Tag Archives: Italian

BLT Goat Cheese Pasta

I probably crave a traditional BLT sandwich a few times per week…arguably one of the best, simple sandwiches ever invented.  Now, one night at dinner, I wanted to elevate somewhat from my 12-year-old-self appetite and I figured out how to do just that!  Pasta!!

Yes, to feel the age I really am, all it takes is some yummy Italian food and a glass of wine to transport me back into my 30’s.  Plus, my husband prefers this sort of meal as well, not a random sandwich I put before him. 😉  So I already had the bacon on hand, a must, and I substituted the spinach leaves for iceberg and halved cherry tomatoes for the traditional beefsteak or Roma variety.  The kicker though, is that added touch of crumbled goat cheese at the end.  It melds beautifully into the warm pasta with the savory and sweet bacon and maple sauce.

Let me also note and close with…this meal takes less than 30 minutes to prepare and have on the table!  Gourmet, simple and oh so flavorful!

 

*As always, you can pair this with any sort of pasta, whether gluten free, spaghetti squash, zucchini noodles, etc.

The Starting Lineup

  • 10 oz linguine (or other long noodle)
  • 8 strips bacon, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth (plus more for thinning sauce, if desired)
  • 1 hefty Tbsp real Maple syrup (no Aunt Jemima here please)
  • 3 cups spinach leaves
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)
  • 2oz goat cheese, crumbled

Prepare your pasta according to package directions/ al dente.  Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet (as you’ll be adding all of your cooked pasta to this), cook your bacon pieces over medium heat till slightly crisp.  Remove all but 2 Tbsp of the bacon grease (depending, you may have that exact amount of bacon grease in your pan and won’t have to drain any).

Pour in the chicken broth and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to pick up any brown bits of bacon flavor.  The “fancy” word for this is deglazing..look at you!

Now over low heat, add in the maple syrup, spinach (1 cup at a time as it wilts), halved cherry tomatoes and mushrooms (<-optional), toss together.

Finally, add the cooked pasta and the goat cheese to the sauced skillet.  The goat cheese will melt in to the dish creating a creamy texture (If you like a thinner coating, just add a tablespoon of chicken broth at a time).  Serve with warm bread and a salad for a truly great and easy meal, enjoy!

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Stuffed Tomatoes Puttanesca

A lot of influences helped bring this recipe idea to mind.  One, being my love for Pasta Puttanesca, a common order from me at many Italian restaurants.  Secondly, I love having people over and serving unique appetizers aka hors d’oeuvres if I’m being fancy, and thought this will make a great contender for my counter….and lastly, my hilarious, old soul of a little 6-year-old son who legitimately enjoys anchovies on his pizza.  Yes, if he’s not a chef, food critic or stylist when he grows up, I will be shocked.  Future foodie right there!

So because of that last reason, I had a couple containers of anchovies handy and the rest of the ingredients are pantry staples for me…so given all that, the Stuffed Tomato Puttanesca was born!  Thanks Brooks. 🙂

Also, you can make this with out stuffing the tomato/oven-step and serve in a dish drizzled with a bit more olive oil alongside crackers, bread and veggies for a great tapenade!  Heck, even spread it on your bread for an amped up turkey sandwich!  Endless options folks!  Ps.  These are great paired with a juicy steak and glass of red….

The Starting Lineup

  • 12 small cocktail style tomatoes, 2-3 inches and ripe
  • 1 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 25+ pitted Kalamata olives, rough chop
  • 1 Tbsp capers
  • 8-10 anchovy filets (canned or jarred in olive oil)
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs or panko
  • 1/4 cup Romano cheese, grated
  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 Tbsp tomato juice
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment, foil or silpat sheet.

Using a serrated knife (I always use serrated when dealing with tomatoes, trust me), slice off the tops of each tomato (keep) and carefully scoop out the inside of each tomato with a spoon into a bowl.  Once finished, pour and press the tomato flesh through a fine mesh sieve to get the fresh tomato juice.

In a food processor, place in the tops of your tomatoes (stem cut off), Kalamata olives, anchovies and garlic.  Process until well chopped.

Combine the olive paste with the bread crumbs/panko, capers, parsley, thyme, olive oil, the tomato juice, pepper and Romano cheese.

Place the cut and hollowed tomatoes onto your lined baking sheet and use a spoon to stuff each tomato with your tapenade filling.  Once they’re all full, sprinkle the tops with the shaved parmesan cheese slices.  Place into your preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until the cheese has browned and tomato is slightly wilted and heated through.

Sprinkle a bit of fresh thyme or parsley overtop and serve as an appetizer or side dish, enjoy!

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Pan Seared Salmon with Sun Dried Tomato Bacon Cream Sauce

I know this is hard to believe with a recipe title as such, but this meal took less than 30 minutes to prepare and have on the table.  Yes, I tell no tale, less than a half of an hour.

What’s also great about this quick, and arguably almost healthy meal, is that since it’s so quick to cook up, it can be in your weeknight dinner rotation.  Plus, since it’s flavors are so “high-end”, it is also a no-hassle recipe for a dinner party or perhaps even an at home date with your loved one.  *One extra thing, my five year old son ate this up TWICE and even proclaimed, “I just love this stuff”.  Again, I tell no tales…

The Starting Lineup

  • 1 1/2 lbs salmon fillets
  • 3 strips bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4oz sun dried tomatoes in oil, drained, sliced (Plus 2 Tbsp of the oil)
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika (regular will work as well)
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 cup half & half
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup vegetable (or chicken) stock
  • Kosher salt & fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • Fresh basil, torn (garnish)
  • Parmesan Cheese, shredded (garnish)
  • Penne pasta, for serving

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Let the Salmon come to room temperature for 15 minutes. Gather all of the ingredients and bring a large stockpot of salted water to a boil (for the pasta) while you begin to sauté the diced bacon in a large non-stick skillet.  Remove the rendered, slightly crisped bacon to a paper towel lined dish and set aside.  Also (if needed) drain all but 2 Tbsp of the bacon grease.  *When the stockpot of water is boiling, add in the penne pasta and cook to the package directions.  Drain and set aside till plating.

Bring the skillet with the bacon grease to medium heat and sear the salmon fillets for 2-3 minutes on each side.  Set aside.

To that same skillet, add in the onion, garlic, sun dried tomatoes + oil, paprika, Italian seasoning and crushed red pepper.  Sauté together for about 2 minutes.

Add in the vegetable/or chicken stock over to deglaze the pan and let simmer for a couple minutes.  Pour in the half & half along with the 1/4 cup parmesan and stir together, salt & pepper to taste.  Add the seared salmon back into the creamy, fragrant sauce to bring back up to temp.

Serve this delightful dinner individually plated or family style…Coat the cooked penne in the creamy sauce, place the salmon overtop and sprinkle the freshly torn basil, parmesan and crisped bacon overtop!  Enjoy!!

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Baked Spaghetti Pie

Back when we lived in hot and sunny Arizona, we would frequent a certain Italian food joint that was close to our home.  However, it wasn’t the close proximity that made us end up there, it was my husband’s love for their Baked Spaghetti that brought us.

Fast forward years and years and he still spoke of it…so I began to give it a whirl!  With much success, I give you my version which in using a spring form pan, gives many ooh’s & ah’s at dinnertime!  Looks quite impressive for such an easy recipe!

*If you do not have a spring-form, this recipe works just as well in a casserole dish or deep dish pie pan! 🙂

**Feel free to add in/change ingredients to suit your tastes and what you may have in your pantry and fridge!  I.e. Italian sausage, mushrooms, bell peppers, different cheeses, maybe no meat at all!

The Starting Lineup

  • 16oz spaghetti noodles (boiled 8-9 minutes/drained)
  • 24-32oz jar marinara sauce
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 container ricotta cheese
  • 2-3 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning blend
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, shredded/grated
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh basil, torn (optional garnish)

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.  Bring a stock pot of salted water to a boil (for the noodles) while you have a large skillet browning the ground beef with the chopped onions, minced garlic and olive oil.  *Feel free to add a pinch of salt and Italian seasonings of your choice if desired.

Once the noodles have finished (slightly under cook them at about 8-9 minutes, as they’ll finish in the oven), drain and toss in a large bowl with the beaten eggs, parmesan cheese and teaspoon of Italian seasoning.  Set aside.

As the ground beef becomes browned, pour in the marinara sauce of your choosing and stir together.

Now I used a lightly greased 10″ Spring-form pan for this (what you would typically make a cheesecake in), however, you can also use a deep dish pie tin, a 2-quart casserole dish, etc.  Just make sure to spray with a bit of non-stick.  **With the spring-form pan, I wrapped the bottom in foil just to ensure no leakage, which I didn’t have anyway.

First layer in the egg coated noodles and then top with dollops of the ricotta cheese.  Pour the meaty red sauce overtop, finally topping with the shredded mozzarella cheese.   Place your prepared spaghetti pie, covered, into the oven for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil cover and let bake another 10 minutes.

Once finished baking allow to rest for a good 5 minutes before slicing into.  If desired, top with a bit more parmesan cheese and freshly torn basil.  Enjoy!

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Seared Filet with Roasted Butternut Squash & Blue Cheese Ravioli

My husband and I do not get a lot of “date nights” as we have two young boys, rarely a babysitter and he has the craziest schedule working for the railroad.  No set schedule actually.  All that combined leads me to craving fancy-dressed, wine-filled nights out even more!  That being said, I knew I could do it!  Not the literally leaving my house to enjoy a quiet kid free atmosphere, but create that upscale dining experience here at home!

I already knew I could make a fantastic steak, so I wanted to try my hand at homemade pasta.  Like REAL homemade pasta, no attachment to my Kitchen-Aide or anything.  So out came my flour coated rolling pin and I finally attacked the somewhat scary mound of welled flour and eggs.  You know what?  It wasn’t that hard.   I’ve been scared all these years for nothing!  Now, if I’m making a crockpot meal asking for the filled pasta, then frozen is fine, but for this meal all the slight extra work was sooooo worth it!!

So please, next time you can’t get away, or maybe your budget is a bit tight, please give this a whirl!

The Starting Lineup

Dough

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
    3 eggs
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Filling

  • 1 small butternut squash
    2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
    1/4 teaspoon sea salt
    1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon butter
    1 tablespoon olive oil 
    5-6 sage leaves, minced

Protein (optional)

  • (2-4) Filet mignon or Ribeye Steaks
  • Fresh ground black pepper and kosher salt
  • 2 vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick), softened

 

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Roasted butternut squash and blue cheese filling!

 

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To begin…..

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Next, (this is a great tip!) prick your butternut squash with a fork all over.  Cut off the ends of the squash and place on a plate in your microwave for 4 minutes (if you don’t, this vegetable is extremely hard to cut).  Using a vegetable peeler, remove the skin and then cut in half length-wise.  Discard of the seeds and then cut into rough cubes.  Place on a baking sheet drizzled with olive oil, salt & pepper and place in the oven for 30 minutes until fork tender.

Meanwhile…..

Mound the flour on a clean work surface and make a well with a fork in the center, creating almost a “volcano” in appearance.  In the well, crack the eggs and add in the salt and oil.  Using your fork, slightly beat together while gathering a bit of flour at a time until it forms a dough ball.

Using your hands, start needing the dough until it forms a perfectly smooth ball with a shiny appearance (10 minutes).  Add more flour if it seems sticky or a tbsp. at a time of water if it feels too dry.  Wrap your dough ball with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 20-30 minutes.

Now that your butternut squash is roasted, transfer to a large bowl along with the blue cheese crumbles and the salt & pepper.  Mash together with a fork to your desired consistency. Cover and set aside.

With your dough ball, unwrap pasta and cut into four sections. You will work with one section at a time. Wrap the remaining three up in plastic in the mean time. Flour your work surface liberally. Roll out dough with a floured rolling pin, working from the middle and rolling out. Try to get the thinnest and longest piece of dough you can. Keep rotating and turning the dough to prevent sticking. Once your dough is rolled very thin, place a small amounts of the filling {about a teaspoon} onto the dough about 1 1/2-2 inches apart. Fold the top of the dough over the filling. Press the top piece of dough over and around the filling to remove any air bubbles. Now using either a ravioli stamp, pastry cutter or a pizza cutter, cut into perfect squares {you will need to crimp the edges with a fork if using a pizza cutter}. Place on a floured tray and cover with a tea towel as you make these. Form any leftover dough into a ball and place in the plastic wrap to rest. Continue this pattern until all the raviolis are filled and cut out.

To cook, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Drop in your raviolis (4-5 at a time) and stir gently. Raviolis will be finished cooking once they float to the top. Drain.  Once finished add to a warm sauté pan of melted butter, oil and sage that is slightly crisped.  Toss gently to coat.

Now you can eat these delish ravioli’s as is or pair with a great steak!  If you choose the steak route, here is my favorite way..

Set the steak out of the fridge to come to room temp for 20-30 minutes {I did so while I’m preparing the ravioli’s} and heat oven to 400 degrees, rub the steak all over with oil and coat in freshly ground pepper and kosher salt.  Heat your cast iron pan on med-high heat till about smoking.  Add in the butter and then the steaks, let cook (do NOT move) for 4 minutes on each side.  Transfer the skillet with the seared steaks to the oven and let cook for 5 minutes (for medium-rare).  Remove the steaks to a platter and cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes.  {Here is where I cooked and sautéed the ravioli’s.}  ***Make sure you have a well ventilated kitchen as cast irons smoke something crazy.  You can absolutely grill your meat too if preferred.

So, whether you decide to make this a vegetarian inspired meal or are a true carnivore like myself, you will not be disappointed!  Serve with a great red and you have a true 5-star restaurant meal!  Enjoy!!

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Creamy Mushroom Prosciutto Fettuccine

I was craving a hearty, but not heavy meal, which isn’t easy to do with Italian food.  Usually I end up with meatballs, parmigiana, cheesy manicotti…but not this time!  The fettucine is coated in a light, buttery cream sauce that isn’t too rich and the mushrooms really fool you into having a hearty meat-filled meal.   However, since I cannot fix my hubby’s brain into believing mushrooms can substitute as meat, the prosciutto had to happen!  Frankly, I’m ever grateful for it!  The thinly sliced Italian charcuterie and mushrooms make for such Umami flavor!!

*Umami:  delicious, savory taste.  One of my favorites of one’s five basic taste buds.*

**A nice addition in the Springtime is to add blanched sweet peas or even asparagus to this pasta dish!  Great flavor, freshness and vibrant color!

The Starting Lineup

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 8 slices thinly cut prosciutto, crisped
  • 1 lb mushrooms (mixed with any variety of mushrooms.  I used baby bella, portabella and rehydrated shitake)
  • 3 medium shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 cup chicken stock (not broth, but stock)
  • 1 pckg fettuccine noodles
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • Kosher salt and pepper

Garnish

  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Fresh thyme

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Begin by heating the 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.  Place the thinly sliced prosciutto in a single layer into the hot oil and fry up (similar to bacon) until crisp.  I prefer mine super crispy, but cook to your liking!  Once crisped, transfer to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.

In that same pot, heat the now prosciutto flavored oil to high heat and add in the 1lb of assorted mushrooms, cooking for 7-8 minutes.  Turn the heat down to medium-low and add in the shallots, 1 tsp of fresh thyme and season with salt and pepper.  Sauté all together for a couple of minutes, till shallots soften.  Finally, reduce the heat to low and pour in the chicken stock.  Bring to a simmer and allow to cook down for 5-7 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook your pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water.  You want the fettuccine to be quite al dente, so boil about 3-4 minutes less than package directions.

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Transfer the very al dente pasta, using tongs, to the pot of mushroom mixture.  Ladle 1 cup of the pasta cooking water into the mix as well.   Crumble half of prosciutto into pot.

Increase heat to medium, bring to a simmer, and cook, tossing constantly, until pasta is now perfectly al dente and liquid is slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Add cream, return to a simmer, and cook, tossing, until pasta is coated, about 1 minute. Remove from heat, add the butter, and toss to combine. Taste and season with salt if needed.

Transfer to your serving bowl(s) and top with the remaining prosciutto, parmesan cheese and fresh thyme!  Enjoy!

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Smokey Gnocchi Toscana 

Who doesn’t love Olive Garden’s famous “Zuppa Toscana”?  It’s a delicious blend of sausage, kale and potatoes in a creamy broth…my only small problem with the soup (more so my family’s problem) is it will not fill my hearty boys and husband’s appetite up!  Nope, soup in general just won’t cut it!

Now since I was craving a big bowl of Toscana comfort, I had to figure out a way to change it into something a bit more substantial if it were to be mine.  I have to say, it came pretty easy to me..thank goodness.  How about we make the broth into a rich, more flavor packed cheese sauce and amp up the potato texture by using those fluffy pillows from heaven, otherwise known as gnocchi.  Hey, gnocchi’s are in fact made from potato flour..I do have a little bit of genius left in me.  My boys tend to suck it out of me at times.  I also made sure it was chocked full of (not too) spicy sausage and healthy kale.  Yep, with all those Italian flavors going on, even my boys will slurp up the greens!

Last, but not least, I topped it all off with some crispy, crumbled bacon for another layer of smokey flavor…drooling…

The Starting Lineup

  • 1 lb Hot Italian Sausage, removed from casing
  • 1 package Gnocchi 
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4+ cups Kale (a Kale/Spinach blend would work too)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 heaping Tbsp flour
  • 1 cup milk, plus more to thin cheese sauce if needed
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, divided 1:1
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, divided 1:1
  • 1/4 cup basil pesto
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • A pinch each of salt and pepper
  • 6 strips bacon, cooked and chopped for garnish


First and ALWAYS foremost is prepping your ingredients to have at the ready!!  Chop and mince the garlic and shred the cheese if it hasn’t already been done for you.  I’ll be taking sous chef applications soon 😉

Now onto the cooking part my multi-tasking friends!  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and on a foil lined baking sheet, lay out the bacon and cook till slightly crisp (about 15 minutes, rotating once in the oven).  Remove to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.

Keep the oven on, but drop the temperature to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, bring a large stockpot of salted water up to a boil (for the Gnocchi) and in a separate large pan, heat up the olive oil to medium heat and begin browning the sausage, chopping up with a spoon as you go.

Water boiling: add in Gnocchi and cook for about 2-3 minutes, until they float to the top.  Drain and set aside.

Sausage: once cooked through and slightly crumbled, remove from pan and drain the grease slightly.  *leave about a tablespoon of grease please.

In the same pan that the sausage cooked in add in the onions and sauté for 3-4 minutes.  Add in the kale and garlic and allow to wilt down.  Once quickly wilted, add the sausage back in along with the Gnocchi.  Remove from heat.

Pesto cheese sauce: in a medium sauce pan melt the butter and then whisk in the flour till it makes a rue (paste).  Now you will whisk in the milk for about 3 minutes till starts to thicken.  Add in the pesto, 1/2 of each the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses and a pinch of salt and pepper.  *It may get a little thick here, so just thin by whisking another couple tablespoons of milk in at a time until you reach your desired consistency.



You’re at the finish line now!  In a 9×13 baking dish sprayed with non-stick spray, spoon in the Gnocchi, sausage and kale mix.  Pour that super cheesy pesto sauce ALL over and top with the remaining cheeses.  Cover with foil and place in the 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.  

Bump up the oven to 425 degrees and pull the foil off, allowing to bake for another 5-10 minutes, until the cheesy top gets nice and brown.  Remove from oven and relish in the “it smells soooooo good in here” praises!  Make sure to top it all off with the crumbled bacon..NEVER forget the bacon!  *Let rest for 5 minutes before serving..remember it’s going to be hot!  

Serve with a simple salad, warm bread sticks and you have yourself a hit!  

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