Baked Penne with Tomato Mozzarella & Sausage

My sister, Tomi turned me on to this yummy goodness from chef, Erica De Mane, who specializes in southern Italian cooking. Serve with a simple salad.

Baked Penne with Tomato, Mozzarella & Sausage

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 large onion, cut in small dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 lb. sweet Italian pork sausage, removed from its casing and crumbled
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 35-oz. can whole plum tomatoes, chopped, with their juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh marjoram or oregano (from about 6 large sprigs)
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup freshly grated mild pecorino cheese
  • Pinch nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 lb. dried penne (or ziti if you prefer)
  • 1/2 lb. mozzarella, preferably fresh, cut in small cubes

Instructions

  • Heat the oven to 425°F. Lightly oil a large, shallow baking dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  • In a large skillet or stock pot, heat about 2 Tbs. olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and crumbled sausage and sauté until the sausage starts to brown. Season with salt and pepper. If the sausage gives off a lot of fat, pour off most of it, but leave a little to add flavor to the sauce. Add the red wine and let it boil until it’s almost gone. Add the tomatoes with all of their juices and cook, uncovered, at a lively simmer for about 10 minutes. The sauce will thicken slightly. Add the marjoram or oregano and taste for seasoning.
  • In a large bowl, mix the ricotta, about half of the grated pecorino, the nutmeg, and the parsley. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Meanwhile, cook the ziti until al dente (7-8 minutes max). Drain well and toss it with the ricotta mixture until well coated. Add the sausage and sauce and mix again. Add the mozzarella and toss gently. Pour everything into the baking dish and sprinkle the remaining pecorino on top. Bake uncovered until lightly browned and bubbling, about 20 minutes. Serve right away.
  • Nutritional Info (based on four servings)
  • Calories (kcal) : 1070
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 390
  • Fat (g): 44
  • Saturated Fat (g): 20
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 5
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 17
  • Cholesterol (mg): 110
  • Sodium (mg): 114
  • Carbohydrates (g): 113
  • Fiber (g): 8
  • Protein (g): 54

Pesto Chicken Lasagna with Zoodles

1Pesto Chicken Lasagna with Zoodles

Ingredients

2  5-6 oz. tubs of Fresh Pesto (refrigerator section of most markets)
3 oz. Alfredo sauce
1 lb. mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 roasted chicken with herbs seasoning (skin removed and shredded)
2 large zucchinis (sliced thin with a mandolin)*
1 large carton of Ricotta cheese
1 carton of baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced
3 T butter
Fresh Parmesan cheese (grated)
1/4 cup Pine nuts or slivered almonds

Instructions

1. Thinly slice the zucchini with a mandolin and lightly salt the “zoodles”.  This will draw some of the moisture out of them and prevent the dish from getting soupy after cooking.

2. Shred or cut up chicken into bite size pieces. Set aside.

3. Sauté mushrooms in butter just until they start to shrink. Set aside.

4. Mix the pesto sauce with the alfredo sauce

5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

6. Layer ingredients in an 11X17 baking dish. Start with thin layer of pesto then zoodles.

Example:

pesto,
Zoodles (or traditional lasagna pasta noodles if you prefer)
ricotta (1/8 – 1/4 inch thick),
bite size chicken pieces,
mushrooms,
drizzle with pesto mixed with the Alfredo),
mozzarella.

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7. Repeat layering 3-4 times depending on how thick the baking pan is.

8. Make the last layer on top the pesto sauce with grated Parmesan cheese and then sprinkle with either pine nuts or slivered almonds.

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9. Cook in 350-degree oven for 25-30 minutes until bubbly.

IMG_8853Yummy yummy and healthy too!

*You can substitute no-boil lasgana pasta noodles instead of zoodles if you aren’t counting carbs or prefer a more traditional lasagna dish. If so, cook for 50-60 minutes instead.

 

Favorite Salsa Verde Chicken

This 30-Minute One-Pan Salsa Verde Chicken is perfect for a busy weeknight.  It’s healthy, tasty, and super easy.

This Salsa Verde Chicken needs only a few basic ingredients and a casserole dish.

I always keep a jar of my favorite salsa verde from Sprouts in my pantry.  Trader Joe’s has a yummy version too, but I prefer the Sprouts version as it has a little more kick (from Jalapenos).

You can use either bone-in chicken thighs (my favorite) or boneless skinless chicken thighs works too.

Perfect over rice, tortillas, or chips.

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PREP TIME 10 minutes
COOK TIME 20-40 minutes
TOTAL TIME 30-40 minutes
Serves: 4
INGREDIENTS
  • 2 lbs.  chicken thighs (bone in or skinless & boneless)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin’
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 jar (16oz) salsa verde
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • Garnish: fresh cilantro leaves and lime wedges
DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F
  2. Wash and chop the garlic, onion and red pepper.
  3. Wash and towel dry the chicken and then season with salt, pepper, cumin and oregano. Lightly brush the top of each piece with olive oil and sprinkle with the minced garlic. Set aside.
  4. Pour the jar of salsa verde in a casserole dish.
  5. Place the chicken pieces in the casserole dish next and add the onion and peppers to the dish and position around the chicken pieces.
  6. Roast for 20-40 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in center. (Larger chicken pieces will take longer).  Do not overcook.
  7. Serve over rice (or with tortillas) and garnish with cilantro and lime.

Vince’s Tuscan Chicken

2Vince’s Tuscan Chicken

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS
5-6 small chicken breasts or chicken thighs (boneless)
3-5 shallots, chopped
3 large tomatoes, chopped
2-3 T. oregano
1 tsp salt and
½ tsp pepper
½ cup vermouth
olive oil

DIRECTIONS
1. Lightly salt the chicken pieces if desired.  Brown chicken in olive oil for 15-20 minutes on medium heat (1/2 hour if frozen).
Remove from oil and set aside.
2. Add chopped shallots to the frying pan and cook until tender (3-5 minutes).
3. Add chopped tomatoes, oregano, vermouth and salt and pepper.

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4.  Replace chicken in mixture and cook for about 20 minutes more or until chicken done (no longer pink inside).
5.  Serve over bed of white rice, brown rice or fettuccine.

PSST!  Even though my recipe calls for boneless chicken, you can easily make it with the bone in version.  You just need to adjust the cooking time a little longer.  You want to test to make sure the juices run clear and that the meat is no longer pink.

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Skinny Lasagna

DFTSI - Skinny Lasagna_9601

Thin sliced zucchini instead of lasagna noodles turns this into a delicious yet hearty low carb meal.  You won’t even miss the pasta!

Skinny Lasagna

Cook Time: under 60 minutes        /            Serves: 4

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb. 85% lean ground beef
  • kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 – 24 oz jar tomato basil pasta sauce ( I like Bertolli)
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil (plus a few leaves for garnish (optional)
  • 5 shakes of italien  herbs (about 1/2 tsp.)
  • 1 large or two medium zucchini (sliced 1/8″ thick using a mandolin)
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta
  • 1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1-2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

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Homemade Yogurt Sauce / Tzatziki

Homemade Tzatziki
Ingredients:
  • 1 Cup Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 1/2 Cucumber
  • 1/2 Lemon
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Instructions: 

Wash produce (lemon and cucumber)

Grate the cucumber and squeeze out as much liquid as you can and set aside. This prevents your yogurt sauce from being to runny and watered down)

Cut 1/2 lemon into quarters

In a medium bowl, combine the drained cucumber, yogurt and the juice of 2 lemon wedges; season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside for 5 minutes to allow flavors to mix.

Try it with Moroccan Lamb Meatballs, Curry Spiced Chicken Thighs, or Ras El Hanout Chicken Breasts below.

autumn gingerbread cakeletsCurry-Spiced ChickenChicken and tabouleh

St Patrick’s Day Faux-Tatoes

St. Patrick’s Day Faux-Tatoes

Go green on St. Patrick’s Day with a creative and healthy twist on the classic irish-inspired recipe.

The secret ingredient is green cauliflower! It’s actually a hybrid version of broccoli and cauliflower and is sometimes referred to a broccoflower. It’s flavor is sweet, mild and nutty.

Cauliflower is a member of the cancer-fighting cruciferous family of vegetables. It is anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich, and provides your body with vitamin C, Vitamin K, beta-carotene while also boosting healthy digestion and detoxification. Try it on March 17th and you will make it again and again! 
Faux-Tatoes 
Serves 4


Ingredients

1 medium head cauliflower (try it green or traditional white, about 1 ½ pounds)
½ cup butter or ghee
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch thyme, dried
1 tsp sea salt
fresh ground pepper, to taste

Instructions

  • Break up the cauliflower stems and stalk and place in a steamer basket or a small amount of water in a saucepan. Steam it until tender (approx. 10-15 minutes). Drain.
  • In a food processor or blender, blend the cauliflower, butter, garlic, thyme, sea salt and pepper until smooth.
  • Plate your dish immediately or transfer to a small casserole dish for family style eating.

Enjoy!

Grandma’s Make-ahead Mashed Potatoes


Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Yield: Makes 12 to 15 servings

 

Ingredients:

15 medium (5 pounds) potatoes peeled and quartered
6-8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup  light sour cream
2 teaspoons onion powder
salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
2 egg whites slightly beaten (or one whole egg)
2-4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup chopped chives (optional)

Instructions:

Preparing Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes:

In a large pot, add cut-up potatoes and just enough cold water until potatoes are covered; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium; cover and let simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.   Overcooking can cause the potatoes to become gummy.

Remove from heat and immediately drain potatoes thoroughly in a colander.  Return to saucepan; heat over medium-low heat approximately 1 to 2 minutes to dry potatoes, stirring occasionally.  NOTE: Boiled potatoes left in water will start to jellify and may even increase in volume (becoming swollen and watery).  That is why it is important to let the potatoes drain for a couple of minutes in a colander immediately after they are cooked.

In the same cooking pan, mash potatoes with a potato masher or potato ricer until there are no lumps.

TIP: NEVER use a blender, electric mixer, or food processor to make mashed potatoes.Gluey or gooey mashed potatoes are caused by vigorous over mashing, When potatoes are boiled, their starch granules swell.  If those granules are broken too vigorously, the cells release copious quantities of starch, resulting in a potatoes with the consistency of wallpaper paste.

Add cream cheese, sour cream, onion powder, salt, pepper, egg whites, and chopped chives (if desired); blend well.

Spray a large casserole dish with vegetable-oil cooking spray. Add potato mixture and dot with butter.

Cool mashed potatoes slightly, cover, and then refrigerate.

The prepared mashed potatoes may be made up to 7 days ahead of time.  If preparing ahead, remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Place in an ovenproof baking dish if not already stored in this dish.


When ready to heat the potatoes:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Take potatoes out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.
Bake, loosely covered, 40 minutes or until steaming hot in center.

Crock Pot – Slow Cooker Make-Ahead Mashed Potato Recipe:

Mashed Potatoes in slow cookerYou can use this crock pot/slow cooker version, if you need to free up your oven for other dishes when making my holiday meals.

Take the prepared mashed potatoes out of refrigerator about 3 1/2 hours before serving time.  See Preparing Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes above.  Place the mashed potatoes in the crock-pot/slow cooker.  Cover and use low heat for approximately 3 hours, stirring once or twice.

When you are ready to serve the mashed potatoes, stir, and then add some additional dollops of butter.

Pasta Americana a la Tomi

Pasta Americana

My sister Tomi is a great cook and has the gift of hospitality. One Christmas she and her family were visiting us from the east coast and we decided to throw a cocktail party to introduce them to several of our neighbors and friends. At about 8pm the cocktail party turned into a dinner party and we looked at each other saying “What can we make for a party of 12?” Tomi quickly offered to whip up a hearty pasta dish sure to satisfy the hungry bunch. Sure enough, the super easy and delicious pasta was a hit.

I now make it for Sunday night dinner and always think of my sister when I make it. D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S! The recipe below is modified for 6-8 people.

Ingredients Continue reading

Gruyere Cheese and Basil Sandwiches

grilled cheese

Gourmet Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Makes: 2 Servings

Ingredients

  • 4 Slices Sourdough Bread
  • 3-4  Ounces of Gruyere Cheese
  • 4-6 large Basil Leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter

Preparation:

Prepare ingredients:
Pick the basil leaves off the stems; discard the stems. Wash and dry the basil leaves. Thinly slice the cheese into large pieces.

Assemble the sandwiches:

Lay the bread slices on a clean, dry work surface. Divide the cheese slices and half of the basil between 2 of the bread slices;  Complete the sandwiches with the remaining bread slices.  Spread 1/4 of the butter on each of the top slices of bread.

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Cook the sandwiches:

Heat a griddle or fry pan on medium until hot. Add the sandwiches (butter side down) and cook 3 to 4 minutes on the first side, or until golden brown and crispy. Add the remaining butter on the unbuttered bread and carefully flip the sandwiches. Cook 3 to 4 minutes, or until the cheese has melted. Transfer to a clean, dry work surface.
Plate your Dish:
Cut the cooked sandwiches in half and divide between 2 plates. Serve with Easy Tomato Soup on the side. Enjoy!