Tag Archives: mozzarella

Italian Sausage Stuffed Peppers

A dinner of “stuffed peppers” often gets a bad rap.  My friends and family either love it…or hate it.  My guess on the nay-sayer’s is due to the peppers that I have devoured in my life have just been, well..bland.  Ground beef or turkey, rice, maybe some chopped veggies.  Did I mention they’re often dry too??  Well my Italian version is anything but!

The simple garlic, onion and tomato sauce (plus sneaking in that zucchini) keeps it from turning dry and I always choose the ‘hot’ Italian sausage for the slight extra kick!  Do you have kids?  Well still get the ‘hot’, trust me, it’s not that spicy, just flavor!  Last, but definitely not least, that layer of fresh mozzarella cheese puts the average pizza slice to shame!!

Now you can these eat on their own or perhaps with a side salad or even that dry rice, BUT..since we’re cooking with those Italian flavors, why not place your finished product atop perfectly al dente pasta!  Garlic bread too, perhaps?….

The Starting Lineup

  • 3-4 bell peppers, seeded and halved
  • 1 package Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 zucchini, sliced and quartered
  • 14oz Italian finely chopped tomatoes (I prefer Cirio Italian with basil)
  • Mozzarella cheese slices (Fresh)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper 

Garnish/Side (optional)

  • Pasta noodles, cooked al dente
  • Reserved leftover sauce from the meat mixture
  • Chopped basil
  • Shredded parmesan

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Preheat your oven to 375 degrees while bringing the olive oil in a large skillet to medium heat,  *Spray a 9×13 oven proof baking dish with nonstick spray.

In your hot skillet, add in the sausage (out of its casing) and cook completely through while chopping up with the back of your spoon.  Once cooked, remove the sausage and drain all but 1 tbsp of the oil/grease.

Now add in the diced onion and sauté for 5 minutes, followed by the zucchini for 2 minutes and finally the garlic for 1 minute.  To the sautéed vegetables, pour in the finely chopped Italian tomatoes (careful for splatter!) and add the cooked sausage back in.

Your filling is done!  Spoon equal amounts into your halved and seeded bell peppers and place into the 9×13 baking dish.  Top each with a healthy amount of cheese.  PLEASE do not scrimp on this!  *If I purchased the larger package of mozzarella, I have been known to place a slice in the bottom of each pepper before I fill, followed by more on the top!  Yes!!

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Cover the baking dish and peppers with foil and pop in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes.  Uncover and let the cheese bubble for another 5 minutes, remove from the oven and let rest.  *My husband loves his mozz topping to be on the browned side, so I will place our right under the broiler for mere 2-3 minutes.

If desired, while the peppers are in the oven, prepare the pasta noodle side and dress in any reserved sauce from the meat mixture.  *I make sure to keep those juices exactly for this reason!

Garnish your plate with a bit of extra chopped basil, perhaps grated parmesan, and you have certainly elevated those hum-drum stuffed peppers!!

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Italian Stuffed Meatloaf Florentine

I’m giving away a secret…my famous Italian meatloaf recipe!  Ok, well maybe it’s only famous between my sister and I, but it’s ridiculous!!  It’s almost like a ginormous meatball or maybe a deconstructed lasagna..call it what you want, but we call it delicioso!

It’s a fun twist on your traditional American meatloaf and mashed potatoes.  There’s nothing wrong with old fashioned comfort food,  but this spin will keep your week nights a little less boring.. ☺️ You can also prepare the meat mixture the night before and then just sauté the spinach and assemble the next evening if you’re crunched for time after a busy day at work.

I hope you enjoy this family favorite recipe as much as me…and my sister. 😉

The Starting Lineup

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 lb lean ground pork
  • 15oz container ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
  • 5 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 bag frozen spinach, slighty thawed
  • 1 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 egg, beaten
  • 3 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp EVOO 

Side Dish

  • 1 pckg noodles (I.e. Penne, spaghetti)
  • 1 jar of marinara sauce  

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

We’re going to first rinse and chop & dice our vegetables (onion, garlic, bell pepper & parsley).  You’ll also seperate the minced garlic.  2 cloves for the spinach and 3 cloves for the meat mixture. 

 

Heat the EVOO to med-low in a skillet and add in the 2 cloves minced garlic.  Cook till fragrant, about 1 minute.   

 

Next, you’ll add in the spinach.  *dont worry if it’s still a bit frozen, it will work.  You can also use fresh spinach if you have that available.  

Stir the garlic spinach mix occasionally till warm.  Transfer the cooked spinach to a dish and set aside while keeping the leftover liquid in the skillet. *I like to place my cooked spinach in a paper towel lined bowl to soak up the extra juices. 

 

While you’re finishing up cooking the spinach (aka the florentine) portion of this masterpiece, we’ll start the meat mixture.  Super simple!

In a very large bowl, combine almost everything else.  The beef, pork, veggies, garlic, bread crumbs, seasonings, the beaten eggs and the milk.  Remember to take off your jewelry because you’re about to get your hands dirty!  Get in there and thoroughly mix this up. 

  


Now, in a 9×13 baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick, you’re going to start the fun part! 

Take about 2/3 of the meat mixture and make a firmly packed rectangle while pressing down the middle to create an almost 1″ thick by 2″ tall “walls”.  You’re going to be filling this area with some good stuff! 

 

Spread your container of ricotta cheese in the base 1st. 


Next, you’re going to spread the garlic-spinach mix overtop that.  

Then sprinkle about 1 cup of mozzarella cheese over your spinach. 


Finally, we’ll top this off with the remaining 1/3 meat mixture.  I like to almost make ‘hamburger patties’ out of it and place over top while pinching it all together to make a seal.  It’s really easier than it seems.  Then I just press and pack it tight to keep that perfect rectangular shape.

 

Pop this in your preheated oven.  It will cook for one hour.

After about 30 minutes of you’re stuffed meatloaf cooking, start your noodles and sauce.  I like to pour my sauce right into the skillet we sautéed our spinach in.  That flavor from the remaining EVOO, garlic and spinach will only enhance the flavor of the jarred sauce.  *cook your noodles about 2 minutes less than the package directions.  Once time is up ladle straight into the marinara sauce, along with about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. 

   

While your side is coming together, that 1 hour should be up.  Sprinkle the remaining cup of mozzarella cheese over your cooked meatloaf and cook for about 10 more minutes, till cheese is bubbly and melted.  Remove from oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes. 

   

Cut into thick slices and place over your marinara dressed noodles alongside a glass of good vino.  Enjoy!! 

 

*If you do not care for ricotta, you can substitute with all mozzarella cheese.  The thick slices of mozzarella in you’re grocers deli section would be ideal, nice and gooey!

*I chose a lean ground beef, because there’s enough fat in the ground pork to keep it juicy.

  

Turkey Pesto Melt

A quick lunch or pair with a bowl of warm soup or a crisp salad for an easy, tasty dinner!  This sandwich came about from some ingredients I had leftover in my fridge and hy hubby’s stomach couldn’t of been more pleased.

Of course, feel free to switch up the flavors here for what you may have on hand in your refrigerator.  This can just be a base model, so suit to you & your family’s taste!

The Starting Lineup

  • Loaf fresh bread (ciabatta, sour dough..)
  • Quality carved deli turkey
  • Basil pesto
  • Mozzarella cheese medallions
  • Fresh, ripe tomato slices
  • Mayonnaise 
  • Butter 
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Balsamic Reduction (optional)
     

Preheat a skillet to medium with 1-2 tbsp of butter.  You can also use a panini press if you have one available.

Cut the bread loaf into 1-2″ thick slices, if possible please use a serrated bread knife for this.  You’ll thank me.

On one side of your bread, spread with a layer of mayonnaise.  This will be the side that touches the hot pan.  As I’ve mentioned before, most old school diners use this method (mayo) whenever making their grilled cheeses, etc.  This makes for a fabulous crust, where as butter just gets soggy, and it easily spreads from corner to corner!

Flip these bread slices over.  On the other side, you’ll now want a good slather of your pesto sauce.  Lots of flavor here already! 

  

Ok…easy enough, right?  Next, top one slice with your turkey, then tomato slices (a sprinkle of salt & pepper over the tomatoes) and finally the mozzarella cheese.   I prefer the tomatoes to not touch the bread, but have a barrier with the meat and cheese.  Leads to, again, less soggy bread.   I’m always thinking… 😉 

I added a drizzle of sweet balsamic reduction ..just because.

Last step before griddle time!  Place the remaining slice of bread onto your filling (pesto side down) and there is a beautiful sandwich…but now, let’s make it taste even better!
Place this beauty into your preheated, buttered skillet.  Cook for 3-4 minutes or till browned.  Turn over (carefully) for another round on the other side.

 

Once golden and crunchy outside, with that mozzarella nice and gooey inside you’re ready to serve!  Cut in half on the diagonal and chow down! 

 

Open Face Caprese Chicken Sandwich

Alright, now THIS is one of my “easy” meals!  There’s almost no actual skillet required (truth be told, you can broil the chicken as well instead) which makes this fantastic for these warm summer months we’re in.

Secret:  Take it up a notch, for flavor too, and cook on your outdoor grill…every bit of it!!  Plus, your home never heats up at all!

  • 1 pckg Chicken Breasts, cut in half lengthwise 
  • Jar of premade Basil Pesto
  • Mozzarella Cheese, sliced 1/2″ thick
  • Fresh, ripe tomatoes, sliced 1/2″ thick
  • Ciabatta Bread, sliced 1″+ thick
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • Kosher salt & fresh ground pepper
  • 1-2 Tbsp EVOO 
  • Balsamic Vinegar Reduction (optional)

In my usual prep method, let’s slice the chicken breasts in half length-wise.  Only a thin cutlet is needed here AND it doubles your serving amount for the same price! 👍 Season both sides of your chicken with kosher salt & pepper and set aside.  (Wash hands ;))


In a skillet over medium heat, drizzle a bit of EVOO in pan (heat) and then add your chicken.  These are thin cuts, so cook just 2-3 minutes per side.   Once finished, set aside on a dish for use a bit later.

Now is time to slice your tomatoes (sharpen that knife!) and cut your bakery fresh bread loaf into your ideal thickness (serrated bread knife if you have one).  *Also, chop that garlic. 

Set your oven’s broiler to high..on a baking sheet lay your ciabatta bread slices down.  Drizzle each slice with a bit of EVOO, a bit of your chopped garlic and a sprinkle of salt & pepper.  Place your baking sheet about 6″ under your broiler, watch this CLOSELY and broil until JUST a light golden brown. 

 Assembly time has come once again!!!  With an oven mitt…take your baking sheet of browned, garlicky ciabatta bread out of the oven.  Leave on baking sheet.

Layer on top of the bread the (cooked) chicken cutlet, the tomatoes and then the mozzarella slices.  I like to sprinkle a bit of S&P on both my tomatoes and cheese.  More flavor my friends..

Place this back in the oven under ther broiler for another few minutes.  Watch closely again, as to not burn the bread, but for the cheese to start melting and become gooey.  Gooey cheese=some sort of heaven, I’m sure of it! 

*This will usually take about 3-5 minutes.

Woohoo!!  This super easy and tasty meal is done!  Let’s just dress it up a bit with a spoonful of the basil pesto and a drizzle of the (optional) balsamic reduction.  Did I mention the word “heaven” yet…. 😉 

 

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