Category Archives: Italian

Lasagna~Lasaña Prepared Two Ways With Oven Ready Pasta

I live in a great area for delicious Italian food. Just about on every corner you will find a family owned Italian pizza place or full menu Italian restaurant. My first attempts at preparing lasagna were with the dry noodles that had to be boiled first. Not the most fun experience, lol! Then I tried the no boil noodles. Not very memorable to say the least. Recently while at my favorite market, I came across these packages of fresh, oven ready lasagna sheets. I could not pass them up as they were priced very reasonable. I had in mind a few different sauces I wanted to test out as well. So, first you want to decide on a sauce recipe for your lasagna. If you have the time, I suggest preparing your sauce one to two days ahead. The flavors will improve as it sits. Then pick your baking dish. I would suggest a deep dish pan for best results. This is only if you want to add several layers to your lasagna. Other pans that work well are loaf pans. This way you could make a few smaller portioned lasagna. It makes it much easier to freeze for a later time and easier to defrost as well. In my experience in lasagna making, it’s best to have extra sauce and extra cheese. Nobody want a dry lasagna and you could always serve the extra sauce on the side or ladle some over the top when ready to serve.

 

Tomato Red Pepper  Sauce

Tomato Red Pepper Sauce. Great for any pasta recipe or add more broth for a tasty soup!
Tomato Red Pepper Sauce. Great for any pasta recipe or add more broth for a tasty soup!

Olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, diced
4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
salt
pepper
red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet basil
2 cans whole tomatoes (28 oz)
1/2 cup parmesan or cotija cheese, finely grated

Directions

1. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil to large pot and heat to medium. Add the onions, garlic and bell pepper. Season lightly with salt and pepper and saute for 6 to 8 minutes.

2. Add 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes(or to taste), oregano and sweet basil. Saute for 1 minutes. Add the whole tomatoes with juice. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 to 25 minutes.

3. Using a hand held mixer or the blender, blend all of the ingredients until there are no more chunks. Continue cooking for another 20 minutes, adding more salt to taste and other seasonings if you like. Add the cheese, if using the last few minutes. Yields about 8 cups of sauce.

 

Light Version of Bechamel

A lighter Version of Bechamel Sauce. Add shredded cheese while still warm for a cheesy pasta dish!
A lighter Version of Bechamel Sauce. Add shredded cheese while still warm for a cheesy pasta dish!

8 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 tablespoons all purpose flour
8 cups 2% milk at room temperature
1/4 cup chicken base (this is optional, but adds a little more flavor)
1/2 teaspon white pepper
1/3 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Salt to taste

*For a more traditional version, omit the chicken base and use heavy cream or whole milk instead of 2%. Any chef would discourage using lowfat milk, but my sauce was still smooth and extra creamy!

Directions

1. Add the butter to a large pot and heat to medium. As soon as the butter melts, whisk in the flour until smooth. Continue to whisk, so it does not burn, for 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Gradually whisk in the milk. Add the chicken base, pepper and nutmeg. Continue cooking on medium/low until sauce becomes thick and creamy. Do not let it boil. Taste for salt. Yields 8 cups.

 

Fire Roasted Mexican Meat Sauce

Mexican Meat Sauce.
Mexican Meat Sauce.

Olive oil
1 small sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 poblano, diced
1 serrano or jalapeño, minced
3 tablespoons flour
3 oz. tomato paste
14 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes
3 cups water
3 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon crushed oregano
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of clove
salt to taste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 pound lean ground beef

Directions

1. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a large pot and heat to medium. Add the onions, garlic, poblano and serrano pepper. Season lightly with salt and pepper and saute for 6 to 8 minutes.

2. Add the flour, tomato paste and fire roasted tomatoes. Stir well to combine and cook for 2 minutes. Add all of of the remaining ingredients in the order listed. Using a wooden spoon, break down the beef and it cooks. Cook at a simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste. Yields about 6 cups.

 

Spinach Artichoke Filling

This recipe for Spinach and Artichoke can be used with the tomato base sauce as well as the bechamel sauce.
This recipe for Spinach and Artichoke can be used with the tomato base sauce as well as the bechamel sauce.

Olive oil
1 small sweet onion, diced
4 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
1 large pickled jalapeño, minced
16 oz frozen spinach leaves (Defrost and squeeze out excess water)
14 oz can artichokes,drained and chopped small
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt to taste

Directions

1. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to skillet and heat to medium. Add the onions, garlic and pickled jalapeño. Season lightly with salt and pepper and saute for 6 to 8 minutes.

2. Add all of the remaining ingredients in the order listed. Cook until excess liquid reduces. Taste for salt. Yields about 4 cups

Try a few different cheese varieties to add more flavor.
Try a few different cheese varieties to add more flavor. Mozzarella, Cotija or Parmesan and a Tomato Basil Cheddar

 

Spinach and Artichoke Lasagna with Bechamel Sauce

Spinach and Artichoke Lasagna Prepared with Bechamel Sauce
Spinach and Artichoke Lasagna Prepared with Bechamel Sauce
Sometimes I think it's easier building smaller pans of lasagna. This way you can share with friends, a dish to pass or for storing in the freezer.
Sometimes I think it’s easier building smaller pans of lasagna. This way you can share with friends, a dish to pass or for storing in the freezer.

6 to 8 pasta sheets (5X10)
1 recipe for bechamel sauce
1 recipe for spinach artichoke filling
4 cups of shredded or grated cheese mix
* I used a combination of mozzarella, Parmesan and tomato basil cheddar. Shredded them and mixed it myself
1 teaspoon crushed oregano
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon flour
*A small deep, disposable lasagna pan works best for 4 layers. I used 2 smaller pans and cut the sheets down to size. I only used 5 sheets.

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Depending on the size of pan you will be using, you may have to cut the sheets to fit pan. In a bowl, combine all the cheese, oregano, red pepper flakes and flour. Toss to combine and set aside.

3. To start, layer some sauce on the bottom. Add pasta sheets to fit. Add a thin layer of spinach mix and a layer of cheese mixture. Repeat the layers until you fill the pan, more or less or until you run out of ingredients, ha ha! You should always end with cheese as the top layer.

4. Cover with foil and place pan on baking sheet lined with more foil. Bake for 1 hour. Uncover and bake for 10 more minutes, under the broiler for the last minute to brown the top. Remove from oven and let rest fro 30 minutes before slicing. Yields 8 servings.

This was my taste testing piece of lasagna...someone had to do it.
This was my taste testing piece of lasagna…someone had to do it.

 

Fire Roasted Mexican Meat Sauce Lasagna~Lasagna with a Mexican Twist

A meat sauce with Mexican flavors to spice up your lasagna recipe.
A meat sauce with Mexican flavors to spice up your lasagna recipe.
I am so happy I stumbled upon these fresh, oven ready pasta sheets. I will never think twice about preparing lasagna again!
I am so happy I stumbled upon these fresh, oven ready pasta sheets. I will never think twice about preparing lasagna again!

You Will Need
1 recipe for Mexican Meat Sauce
5 to 6 oven ready lasagna sheets (5X10)
1 cup chihuahua or mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup pepperjack, shredded
1/2 cup cotija or parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon crushed oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley or cilantro
8X8 pan, but  a small, deep, disposable lasagna pan would work better.

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a bowl, combine all the cheese, oregano, red pepper flakes and flour. Toss to combine and set aside.

2. To the pan, you will add the ingredients in this order to begin. 1. sauce, 2. pasta, 3. cheese. If using the parsley or cilantro, spinkle a little on top of each cheese layer.

3. Then another layer of pasta, sauce and cheese. Repeat 2 more times, ending with cheese on top. You want to add thin layers of meat sauce and cheese so the lasagna does not end up too tall for pan. This is why I say a deep dish disposable pan would work best.

4. Cover with foil, place on baking sheet lined with foil and bake on middle rack for 1 hour. Uncover and bake for 10 more minutes, the last minute under the broiler. Remove from oven and let set and cool slightly for 20 to 30 minutes before serving. Yields 4 to 6 servings.

Tips~ Whichever pan you use, you will probably have to cut the sheets to fit. I happened to have a vintage Pyrex pan that was exactly the right size for pasta sheets and only had room for 4 sheets.

And if you have a few leftover pasta sheets and ingredients why not try some…

Lasagna Roll Ups

Love the idea of rolling the ingredients in the pasta sheets. You need alot less sauce for this version.
Love the idea of rolling the ingredients in the pasta sheets. You need alot less sauce for this version.
Lasagna Roll Ups Make a Great Dinner For Two!
Lasagna Roll Ups Make a Great Dinner For Two!

I had leftovermexican meat sauce, so I took 2 pasta sheets and filled each sheet with a layer of sauce to cover surface. Add cheese and gently roll up like a cigar. Place in a baking dish lined with sauce and cover with more sauce and cheese. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Broil for a minute to brown the top. Yields 2 servings.

Favorite Pasta Recipes~

I will start with the pasta dish that I prepared last Valentines Day which was a Creamy Bacon Carbonara with Bay Scallops and Kale. This was my first attempt at preparing a carbonara style pasta and we loved it! We indulge a little more for special meals and I believe that’s what makes them even more special.  This post also includes how to prepare Potato Gnocchi, a Spicy Red Sauce and a twist on a traditional gnocchi recipe, Toasted Potato Gnocchi with Golden Beets, Basil and White Wine. I say this often, and will say it again. Cook for the ones you love. Make special memories by cooking together. These are some of my most cherished memories.

 

Creamy Bacon Carbonara with Bay Scallops and Baby Kale

Creamy Bacon Carbonara with Bay Scallops and Kale
Creamy Bacon Carbonara with Bay Scallops and Kale


4 thick cut slices of bacon, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups bay scallops, seasoned lightly with salt and pepper
1/2 to 3/4 cup pecorino romano cheese, grated, plus more for garnish
1 egg, plus 2 egg yolks
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 to 7 ounces pappardelle pasta (cooked according to package)
1 1/3 cups of pasta water
2 1/2 to 3 cups fresh baby kale

Directions

1. In a large skillet, add the bacon and cook on medium/low until crispy and all the fat has rendered out. Add the crushed red pepper flakes and garlic slices, cook just until garlic becomes aromatic. Add the scallops and cook for just 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

2. In a bowl, combine the cheese egg mixture, set aside. Cook pasta according to package directions, reserving 1 1/3 cups of pasta water. As soon as pasta is cooked and before you drain the water, add the baby kale. Drain all together and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.

3. Return the bacon mixture to medium heat. Gradually whisk in the pasta water to cheese/egg mixture. Add pasta/kale to the pan with bacon, add cheese/egg mixture and turn heat to low. Toss to combine and cook just until sauce becomes thick. Add more cheese at this time if you like. Yields 4 light servings.

Creamy Bacon Carbonara with Bay Scallops and Kale
Creamy Bacon Carbonara with Bay Scallops and Kale

 

Potato Gnocchi, little pillows of potato pasta toasted in olive oil with garlic and drenched in a spicy red sauce.  This is my husband Richard’s all time favorite in the whole world! Lol! Did that convince you on how tasty this dish is? I prepare gnocchi only twice a year. On his birthday and during the summer when the basil is fresh from my garden.

Potato Gnocchi in a Spicy Red Sauce
Potato Gnocchi in a Spicy Red Sauce


Potato Gnocchi
1 pound baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup all purpose flour

This is a potato ricer for preparing homemade gnocchi and the best , creamy mashed potatoes!
This is a potato ricer for preparing homemade gnocchi and the best , creamy mashed potatoes!
Homemade Potato Gnocchi
Homemade Potato Gnocchi
After teaching cooking classes at the local kitchen store for a few years, I learned all about all these cool kitchen tools!
After teaching cooking classes at the local kitchen store for a few years, I learned all about all these cool kitchen tools!
At this stage, you could freeze theuncooked gnocchi on a lined baking sheet for a few hours. This will freeze then individually so you can then store them in a freezer bag for later use.
At this stage, you could freeze theuncooked gnocchi on a lined baking sheet for a few hours. This will freeze then individually so you can then store them in a freezer bag for later use.

Directions

1. In a medium pan, add potatoes and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain the potatoes and return to the pan, shake over heat until dry.

2. Working over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, rice the potatoes in an even layer. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks, 1 teaspoon olive oil and the salt, pour over potatoes. Sprinkle the flour over the potatoes and stir gently just until a dough forms.

3. Gently roll dough into four 1/2 inch thick ropes. Using a sharp knife, cut each rope into 1 inch pieces. Roll each piece against the ridges of the gnocchi board or you can also use a fork to create this effect. Transfer the gnocchi to the baking sheet, cover with plastic and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

4. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the gnocchi until they rise to the surface, then cook them for 1 minute longer. Gently drain the gnocchi, toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and transfer to baking sheet until cool. Yields about 2 pounds. The Recipe for the Spicy Red Sauce Follows Next!

Potato Gnocchi with extra Parmesan in a Spicy Red Sauce.
Potato Gnocchi with extra Parmesan in a Spicy Red Sauce.

 

Spicy Red Sauce For Your Favorite Pasta Dishes

Testing the freshly cooked potato gnocchi with the spicy red sauce
Testing the freshly cooked potato gnocchi with the spicy red sauce
Fresh Mozzarella, Kalamata Olives, Garlic, Parmesan and Fresh Basil Tossed in with The Spicy Red Sauce and Spaghetti
Fresh Mozzarella, Kalamata Olives, Garlic, Parmesan and Fresh Basil Tossed in with The Spicy Red Sauce and Spaghetti
Directions 

1. Preheat the olive oil to medium heat fro 3 minutes. Add the onions, garlic, carrots, celery and serrano pepper. Season lightly with salt and pepper and cook for 10 to 12 minutes until the vegetables are soft.

2. Add in the roasted red pepper and all of the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and taste for salt and pepper. Continue cooking at a low simmer for a good 45 to 50 minutes until the sauce thickens and reduces.

3. Now for the next step, I used a hand blender, but you can also blend sauce in batches in a regular blender. Blend the warm sauce and cook for another 10 minutes. Yields up to 8 servings. I like to use this sauce for any pasta dish or as a pizza sauce. Cool completely for refrigerating or freezing.

I like to prepare a big pot of the Spicy Red Sauce and freeze it!
I like to prepare a big pot of the Spicy Red Sauce and freeze it!

 

Toasted Potato Gnocchi w/ Golden Beets, Chipotlé, Basil & White Wine. Once you have prepared a batch of the homemade Potato Gnocchi,  you can prepare this variation. This was in the middle of summer with all the wonderful fresh ingredients from the farmers market.

Potato Gnocchi with Golden Beets and Chipotle
Potato Gnocchi with Golden Beets and Chipotle


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound cooked potato gnocchi
4 to 5 golden beets, peeled and sliced thin, about 2 cups
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 chipotlé in adobo, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/8 to 1/4 cup dry white wine
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 to 5 large basil leaves, sliced
1/2 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced

Directions

1. In a large skillet, preheat the oliv oil to medium heat for a few minutes. Add the gnocchi and cook, stirring often until toasted and golden in most spots. 

2. Add in the beets, garlic, chipotle and red pepper flakes and toss to combine for just a minute. Add in the remaining ingredients, toss to combine. Taste for salt, serve right away.

Cook for the ones you love!!!!!!!!!
Cook for the ones you love!!!!!!!!!

 

 

 

 

Meyer Lemon Pasta with Spinach and Bacon

Meyer Lemon Pasta with Spinach and Bacon  although simple looking, the flavors combination is amazing!  My first taste of a Meyer lemon was actually from my sister’s lemon tree in California. They are more mild than regular lemons and have a hint of sweetness. For this reason we called them lemon/oranges, ha, ha… We had no idea they were Meyer Lemons.  All I heard was mmmmm…..mmmm…as I sat enjoying dinner with my husband the other night. Lol! I am pretty easy to please when it comes to pasta dishes. A little garlic, red pepper flakes and lemon and I am good to go. To satisfy the bacon lover in my husband, I decided to add the last two slices of super thick cut bacon I had for this recipe. I know that it would still be delicious without the bacon, but it was a nice treat for a Sunday night dinner.  A simple wedge of lettuce with the Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette and some toasted garlic crostini slices made for a very delicious meal. I loved the angel hair pasta in this recipe, but at times could be a little tricky trying not  to overcook it. Next time I prepare this I would like to try a hearty  whole grain pasta or even some homemade potato gnocchi, Richard’s absolute favorite meal. I like to save these type of meals for once in a while or for that special dinner. My best tip for this recipe is that you should prepare double the amount af vinaigrette to enjoy with your favorite salads the rest of the week. I really wish I would have had a few more Meyer Lemons on hand.

Meyer Lemon Pasta with Spinach and Bacon
Meyer Lemon Pasta with Spinach and Bacon

For Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
Juice and zest of 3 meyer lemons (about 12 tablespoons)
12 tablespoons avocado oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2  to 1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2  to 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/3 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 shallot, about 1/4 cup, sliced
Salt to taste

Tips~ You could use all olive oil for vinaigrette, but I would use a light olive oil. I was curious about the avocado oil for dressings and vinaigrettes, so I purchases a bottle. I really liked it. 

Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette

 

Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette Wedge Salad
Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette Wedge Salad. Save some of the vinaigrette aside before adding it to the pasta if serving a wedge salad on the side.

 

You will also need
1/2 cup thick cut bacon, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups cooked spinach, press all the liquid out
5 cups cooked pasta (I used angel hair)
1/2 cup pasta water
2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Olive oil
salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste
* use a little fresh basil and parsley to garnish if available

Prepping for Meyer Lemon Pasta with Spinach and Bacon
Prepping for Meyer Lemon Pasta with Spinach and Bacon

Directions

1. Blend until smooth all of the ingredients listed for Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette. I added a little more oregano and crushed red pepper after it was blended. Set aside.

2. Cook your pasta to al dente by shortening the cooking time according to package. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water. Drain pasta, rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process and drizzle with olive oil so it does not stick. Set aside until ready to use. If using frozen spinach, make sure it’s defrosted and squeeze out any extra water. I cooked my own fresh spinach in a little bit of broth with salt and pepper.

3. In a large skillet, at medium heat, cook the bacon until crispy. To that same pan, add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for just 30 seconds. Add the spinach, vinaigrette, pasta, pasta water, butter and parmesan. Toss to combine and cook just until warm. Drizzle with a little more olive oil, taste for salt and pepper. Serve right away. Garnish with a little more grated parmesan. Yields 4 servings.

Meyer Lemon Pasta with Spinach and Bacon Using The Camera On The Phone
Meyer Lemon Pasta with Spinach and Bacon Using The Camera On The Phone
Meyer Lemon Pasta
Meyer Lemon Pasta using the camera on my phone, different filter
Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette using avocado oil, excellent flavors! Super tasty when added to warm pasta!
Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette using avocado oil, excellent flavors! Super tasty when added to warm pasta!