Baked Pasta with Italian Sausage

Baked-Pasta-with-Sausage-3Pasta is a great family dinner because it is easy to prepare, delicious and cost effective.  Being a cheese lover, I actually prefer a baked pasta over just plain pasta with tomato sauce.  The added cheese mixture of ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella adds great texture and flavor to the dish.  It also can serve more people because it is more filling (extra bonus).  Plain baked pasta is great, but I’m also always trying to find ways to add some meat to dinner dishes for the hubby.  He likes his meat, so I try to always add some in somehow into dinner.  Having extra sausage in my freezer, I decided to dress up baked pasta with some delicious hot sausage.  Feel free to use sweet as well, it will be equally delicious.  This recipe serves a bunch, so feel free to half the recipe, or even freeze the leftovers for another dinner.  Two in one, how great is that.  So jazz up your baked pasta and enjoy.  Make the first bite count!

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Baked-Pasta-with-Sausage-2

Total Time:  1 hour

Servings:  6-8

 

Ingredients:

1 box (16 ounces) pasta, any kind you prefer (I used Farfalle)

5-6 sausage links, hot or sweet (depending on your preference)

1 (15 ounces) container of ricotta cheese (I used part-skim)

2 eggs

1 and 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried parsley

3 1/2 cups tomato sauce (a jar or homemade), divided

fresh basil, optional (for topping)

 

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Season generously with salt and add the pasta.  Cook about 2 minutes less than the time on the box for al dente.  It will continue to cook in the oven.  Drain and reserve.

3.  While pasta is cooking, heat a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Remove the sausage from its casing and add to the pan.  Break up into pieces and cook until no longer pink, about 5-6 minutes.  Remove and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain some grease.

4.  While sausage is cooking, in a medium bowl combine ricotta, eggs, 1 cup of mozzarella, parmesan, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dried parsley.

5.  I like to use a tin foil pan (for easy clean-up) about the size of a 13×9 pan.  Add the pasta, cheese mixture, and 3 cups of sauce.  Stir to combine right in the foil pan.  Spread to make an even layer.  Pour the remaining 1/2 cup over the top of the pasta and then sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese.

6.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake for another 5-10 minutes until the cheese on top melts.  Serve with fresh basil on top, if desired.

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Pesto Hummus

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I went to visit a friend and her 2 little boys and wanted to bring a healthy snack for us all to enjoy.  Hummus is such a healthy snack that I have only recently starting trying and enjoying.  I like the ones that have more flavor, and this pesto hummus hits the spot.  My friend and even her 2 boys thought it was tasty.  For this recipe, feel free to use store-bought pesto or use the delicious recipe I posted earlier in the week.  Hummus is really just chickpeas and tahini and any other flavors you would like to add.  Tahini is actually a paste that comes from sesame seeds.  It gives the hummus a nice creamy texture and nutty taste.  This snack is great served with pita chips or crispy vegetables like carrots for an even healthier snack.  It actually tasted better the next day too, after all the flavors were able to marry together.  So whip up this easy and healthy recipe for an on-the-go snack to keep you going throughout the day.  Make the first bite count!

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Total Time:  10 minutes

Servings:  makes about 2 cups

 

Ingredients:

1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas

1/3 cup tahini

2 Tablespoons pesto, recipe HERE

1 Tablespoon grated parmesan cheese

1/2 lemon zested

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Salt and pepper, to taste

 

Directions:

1.  Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth.  HINT:  zest the lemon before juicing, it will be much easier.  Serve with pita chips or your favorite vegetables.

Sausage, Peppers, and Onions Sandwiches

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It’s the middle of summer and summer is not complete without sausage, peppers and onions.  I recently bought a new cast-iron skillet so I was anxious to use that to prepare this delicious dinner.   But don’t be afraid to prepare the same dish on the grill. In these warmer months, I also throw the pepper and onions and all the seasonings right into an aluminum pan and place that right on the grill. The vegetables brown up just as nice with the added smoky flavor while the sausage cooks on the grill along side. Placing the sausage, peppers and onions on a fresh baked roll makes it just taste that much better. So enjoy a taste of summertime and cook up some of these delicious sandwiches tonight for dinner. Make the first bite count!

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Total Time:  30 minutes
Servings: 4

 

Ingredients:

4-5 sausage links (hot or sweet, depending on taste)

4-5 green peppers, thinly sliced

1 large Spanish onion, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

4 Tablespoons olive oil, divided

Salt and pepper, to taste

 

Directions:

1.  Place 2 tablespoons in skillet and heat over medium heat.  When hot, add the sausage and cook about 4 minutes per side or until cooked through and no longer pink in the middle.  Remove sausage from pan, place on a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

2.  With skillet still on medium heat, add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of olive oil.  When hot, place the peppers, onions, oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper in the pan and toss to coat all the vegetables.  Cook until slightly softened, about 4-5 minutes.  I like the vegetables slightly more tender, but feel free to cook longer if you like them softer.

3.  Place the sausage back in the skillet with the vegetables and serve with fresh rolls.

Fresh Basil Pesto

Fresh Basil Pesto
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I have started an herb garden this year containing rosemary, thyme and basil. My basil plant is growing like crazy so I decided to use some of it to make a pesto. Pesto is so versatile; it can be used on pasta, sandwiches, dips and appetizers. It adds great flavor to any dish. It also stays well in the refrigerator in an airtight container. I hope you try this recipe, you will not be disappointed. Make the first bite count!

Fresh-Basil

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Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: about 2 cups

Ingredients:
3-4 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees. Place pine nuts on a baking sheet and bake for 4-5 minutes until lightly golden brown and aromatic.

2. Place all ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor or blender and pulse until combined. While the food processor is running, slowly add the olive oil. Start with a 1/4 cup, then stop the machine and check for consistency. If the pesto is still a little dry, feel free to add some more olive oil until the pesto is all combined. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Revived and Revamped

Being a teacher, summer is my down time. It’s the time of year when I actually have time to sit down and watch a TV show (like The CHEW) or read a book (‘Matched’ was amazing, a lot like Hunger Games). Now that summer is in full swing, I have plenty of time to revive and revamp my blog. I truly love cooking and I love even more sharing the wonderful recipes with you. I have several recipes up my sleeve that I am excited to share with you over the next few weeks. The plan is to post a delicious recipe about 3-4 times a week and then once in a while share tips and menus for planning a weekly dinner menu. I hope you continue to follow and enjoy the upcoming recipes! So excited to be back and ready to go! Make the first bite count!