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Posts Tagged ‘Italian’

One of my favorite things that my grandmother cooked when I was growing up was meatloaf. It was a traditional beef-based meatloaf. She topped it with mushrooms and I loved to dip it in ketchup. Yep, it’s the most simple meals that stand out in my mind.

I don’t make meatloaf often but when I do it’s usually a variation that is far from what I used to eat at my grandmother’s table. I first made this chicken meatloaf stuffed with spinach and cheese a few years ago after spotting it on Pennies on a Platter. I’ve made a few changes to the original recipe and I think they’re worthy of sharing with you.

What I enjoy most about this dish is that the individual elements come together for a delicious flavor combination. The chicken mixture is flavored with herbs and garlic and then stuffed with cheese and spinach and topped with marinara sauce and cheese. It makes for a great spin on Italian night. I usually serve it with an extra drizzle or marinara, pasta and a green vegetable or salad. The leftovers reheat wonderfully.


Mozzarella and Spinach Stuffed Chicken Meatloaf
(Recipe adapted from Pennies on a Platter)

Ingredients:
1 pound ground chicken
1 cup marinara sauce, divided
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, diced
1/2 large onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed (optional)
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained (squeeze all the water out)
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch loaf pan with foil, shiny side down.

In a large bowl, combine chicken, 1/4 cup marinara sauce, bread crumbs, herbs, fennel, garlic, onion, eggs and parmesan cheese and mix well.

Press half of chicken mixture into loaf pan, creating a one-inch indentation down the center. Leave one-inch thickness on all sides. Mix together spinach and 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese and spoon into the indentation. Cover with remaining chicken mixture and seal edges.

Top with remaining 3/4 cup marinara sauce and 3/4 cup cheese and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Let stand for 10 minutes and then lift out of loaf pan using foil edges. Slice and serve with additional marinara sauce, if desired.

Yield: 6-8 servings

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One of Brandon’s all-time favorite dinners is pasta with red sauce so I wasn’t surprised when he requested it for our first “return to normal eating and homecooked meals” after the holidays. I wasn’t really in the mood for traditional spaghetti sauce and Brandon suggested arrabbita sauce. Spicy homemade marinara sauce with pancetta sounded perfect.

We usually top stuffed shells with arrabbita but I was not in the mood for the richness of stuffed shells after the holidays so we stuck with plain spaghetti noodles. This ended up being a great choice because it really allowed the awesome flavor of the arrabbita sauce to be the star. The pancetta is a must in the sauce – it adds so much flavor and richness. The red pepper flakes don’t dominate the dish but contribute a nice, slow burn.

I used my go-to marinara sauce as the base for this sauce and added the sauteed pancetta and red pepper flakes at the end. If you have never made homemade marinara sauce, you must! It tastes nothing like what you buy in a jar. I recommend doubling this recipe and keeping a batch in the freezer for a quick dinner option. It reheats wonderfully.

One Year Ago: Three-Ingredient Pot Roast
Two Years Ago: Kefta – Greek Meatballs

Pasta with Arrabbita Sauce
(Recipe source Bakin’ and Eggs)

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1 stalk celery, broken into 4 pieces
1 carrot, finely diced
32-ounces high-quality crushed tomatoes
2 bay leaves
Pinch of sugar
Shot of red wine (1-2 tablespoons)
1/3 pound (around 6 ounces) pancetta, chopped
2 teaspoons (or more if  you like spice!) red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh basil, julienned

Directions:

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and saute for about 5 minutes, until they begin to look translucent. Add garlic, celery and carrot and cook for another 5 minutes. Add wine, tomatoes, bay leaves, sugar and red wine. Simmer for 1 hour over low heat, uncovered.

While sauce is simmering, heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and then pancetta. Sautee about 5 minutes, or until it begins to look crispy. Add red pepper flakes and sautee for another 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir into marinara sauce.

Season with salt and pepper and stir in fresh basil right before serving.

Yield: 4 servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 28

Happy New Year everyone! The holidays have been busy for us with lots of family time and traveling. Since we spent Thanksgiving with my family this year, we stayed in Charlotte and celebrated Christmas with Brandon’s family. We rang in the new year in Asheville with The Avett Brothers and then headed to Atlanta on New Year’s Day for yet another Avett Brothers show and to spend the weekend with my family. It was so good to see them! My mom, Brandon and I went to the Georgia Aquarium on Saturday afternoon while my dad stayed home prepping our amazing dinner! He made Paul Prudhomme’s Seafood Gumbo. SO DELICIOUS! He made his own seafood stock and made the perfect roux. It was exactly the dark color of Paul’s in the book. It was full of oysters, crab, shrimp and fresh andouille! I roasted up some okra for a side dish and my mom made my favorite banana pudding recipe. Yum! I love going home and enjoying my parents cooking! :)

I was happy to arrive home yesterday and get back in the swing of our normal routine. I attend an incredible hot yoga class every Sunday afternoon at 4. It’s the perfect way to end my weekend and prepare my mind and body for the work week ahead. Since I was a little crunched on time given our afternoon arrival home and wanting to make my yoga class, I was looking for an easy meal. It is freezing here (seriously – lows in the teens, highs in the 30s – that is cold in the South!) and slow cooked meat sounded like the perfect dinner. Our grocery store had chuck roasts on sale so off I went to Epicurious to look for a Gourmet magazine pot roast recipe.

I found this recipe for Oven Braised Beef with Tomato Sauce and Garlic. It only had three ingredients and had received numerous positive reviews. Decision made. You don’t even brown the beef before placing it in the dutch oven! Can it get any easier than that? Off I went to the grocery to grab the ingredients. I threw everything in my dutch oven before I left for yoga and came home to an amazing smelling house!

I was a little nervous because the recipe called for so much garlic but it really mellows out in the oven during the long, slow cook and adds a wonderful flavor. I admit that I added a couple carrots and some onion during the last hour of cooking but it totally wasn’t necessary! I just wanted more veggies. Brandon decided that this should be my “go-to” method for cooking roasts.

I served last night’s roast over mashed potatoes with a salad and french bread. I’m making shredded beef enchiladas with the leftovers tomorrow night.

And now for the announcement:
If you’ve read the “About Jen” section of this site you know that my second love is fitness and nutrition. One of the questions I get all the time is, “How do you cook and bake all that food and stay fit?” Well…I’m going to start sharing that information with you on the blog. Don’t worry, I’m not changing the focus of this blog. It is definitely still first and foremost a food blog but I am going to talk about my nutrition and exercise for the day/week in my posts. If you’re not into it – simply scroll down for the recipe!

In a nutshell, it’s all about maintaining a balance. I’m going to talk about that balance in my posts. I hope I can provide a little bit of motivation and inspiration that you can enjoy delicious food and stay fit!

Let me know what you think in the comment selection below and if you have any questions! Eventually, I hope to add separate fitness and nutrition page to the blog but that’s later in 2010!

And now for the most delicious 3 ingredient roast recipe…

Oven Braised Beef with Tomato Sauce and Garlic
(Recipe adapted from Gourmet, February 2001)

Ingredients:

28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
3-3 1/2 pound boneless chuck roast, trimmed
1 head of garlic, separated into cloves (unpeeled)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Optional: potatoes, carrots, onions or any other vegetables you’d like to add
Accompaniment: mashed potatoes, orzo or egg noodles

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Generously salt and pepper roast. Place roast in a large dutch oven. Pour tomatoes over the roast and then scatter around garlic cloves.

Cover and bake for 3-4 hours, until roast is very tender and shreds easily. Break into chunks or shred and serve.

Yield: 6 servings

*Note: if you’d like to add extra vegetables, add them when you have about 1 hour left in cooking.

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 15

I saw this recipe in The Gourmet Cookbook as I was putting together our menu for the week. I knew this would be a huge hit with Brandon and I haven’t made meatballs in forever. This dinner was surprisingly quick and easy to put together given that you make your own tomato sauce. I put the sauce on to simmer, assembled the meatballs and stashed them in the fridge while I was doing some things around the house. I put pasta on to boil and cooked the meatballs once we were ready to eat.

Overall, I would have to say that the meatballs were a definite success but I would use a different sauce recipe next time. I loved the combination of veal, pork and beef in the meatballs and they held together beautifully. No falling apart while cooking – this could have been helped too by the time they spent in the fridge prior to being cooked. I found the sauce to be a little too thin. At first I attributed this to my laziness, the recipe calls for pulsing whole tomatoes a food processor. I just stuck some kitchen shears in my whole tomatoes and cut them up so they were more diced than pureed. Then I read the reviews on the online recipe and saw that others had issues with the thin sauce too. I think this could be helped by adding a little tomato paste and maybe using crushed tomatoes instead of whole. Or just use your favorite marinara recipe (see my favorite recipe here) and skip this one all together. Also, if you’re big on sauce and serving this over pasta you may want to double the sauce.

The meatballs are a definite winner though. I recommend using this meatball recipe next time you make spaghetti and meatballs. I’m so excited to use the leftovers for meatball subs tonight! (They were so good I couldn’t resist snapping a photo to share. Yum!)

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
(Recipe adapted from Gourmet, January 2002 and The Gourmet Cookbook)

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 (28- to 32-ounce) can whole tomatoes or crushed tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, finely diced, divided
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Shot of red wine (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/2 cup fine fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/2 lb meatloaf/meatball mix (mixed ground beef, pork, and veal)
5 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions:

Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and add garlic and about 1/4 of your diced onion.  Cook for about 5 minutes, until onion softens and becomes transparent. In the meantime, if using whole tomatoes, pulse tomatoes with juices in food processor until chopped. Add tomatoes, oregano, Italian seasoning, splash of wine and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to pot. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 20 minutes (can simmer longer if necessary).

While sauce is simmering, stir together bread crumbs and milk in a large bowl and let stand 5 minutes until bread crumbs have absorbed milk. Add meat, rest of onion, 3 tablespoons parsley, red pepper flakes and remaining teaspoon salt. Blend with your hands until just combined (do not over mix). Form 2-tablespoon amounts into meatballs. You should have about 20.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium high heat until hot but not smoking. Carefully add meatballs and sauté in 2 batches, turning occasionally, until well browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to tomato sauce using a slotted spoon.

Simmer meatballs, covered, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, about 5 more minutes. Serve over pasta and sprinkle with remaining  2 tablespoons parsley.

Yield: 4 servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 4

carbonara

This was another one of the easy weeknight dishes that Gourmet Editor-in-Chief Ruth Reichl mentioned on NPRs Fresh Air (explanation in the Spiced Chicken post). I’ve always wanted to try to make Spaghetti Carbonara because I thought it sounded like something Brandon would love. Bacon, eggs and cheese in pasta – seriously? It’s a strange combination but the final result is pure simplicity and deliciousness. How’s that for a description?

The method for putting this together is a little different. You whisk together the eggs and cheese and stir it into the cooked pasta. It creates a creamy mixture without actually using cream. You toss everything together with the cooked meat and onions.

This pasta is not fussy and you probably have the ingredients on hand in your pantry. It’s perfect for a comforting weeknight meal. The recipe makes a ton so it’s great for leftovers or to feed a family.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara
(Recipe adapted from Gourmet, March 2003)

Ingredients:

5 ounces  pancetta or bacon, diced into 1/3 inch squares
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 pound spaghetti
3 large eggs
1 1/2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated (3/4 cup)
3/4 ounces Pecorino Romano, finely grated (1/3 cup) (I used all Parmesan)
1 teaspoon fresh coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Saute bacon or pancetta in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Stir until fat begins to render, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add onion and cook for another 8 minutes, until it becomes transparent. Add the garlic and continue sauteing for another 2 minutes. Add wine, increase heat to medium high and boil until reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes.

Follow directions on package for cooking spaghetti. Make sure to cook in salted water.

While pasta is cooking, whisk together eggs, cheese, pepper and  salt in a small bowl.

Drain spaghetti in a colander and add to onion mixture. Toss with tongs over moderate heat until onion mixture is incorporated. Remove from heat and add egg mixture, tossing to combine. Serve immediately.

* NOTE: The eggs in this recipe might not be fully cooked. This may be a concern if you are pregnant or if salmonella is a problem in your area.

Yield: 4-6 main course servings

spaghetticarbonara

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lasagnapan

I have a confession. There are a few simple things that I just cannot seem to master. Among those are pancakes, gravy, biscuits and lasagna. Seriously, who can’t make pancakes and lasagna? It’s embarrassing. Well, last weekend I was craving traditional lasagna. This is strange for me because I’m not the biggest traditional meat lasagna fan – I usually go for the veggie stuff. I’m good about trying to overcome my culinary weaknesses so I decided to give it a go. I researched recipes for longer than I’d like to admit before finally deciding on this Sausage, Cheese and Basil Lasagna on epicurious.com. I figured if it had received 4-fork reviews from 325 people it must be good.

I’m happy to report that it wasn’t just good…it was awesome. I probably said to Brandon five times during dinner, “Wow, this is really delicious. I can’t believe I made good lasagna.” I loved the flavor combination with the homemade sauce, Italian sausage and fresh basil. I’ve decided that I prefer using all Italian sausage versus a sausage/ground beef mixture. If you’re going to make this lasagna DO NOT skip making the homemade sauce. It is so simple and makes a huge difference in the flavor.

Now on to modifications that I did make to the original recipe. First, I read multiple reviews that there was not enough sauce. I corrected this by using a smaller pan – 9 x 11 instead of 9 x 13. It was just Brandon and me and we can never finish a whole pan anyway. Alternatively, I recommend increasing the sauce recipe by one half. It would have been nice to have extra sauce for the leftovers too. Second, I was totally not in the mood to deal with cooking and draining lasagna noodles. I decided to throw caution to the wind and just use uncooked noodles in the lasagna (I didn’t even use the “no-boil” noodles). I rinsed them in water first to dampen them and made sure they were completely covered by sauce. I was extremely pleased to find that they’d cooked perfectly when I served the lasagna.

One final recommendation is to make sure to let  your lasagna rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. I think this makes the biggest difference in having a pretty lasagna that holds together and doesn’t turn into a mess on the plate.

So now that I’ve overloaded you with my ramblings and recommendations, here’s the recipe.

Sausage, Cheese and Basil Lasagna
(Recipe source epicurious.com, originally printed in Bon Appetit)

Ingredients:

FOR THE SAUCE
1 pound spicy or sweet (your preference) Italian sausage, casings removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained

FOR THE FILLING
1 1/2 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
1 (15-ounce) container plus 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese (about 6 ounces)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

FOR THE ASSEMBLY
12 lasagna noodles
3 cups grated mozzarella cheese (about 12 ounces)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
Nonstick cooking spray
Aluminum foil

Directions:

FOR THE SAUCE
Brown Italian sausage in a large saucepan over medium heat until crumbly and cooked through. Drain and wipe down pan.

Heat olive oil in same pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook for about 5 minutes, until they begin to look transparent and soft. Add garlic, red pepper and oregano and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add crushed and diced tomatoes and cooked sausage and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

FOR THE FILLING
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until combined.

FOR THE ASSEMBLY
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a 9 x 13 glass baking dish with cooking spray. Spread 1 1/4 cups sauce in bottom of baking dish. Arrange 3 noodles on sauce. Drop 1 1/2 cups filling over noodles and spread evenly to cover. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layering of sauce, noodles, filling and cheeses 2 more times. Top with remaining 3 noodles. Spoon remaining sauce over noodles. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses. Spray large piece of foil with nonstick cooking spray. Cover lasagna with foil, sprayed side down.

Bake lasagna 40 minutes. Carefully uncover and increase oven temperature to 400 degrees. Bake until noodles are tender, sauce bubbles thickly and edges of lasagna are golden and puffed, about 20 more minutes. Remove from oven and let stand at least 15 minutes before serving.

Yield: 8 servings

lasagna

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lasagnaveggierollfgts

I’m visiting my grandmother for a few days. When I arrived this afternoon she had planned Veggie Lasagna Rolls for dinner. My grandmother definitely shares my sentiment that not every meal has to include meat. I was really excited that she had chosen this dinner after indulging in lots of July 4th burgers and hot dogs yesterday.

She had prepped all of the ingredients so all I had to do was assemble everything. How nice is that? I would like a full-time sous chef please! These rolls are definitely much easier to prepare than traditional lasagna. You could do anything you are feeling with the filling. I think a traditional ricotta/Italian sausage combo would be excellent in these too. I personally loved the veggies and recommend you try these!

Veggie Lasagna Rolls
(Recipe adapted from Kroger My Recipes)

Ingredients:

7-8 lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions and drained (number needed will depend on your roll size and filling amount)
1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon dried parsley (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil (or 2 teaspoons fresh)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup red pepper, diced
1/2 cup zucchini, diced
1/2 cup mushrooms, diced
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
Cooking spray
2 cups marinara sauce

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a 9 x 11 glass baking dish with cooking spray.

Combine the ricotta, 1/4 cup of mozzarella, Parmesan, egg white, parsley, basil, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and saute red pepper, zucchini and mushrooms for about 3 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another minute. Add chopped spinach and stir until wilts. Remove from heat and let mixture cool.

Combine vegetables with ricotta. Spread the cheese mixture over noodles in a thin layer, working one at a time. Like so…

lasagnaveggierollexample

Roll up and place in prepared baking dish, seam side down. You should have anywhere from 6-8 rolls. Spoon marinara sauce over each roll and cover with foil. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and top with remaining mozzarella cheese and bake uncovered for an additional 5-10 minutes, until cheese has melted.

Yield: 3-4 servings (if you’re piggy like me and eat 2 per serving!)

lasagnarollspan

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