Monday, October 12, 2020

Baked Ziti, Penne, Rotini...Whatever

Fall hit Utah pretty hard this weekend, OK just Sunday, but it was nice to have a high in the 60's and a low in the low 40's.  Consequently, we were jonesing for something baked, something comforting so what works better than a pasta bake?!

I didn't have any Ziti in the pantry but did have a variety of other pastas so I improvised and did half Penne and half veggie Rotini - turned out pretty damn good...


Prep time: 10 minutes   Cook time: 55 minutes   Yield: Serves at least 8



1 lb. ziti (can sub penne or rotini) pasta

Extra virgin olive oil

1 lb. bulk Italian sausage or ground beef or pork

1 large onion, diced

3-4 garlic cloves, shredded on a microplane

8 oz. container mushrooms, sliced thin

2 Roma tomatoes, sliced thin

1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary (or basil), minced, plus more for seasoning on top of fresh tomato layer

1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning, plus more for seasoning layers

1 tsp. garlic powder, plus more for seasoning layers

1 large jar of marinara sauce (about 32 ounces) or make your own tomato sauce

12 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated or shredded

1 heaping cup of ricotta cheese

1 ½ cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese



1. Boil the pasta: Heat a large pot of water (2 quarts of water) to a strong boil. Add a tablespoon of salt. Add the pasta and cook at a rolling boil, uncovered, until the pasta is al dente—edible but still a little firm to the bite.

Drain the pasta through a colander. Toss with a little olive oil so the pasta does not stick together while you make the sauce.

2. Brown the meat: While the water is heating in the previous step, start on the sauce. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering hot, add the bulk sausage or ground meat. Break up any large chunks of sausage as it cooks. Brown well.

Don't stir that often or it will be more difficult for the meat to brown. If you are using ground beef or pork instead of sausage, sprinkle with a little salt, garlic powder, Mrs. Dash and Italian Herb Seasoning.

3. Add onions and sauté, then add garlic, spices, then tomato sauce: When the meat is mostly browned, add the onions and stir well to combine. Sauté everything until the onions are translucent and beginning to brown, about 6-8 minutes.

Add the garlic, rosemary or basil, Italian seasoning and stir to combine. Cook 1 minute, then add the tomato sauce and stir well. Bring to a simmer.

4. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

5. Layer sauce, cheese, pasta, tomatoes in casserole dish: Spread a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of a 9x13-inch casserole pan, then dot the surface with half the ricotta cheese. Ladle a spoonful of sauce into the pasta, stir it well and then add half of the pasta into the casserole, top with half of the mozzarella, parmesan and all of the Roma slices, then add the rest of the pasta.

Pour the rest of the sauce over the pasta, dot the remaining ricotta cheese over the pasta, and sprinkle on top both the mozzarella and the Parmesan cheese, garlic powder and Italian Herbs.

6. Bake 20 min: Bake in oven at 350°F until the top is lightly browned and the cheese melted, about 20-25 minutes.

Serve with a nice simple salad and your best garlic bread!

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Creamy Lemon Chicken Pasta

We're starting a pretty intense, full person program later this week so we wanted to get some yummy, non-Whole30 meals out of the way...Jules suggested a creamy lemon chicken pasta (we have a bunch of Meyer Lemons we need to use).  The following is what I found, and after my doctoring, came up with.  Truth be told it was pretty spectacular!  The jury is still out on adding the Ricotta - it may have made the sauce a little grainy and runny, next time we'll try it without (in 70 days).


Prep Time:  5 mins                        Cook Time:  20 mins                     Serves: 6
Rich creamy lemon basil sauce with sautéed or grilled chicken tossed with pasta. 

1-2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. Butter
1 Onion (finely diced)
1 lb. Chicken Breast (about 2-3 chicken breasts, cubed); can be pre-grilled and cubed
2 tsp. Mrs. Dash
½ tsp. Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
1 tsp. dried thyme or 5 sprigs fresh thyme
3 Garlic Cloves (finely minced or grated on a microplane)
1 cup Chicken Broth
1 ½ cups Heavy Cream or Half-n-Half
½ cup Ricotta (optional)
Lemon Zest (from one lemon)
1/3 cup Lemon Juice
1 Tbsp. tapioca starch
½ cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
Fresh Basil (cut into ribbons or torn)
1 lb. Pasta

1- Start by boiling water in a large pot.  Add a generous amount of salt to the pot of water. This will help to season the pasta.  Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain.
2- While water is heating up, in a large skillet, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté for 5-6 minutes. Turn up the heat to medium-high and add chicken breast. Sauté for 7-8 minutes (if adding grilled chicken, add during Step 4 before adding salt to taste). Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Garlic can easily burn so watch it carefully. Season with Mrs. Dash and red pepper flakes (optional).
3- Add chicken broth and heavy cream or half-n-half. Let simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and lemon zest. If you want more lemon flavor, add more lemon zest. Simmer for 3-4 min.
4- In a separate small bowl add tapioca starch to ½ cup of sauce and whisk until smooth.  Add back in to the pan of sauce and stir until incorporated.  Simmer for 3-4 min. more to cook roux. Taste sauce and add more salt, if necessary. 
5- Toss cooked pasta with sauce. Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and fresh basil ribbons.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Red Chicken - A Family Favorite...

My mom used to make this, and the kids fell in love with it, especially Emily.  Quick (prep, still has to cook for 90+ minutes) and easy.  Serve with your veggie of choice...


Serves 4 (plus a little left over)

3 lbs. Chicken 4 legs/4 thighs, bone in but skinless
Olive Oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. Mrs. Dash or Montreal Steak Seasoning
1 Tbsp. Italian Herb Seasoning
2 Bay Leaves
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 14oz. cans diced tomatoes, regular or Italian style
1 pkt. Lipton Onion
Soup Mix*
¼ c. Red Wine (can use white wine, beer or all stock)
½ c. Chicken stock
Splash Balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Combine Tomatoes, Soup mix, Wine, Stock and balsamic in a food processor or blender and process until smooth.
Heat oil over medium-high heat in a heavy, oven-safe Dutch oven (Le Creuset)
Sprinkle both sides of chicken pieces with garlic powder, Mrs. Dash and Italian Herb Seasoning.  Brown chicken pieces, in batches if necessary, ~4 min. per side
Add garlic, S&P and bay leaves to oil and stir until fragrant, 1-2 minutes (don’t overcook, garlic gets bitter)
Situate all chicken pieces in the Dutch oven with as many pieces as possible touching the bottom of the pot.
Pour tomato mixture over chicken and lift the pieces so it settles in between, under and covers the chicken.
Cover and put Dutch oven in the oven on 350°F for 2-3 hours (convection if available), checking about ½ way through to make sure nothing is burning and stirring to make sure everything is evenly distributed.
When done, chicken should fall off of the bone.  Remove the bones and cartilage, but leave the chicken in larger pieces for ease of serving and presentation.
Serve over steamed rice.

*If you don’t have a packet of Lipton Onion Soup Mix.  Gently sauté ½ finely diced onion with Mrs. Dash, garlic powder and a little soy sauce then add to the food processor