out.  Place cocoa in a small sieve and sprinkle evenly on top.  Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp mini chocolate chips.
  9. Wrap tightly and refrigerate at least 4 hours (overnight is better).
  10. Serve cold and enjoy!

Tomato Saffron Spaghetti

I made this for lunch today.  It was AMAZING!  I just couldn’t wait to share it with you!

This recipe is based on the “Venetian-Style Spaghetti all’Arrabbiata” in the September issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray.  I changed some things.  I didn’t have garlic cloves to slice, so I used my Garden Gourmet crushed garlic. Also, I’m not a huge fan of spicy pasta sauce, so I omitted the fresno chiles and used a small pinch of red pepper flakes instead.  I also added fresh basil.  The results are hearty, comforting, and GORGEOUS!

Tomato Saffron Spaghetti

Click HERE for the printer friendly version

  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • pinch saffron threads
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes, washed
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper
  1. Bring about 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.  Salt the water, then add the spaghetti.  Cook according to package directions, drain.
  2. While waiting for the water to boil, heat olive oil in another large pot over medium heat.  Add onion and cook, stirring often, until soft (about 5 minutes).  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes.  Cook another 30 seconds, or until garlic is fragrant.
  3. Pour in the chicken broth, saffron threads, and tomatoes.  Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the skin on the tomatoes bursts.
  4. Lightly mash the tomatoes with a potato masher.  Add the cooked and drained pasta, fresh herbs, and parmesan.  Stir well.
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

This goes very well with garlic bread! 🙂