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!

Baked-Pasta-with-Sausage-1

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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Chicken and Dumplings

One pot creamy chicken soup with rosemary flavored dumplings

Chicken-and-Dumplings_2

It’s the middle of March and you would think the weather would start to break and feel like spring. Well, not in the Mid-Atlantic. We just had another 8 inches of snow dumped on us with a high of 30 degrees. So, I know this feels like a winter-time comfort food, but it still feels like winter here. This dish is prepared all in one pot and comes together within an hour. On a cold, snowy day like the one we just had, this was the perfect dinner to prepare. It was adapted from the book “Cook This, Not That” and is even a healthy version with only 380 calories per serving. If you are looking for an easy meal to put together on a cold day, try this and you won’t be disappointed. Make the first bite count!

Chicken-and-Dumplings_1

Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 4

Ingredients:
3 Tablespoons butter
1 cup diced carrots
1 teaspoon onion powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 Tablespoons plus 2/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1/4 – 1/2 cup light cream
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup frozen corn

Directions:
1. Heat the butter in a large pot (I used my dutch oven) over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the carrots, onion powder, salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the 3 tablespoons flour and the thyme, stirring so that the carrots are evenly coated. Slowly add the stock, whisking to prevent lumps. Bring to a simmer.

2. Season both sides the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Add to the pot, making sure to submerge in the stock. Cook chicken for about 8 minutes or until just cooked through. Remove chicken from pot, place on a plate and cover with foil.

3. While the chicken is cooking, combine the remaining 2/3 cup flour with the baking powder, rosemary, 1/4 teaspoon salt and lots of black pepper. Slowly add the light cream, starting with a 1/4 cup. Gently stir until the dough just comes together. Add more cream as necessary. Once the chicken has been removed, create 8 dumplings, about a heaping tablespoon each, and drop them directly into the soup. Cover the pot and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, until the dumplings have firmed up.

4. While the dumplings are cooking, shred the chicken. After the dumplings have fully cooked, add the chicken, peas and corn to the pot. Gently stir so as not to break up the dumplings. Heat through for 2-3 minutes before serving.

Adapted from “Cook This, Not That” by David Zinczenko & Matt Goulding

Italian Baked Pork Chops topped with Broccoli Rabe and Fontina

Juicy, tender breaded pork chops topped with garlicky broccoli rabe and creamy fontina cheese.

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Last week I posted a delicious Italian Baked Pork Chop recipe. This recipe is a modified version of those juicy pork chops. I had some leftover pork chops and broccoli rabe and in the fridge. I decided to use up the two together for a leftover meal. I added some cheese on top, and you have a whole new version of the delicious Italian Baked Pork Chop. My husband and I have really grown to love broccoli rabe, and you if you love garlic and a slight kick I encourage you to try it as well. Most people tend to think of it as bitter, but that just means it wasn’t cooked properly. Try the preparation below and you’ll be putting it on everything from sandwiches to pork chops, like me :). It has such great flavor and gives a burst of something extra when added to a dish. So, take those leftover Italian Baked Pork Chops or simply make this recipe from scratch, and enjoy a tasty dinner in no time. Make the first bite count!

Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:
1/2 cup Italian dressing
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup Italian style bread crumbs
4 boneless pork chops (about 1 inch thick)
1 large bunch broccoli rabe, stalks removed and roughly chopped
Salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup freshly grated fontina cheese

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Place dressing in a medium bowl. Combine parmesan cheese and bread crumbs in a shallow dish. Take each pork chop and dip both sides in dressing and then in the bread crumb mixture. Make sure to press bread crumbs on both sides of the pork chop. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.

3. Cook for 25-30 minutes or until no longer pink inside.

4. While pork chops are cooking, prepare the broccoli rabe. In a medium pot, add 2 cups water and the broccoli rabe. Cover and bring to a boil. Remove cover, salt the water and continue boiling for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. The broccoli rabe should no longer have a bitter taste. Drain the water and remove the broccoli rabe.

5. Add olive oil to the pot and heat over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and heat for 1-2 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe and sauté in the oil for another 3-4 minutes.

6. When pork chops are done cooking, remove from oven and leave on foil-lined baking sheet. Preheat broiler and place rack in the middle of the oven. Place about 2 Tablespoons of broccoli rabe on top of each pork chop. Then sprinkle fontina on top, using as much as desired. Place pork chops under broiler for 3-4 minutes or until cheese is melted. Keep a close eye as the broiler tends to burn food quickly. Serve hot.

Italian Baked Pork Chops

Juicy, tender pork chops coated in Italian dressing and a combination of bread crumbs and freshly grated parmesan cheese.Italian-Baked-Pork-Chops-1

I have made a version of Italian baked chicken and decided to test it out on boneless pork chops. It was delicious. Baking the pork chops makes them much healthier than frying them in oil and they are still just as tender and juicy. The dressing gives a great flavor while the freshly grated parmesan cheese adds that little something extra. I used boneless pork chops about 1-inch thick, but feel free to use thinner ones. It will just take less time in the oven. Enjoy this tasty dinner that will be on your table in about a half hour. Make the first bite count!

Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:
1/2 cup Italian dressing
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup Italian style bread crumbs
4 boneless pork chops (about 1 inch thick)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Place dressing in a medium bowl. Combine parmesan cheese and bread crumbs in a shallow dish. Take each pork chop and dip both sides in dressing and then in the bread crumb mixture. Make sure to press bread crumbs on both sides of the pork chop. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.

3. Cook for 25-30 minutes or until no longer pink inside. Serve hot.

Italian Meatballs

Tender, flavorful Italian meatballs in a homemade tomato sauce

Italian Meatballs Recipe-1

My husband just left for his 2nd annual all guys ski trip. I’m certainly sad to see him leave for almost a week, but I know he will have tons of fun. And lucky for him, he has a great wife that loves to cook. I cooked up about 50 Italian meatballs in a tomato sauce for him to take up to Vermont with him. Him and the guys are going to be skiing all day, every day, and deserve to eat home cooked meals when they wrap up their days. These meatballs are great as sandwiches, like my husband and his friends plan one eating them, or even with traditional spaghetti. They freeze great too. So even if 50 meatballs sounds like a lot, make the whole batch, eat what you like and freeze the rest in a sealed container to enjoy at a later date. So tender and flavorful, you will love these Italian meatballs. Make the first bite count!

Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 8-10

Ingredients:
tomato sauce, recipe HERE
4 eggs
12 garlic cloves
2 cups Italian style bread crumbs
2 Tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup milk
2 pounds ground beef
1 pound ground turkey

Directions:
1. In a large pot, make the tomato sauce according to recipe.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

3. In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, garlic, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese, and milk. Once the mixture has come together, add the meat and use your hands to incorporate the mixture into the meat. Try not to overwork the meat, just mix enough until everything is incorporated. Roll out about 2-inch balls (this size will make about 50), or a size of your liking. Place, touching one another, on a foil-lined cookie sheet with a rim. Bake 15-20 minutes or until no longer pink inside.

4. Add the cooked meatballs to the sauce and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.

Lighter Version – White Cheddar Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli

Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli in a creamy White Cheddar Cheese sauce – a lighter version!

White Cheddar Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli-1

I used to make a recipe similar to this using one of the flavored boxed pastas and I would add some grilled chicken and broccoli. It was delicious but I knew I could make a sauce myself that would be healthier and even tastier than what comes in the powdery mix of a box. This creamy white cheddar cheese sauce is made with skim milk. I only buy skim milk so I decided to use what I had on hand and it worked out great. It would probably be creamier if prepared with whole milk or even heavy cream, but it tasted cheesy and delicious and had a lot less calories and fat with the skim. I encourage you to try this healthy dish and you won’t be disappointed. Make the first bite count!

Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
4 Tablespoons flour
2 cups milk (I used skim)
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
8 ounces shredded white cheddar cheese
1/2 pound pasta (I used Penne)
1 bunch fresh broccoli, stalks removed and chopped (about 2 cups)
2 boneless chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
Freshly grated parmesan, for serving (optional)

Directions:
1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk to remove any lumps. Cook for about a minute. While whisking, slowly stir in milk. Add nutmeg, garlic powder, salt and pepper and whisk until smooth. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until slightly thickened, about 10-15 minutes. (The skim milk will take a little longer)

2. While the sauce is thickened, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season the boiling water with salt, then add the pasta. About halfway through cooking time, add the broccoli. Stir occasionally. When finished cooking, drain and return to pot.

3. When sauce is thickened, remove from heat and add the white cheddar cheese. Stir until smooth and all the cheese has melted.

4. Add the cooked chicken and cheese sauce to the large pot with the pasta and broccoli. Stir until combined. Serve hot with freshly grated parmesan on top.

BBQ Bacon Chicken

BBQ Bacon Chicken Recipe-2

BBQ, bacon and cheese… What could be better? This recipe comes from wanting to spruce up plain old BBQ chicken. And what makes anything better? Bacon and cheese, of course. By adding crunchy, crumbly bacon and gooey cheese, it brings BBQ chicken to the next level. This recipe would be even better during the heart of the summer and cooking the chicken right on the grill, but unfortunately it is 10 degrees where I live so that is just not an option. It tastes just as good in the oven though, especially if you broil it for the last few minutes and make the edges golden brown and crispy. So improve your BBQ chicken and try this recipe. Make the first bite count!

BBQ Bacon Chicken Recipe-3

BBQ Bacon Chicken Recipe-1

Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 4

Ingredients:
3 boneless chicken breasts, cut lengthwise
2 cups BBQ sauce, divided (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s)
5-6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese

Directions:
1. Place chicken in large Ziploc bag or large dish. Cover with 1 and 1/2 cups of BBQ sauce and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 375. Place foil on a large baking sheet. This makes clean-up easy. Spray foil with cooking spray to prevent sticking. Place chicken on foil-lined baking sheet. Discard any remaining BBQ sauce from marinating chicken.

3. Evenly distribute bacon over each piece of chicken. Combine the 2 types of cheeses and sprinkle over each piece of chicken.

4. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through and no longer pink. The chicken will cook faster because it was cut lengthwise making them thin cutlets. Broil for 2-3 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Serve hot with remaining BBQ sauce for dipping.