SPAGHETTI CARBONARA

Last weekend we went to dinner with my uncle at Olive Garden.  Usually I love Olive Garden, but this meal was not so.  My husband and I both ordered their Carbonara with chicken and shrimp.  It was the blandest, most flavorless pasta I had ever eaten.  It really left me craving an authentic style Italian Carbonara so I decided to make some here at home that was more similar to one of my favorite Italian restaurants from our old town. I added a bit of chopped chicken scallopini for some extra protein.

SPAGHETTI CARBONARA

1/2 pound spaghetti
4 large slices pancetta, diced small (quality bacon works also)
1 egg + 2 yolks
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 tablespoon coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper

  • In a large pot, add the salt to the water and bring to a boil.
  • Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente.
  • Reserve some cooking water and then drain it.

While pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat.

  • Add bacon and sauté for around 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
  • In a bowl, beat the egg and the yolks with pecorino cheese and a sprinkling of pepper.
  • Add the drained spaghetti to the skillet with the pancetta and toss for a minute or so over medium heat.
  • Transfer into the bowl with the eggs/pecorino mixture, stirring until the egg sauce thickens.
  • Add some cooking water if the sauce is too thick or more cheese if it’s too liquid.
  • Season with some fresh ground black pepper and a sprinkling of cheese.
  • Serve immediately in a warmed bowl.

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STUFFED PINK ALFREDO MANICOTTI

STUFFED PINK ALFREDO MANICOTTI 
1 box manicotti pasta shells
1 pound lean ground chuck
15 ounces ricotta cheese
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small bunch green onions, diced
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning mix
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups grated Mozzarella cheese
2-8 ounce cans  tomato sauce
1 recipe PINK ALFREDO SAUCE (recipe follows)

  • In a large skillet brown ground chuck with onions and garlic.
  • Salt and pepper generously.
  • Drain fat.
  • Slice shells carefully along one edge so they resemble taco shells. Once they are cooked no one will notice that you took the easy way out to fill them.
  • In a 9×13 baking dish pour tomato sauce evenly on bottom.
  • Top with 1/3 of the grated Mozzarella cheese.
  • Fill each shell to overflowing with Ricotta mixture.
  • Lay side by side on tomato sauce.
  • Top with PINK ALFREDO SAUCE and the remaining Mozzarella cheese.
  • Bake 30 minutes until cheese is golden and melted.
  • Serve with Garlic Cheese Bread.

PINK ALFREDO SAUCE
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon minced garlic, jar
1 tablespoon Classico sun-dried tomato paste
1 egg yolk, beaten
1/4 teaspoon thyme
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • Melt butter in a saucepan.
  • Add garlic and saute until fragrant.
  • Gradually add heavy cream, stirring constantly. Stir in salt, pepper and grated Parmesan cheese and stir constantly until melted.
  • Whisk in egg quickly and heat through.

COUNTRY HEAVEN LASAGNA

COUNTRY HEAVEN LASAGNA

1/2 pound ground Italian sausage
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground sirloin
1 package pepperoni slices
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs, well beaten
1 tablespoon FRESH flat leaf parsley, minced
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 can tomato paste
1/2 cup Classico Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
1 small can crushed tomatoes
1 carton ricotta or cottage cheese
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 cups Mozzarella cheese
Lasagna noodles

  • Brown meat, drain fat.
  • Add garlic and Italian seasoning to the tomatoes and tomato paste. Reserve 2 tablespoons.
  • Fold meat into tomato mixture.
  • Slice pepperoni slices into quarters.
  • In a mixing bowl combine the ricotta cheese, eggs, Parsley and Parmesan cheese.
  • In am oil coated baking dish spread an even layer of the Classico Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto.

Then layer twice:
NOODLES
MEAT MIXTURE
PEPPERONI PIECES
CHEESE MIXTURE
MOZZARELLA CHEESE

  • Bake 50 minutes OR until golden brown.
  • Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
  • Serve with salad and garlic bread.

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After I go grocery shopping I split the Italian sausage, ground pork and ground sirloin all in half. Then I mix them all together and freeze half for the the next time.

CHICKEN PARMESAN MEATBALLS

CHICKEN PARMESAN MEATBALLS – This makes 12 or so meatballs
1 1/4 pounds ground chicken

1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt to taste
pepper to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
1 egg, whisked
zest of half a lemon
3 tablespoons sesame oil
Marinara pasta sauce
3-4 slices mozzarella

  • Preheat oven to 400°F, setting rack to upper third part of oven.
  • In a large bowl, using your hands, gently mix together first 10 ingredients.
  • Shape into golf-ball size balls and place a few inches from each other on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  • In a small bowl, mix one spoonful of your pizza sauce with olive oil.
  • Brush this mixture on top of each meatball.
  • Bake for 15 minutes.
  • Remove meatballs from oven, spoon some sauce on top of each meatball, and cover each with a slice of cheese.
  • Broil another 3 to 5 minutes until cheese is bubbly and golden.
  • Heat remaining sauce in a small saucepan.
  • Serve meatballs with pasta and a dollop of sauce.

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CHICKEN CACCIATORE ala SLOW COOKER

CHICKEN CACCIATORE ala SLOW COOKER

1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1 large carrot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Avocado oil**
Fresh ground salt and black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
14.5 ounce can stewed tomatoes
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup beef consomme’
1/4 cup Wondra flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
PASTA

*Soak the mushrooms in 2/3 cup HOT water for 10 minutes.
*Toss carrots and chicken with avocado oil in slow cooker.
*Generously season chicken with salt and pepper.
*Strain mushrooms through coffee filter lined sieve, reserving the liquid for later.
*Finely chop mushrooms.
*Top chicken with chopped mushrooms, garlic.
*Strain tomatoes into the mushroom liquid.
*Hand crush tomatoes over top of the chicken.
*Whisk together the tomato mushroom liquid, tomato paste and red wine with the flour until smooth.
*Pour wine mixture over chicken pieces.
*Cover and cook on low 7 hours.
*Using 2 forks shred chicken.
*Let stand uncovered 15-20 minutes and sauce will thicken.
*Re-season as necessary.
*Serve over prepared pasta.

**NOTE: I don’t care for the flavor of olive oil, but it is a great substitute for the avocado oil.

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MEAT LOVER’S PIZZA MAC & CHEESE

I found A recipe for Pepperoni Pizza Mac & Cheese in the recent issue of Cuisine at Home. It was NOT what we had hoped it would be (though it was good)  so we made a few changes to help it be the GREAT recipe we thought it was going to be originally.

MEAT LOVER’S PIZZA MAC & CHEESE
2 cups dry penne pasta
3 oz. package pepperoni
2 mild Italian Sausages, skins removed
1 cup rotisserie chicken pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small red pepper, diced
1/2 cup diced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup Wondra flour
3 1/2 cups whole milk
3 cups grated Provolone cheese
2 cups grated EXTRA sharp white cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup of your favorite Marinara sauce

  • Preheat oven to 400˚.
  • Prepare pasta per package directions. Drain.
  • Set aside several pieces of pepperoni for the top. Mince the remaining pieces of pepperoni.
  • In a large deep oven proof skillet heat the oil over a medium high heat.
  • Brown the sausage and minced pepperoni. Remove meats to a paper towel lined plate to absorb the grease.
  • Reserve 1/4 cup of the drippings.
  • Sweat the bell pepper, garlic, onion, oregano and red pepper flakes in the drippings until softened.
  • Increase the heat and whisk in the flour until vegetables are well coated.
  • Whisk in milk, stirring until smooth. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and gradually add Provolone, Cheddar and Parmesan cheeses whisking until smooth.
  • Fold in Pepperoni, Sausage and Chicken pieces until well coated.
  • Fold in Pasta.
  • Top with reserved Pepperoni pieces and Mozzarella cheese.
  • Bake 20 minutes until bubbly.
  • Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

WHITE CHICKEN LASAGNA

WHITE CHICKEN LASAGNA
3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
14 ounces artichoke hearts, drained VERY well and chopped
16 ounces shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 box grape tomatoes, sliced in thirds
12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup heavy cream
4 cloves garlic, minced fine
salt and pepper, to taste
1 box Barilla oven ready lasagna noodles

  • Pre-heat oven to 350°.
  • In a large bowl combine chicken pieces, artichoke hearts, Parmesan, 4 ounces of the Mozzarella cheese and half of the tomatoes.
  • In another bowl beat together the cream cheese, heavy cream, garlic, salt and pepper until well blended.
  • Divide cream cheese mixture in half and add one half to the chicken mixture.
  • Using a 9×13 baking dish spread some of the non-chicken cream cheese mixture into the bottom.
  • Top with an even layer of lasagna noodles.
  • Top with one third of the chicken mixture.
  • Top with one third of remaining tomato pieces.
  • Repeat these layers two more times.
  • Spread remaining cream cheese mixture on last layer of noodles.
  • Top with remaining non-chicken Mozzarella cheese.
  • Tent with foil.
  • Bake covered 20 minutes.
  • Remove foil.
  • Bake another 10 minutes until noodles are cooked through.

OPTIONAL: If you prefer a more traditional flavoring, add 1-2 tablespoons of tomato paste to the cream cheese mixture.

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RUSTIC CREAMY PARMESAN CHICKEN

I ALWAYS make a recipe as written the first time. You have to see what they were aiming for after all.  The next time through I make changes to appeal to my family’s taste as well as my ease and anything I feel will make the recipe MORE flavorful and/or MORE healthy.

I originally found this one on facebook and it was delicious, but hubby hated the bones so I now make it with boneless breasts. He also is NOT fond of wilted spinach so I cut back on the spinach and increased the parsley.  I also increased the garlic – A LOT!

RUSTIC CREAMY PARMESAN CHICKEN
4 chicken thighs, bone-in & skin-on  skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Wondra flour

2 teaspoons fresh ground Pink Himalayan sea salt 
1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper 
1 tablespoon oil
3 6 cloves garlic, chopped minced
1 LARGE shallot, diced
½ Vidalia onion, diced
1 tomato, diced
1 2 cups fresh spinach
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2/3 1/2 cup grated powdered Parmesan
1/2 cup 2 tablespoons FLAT LEAF parsley, chopped

  • Generously season chicken with the salt and pepper.
  • Dredge in Flour until VERY well coated.
  • Heat oil in a skillet over medium-low heat.
  • Sear chicken well on both sides. Move the chicken around from time to time to ensure it cooks evenly.
  • Remove chicken from the pan and keep warm.
  • Add garlic, shallot and onion, stirring until onions are translucent. 
  • Add the heavy cream, salt, and pepper, bringing to a boil.
  • Stir in the tomatoes and spinach until the spinach is wilted.
  • Add the Parmesan cheese and parsley, stirring until the sauce has thickened slightly.
  • Place the chicken back in the pan, spooning the sauce on top of the chicken.
  • Serve with pasta!

CHEESY ITALIAN CHICKEN PASTA

I love this recipe because it is quick, simple and only uses a single pan!

CHEESY ITALIAN CHICKEN PASTA
8 ounces baby spinach leaves, divided
1-8 ounce jar Classico Sun-dried tomato pesto
1 medium large yellow onion, chopped
1 pound uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenders, cut into bite size pieces
6 garlic cloves,minced
1 pound dry linguine**
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning*
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup Chardonnay wine
5 ounces fresh Parmesan cheese, shredded

  • In a 5 quart large saute/stock pan arrange half the spinach, tomato pesto, garlic, onion, chicken and linguine on the bottom of te pan.
  • Sprinkle with the Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper.
  • Pour chicken stock and wine over top. Cover and bring to a boil over a medium high heat.
  • Cook 7-9 minutes until pasta is al dente.  Toss pasta with tongs occasionally to keep the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pot. 
  • There will still be liquid in the pan when the pasta is done cooking and that’s perfect as it will be the base for the cheese sauce.
  • Turn off the heat and add the cheese to the pasta. 
  • Toss pasta with tongs until the cheese melts into the pasta. 
  • Toss in remaining spinach. 
  • Serve immediately and enjoy!

*If you don’t have any dried Italian Seasoning just make your own by combining 1 teaspoon dried basil, 1 teaspoon rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon oregano and 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme.

**My pot is just a bit smaller than the length of linguine so I halve mine before putting it into the pot.

ITALIAN GARLIC SUPREME – NUMERO UNO / ROUND TABLE PIZZA COMBO

One of the things we miss most here is our favorite pizza. Round table Pizza has an Italian Garlic Supreme that is our ALL time favorite pizza.  When I was a kid though my favorite was NUMERO UNO, a southern California local favorite.  So I set out to try and recreate both of these and believe I have actually succeeded.

ITALIAN GARLIC SUPREME
1 cup warm water (110-115 degrees ONLY – If it is to hot, it will kill the yeast!

1 package or 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons whole milk
1tablespoon melted butter
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon avocado oil*
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon corn meal
3 cups flour
TOPPINGS
1 tablespoon avocado oil 
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup favorite pizza sauce
1/2 pound cooked and crumbled mild Italian sausage
Pepperoni slices
Mozzarella cheese
chopped green onions
chopped tomatoes

*I am probably the only person in the western hemisphere that does NOT like olive oil.  Feel free to substitute it for the avocado oil if you prefer.

    • Add water, sugars and yeast to a bowl and stir well. Let sit 5 minutes until creamy. 
    • Add milk, butter, oil, salt and corn meal to yeast mixture and mix with wire-whisk until well blended. 
    • Pour into mixer bowl.
    • Add 2 1/2 cups of flour and mix with paddle for 5 minutes on low.
    • Scrape the sides of the bowl and form dough into a ball. Pour remaining flour (1/2 cup) around the outsides. Use dough hook, and mix for 5 minutes on low.  
    • Remove dough from mixer and place in a well greased glass bowl large enough to allow the dough to double in size. 
    • Place damp towel on top of bowl, and let rise in a warm spot for 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in size. (for best results, place bowl in a 180 degree oven – keep the towel damp) 
      • Cut dough in half. 
      • On a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin and roll dough to your desired thickness and shape. If your using a metal pizza pan, or a cookie sheet, lightly grease the surface and sprinkle graciously with corn meal.
      • Place shaped dough on the pizza pan and let rise for 10 minutes. 
      • Brush with garlic and oil mixture.
      • Add toppings.  (save green onions and tomatoes for the last 5 minutes)
    • Preheat oven to 500 degrees. 
    • Place pizzas in preheated oven and cook for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 375 degrees, and cook for 5-10 minutes, or until the pizza looks done. 

    If you’re only making one pizza you can freeze the other one for up to 3 months. When you are ready to use it, thaw overnight in the refrigerator or for at least 12 hours. Bring the dough to room temperature about 30 minutes before stretching out the pizza.

    MEATBALLS MARINARA

    I cut this recipe from one of my aunt’s old magazines because it sounded SOOOO good – just simple enough to NOT take ALL day, but flavorful enough to make everyone’s palette stand up and take notice.

    The recipe calls for great big meatballs served over pasta which are often better in theory than in practice and while they were tasty I will make twice as many next time at half the size – just personal preference for hubby and I.

    Most meatball recipes call for equal amounts of pork and beef, but theirs uses much more beef than pork – a mixture that held its shape well, but allowed for very moist meatballs. I made just a few changes to use what I had on hand and hubby said it was some of the best I ever made.

    MEATBALLS & MARINARA serves 8 easily
    recipe CHANGES in red

    ONION PORTION
    1/4 cup olive avocado oil
    2 3 onions, chopped fine
    1 shallot, chopped fine
    8 garlic cloves, minced
    1 tablespoon dried oregano
    3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

    • Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. 
    • Cook onions and shallot until golden, 10 to 15 minutes. 
    • Add garlic, oregano, and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. 
    • Transfer half of onion mixture to large bowl and set aside.

    MARINARA PORTION
    1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
    1 cup dry red wine
    1 cup water
    4 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
    1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    1/4 cup fresh basil leaf
    Salt
    1 – 2 teaspoons sugar, as needed

    • Add tomato paste to remaining onion mixture in pot and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. 
    • Add wine and cook until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. 
    • Stir in water and tomatoes, simmering over low heat until sauce is no longer watery, 45 to 60 minutes. 
    • Stir in cheese and basil and adjust seasonings with salt and sugar.

    MEATBALL PORTION
    4 slices hearty white sandwich bread extra sour dough
    3/4 cup milk
    1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
    1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
    2 large eggs
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    2 1/2 pounds ground beef chuck (80 percent lean)

    • Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees. 
    • Mash bread and milk in bowl with reserved onion mixture until smooth. 
    • Add remaining ingredients, except ground beef, to bowl and mash to combine. 
    • Add beef and knead with hands until well combined. 
    • Form mixture into 2 1/2-inch meatballs (you should have about 16 meatballs), place on rimmed baking sheet, and bake until well browned, about 20 minutes.
    • Transfer meatballs to pot with sauce. 
    • Simmer for 15 minutes. Serve over pasta. (Meatballs and marinara can be frozen for up to 1 month.)

    PIZZA CHICKEN

    PIZZA CHICKEN
    1 tablespoon avocado oil
    4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, flattened to even sizes
    1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
    20 slices pepperoni
    1 small red onion coarsely chopped
    2-4 cloves garlic, minced
    2 tablespoons fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
    2 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano
    Salt and pepper to taste
    1 tablespoon lemon juice

    • Preheat oven to 375°.
    • In a small skillet heat oil to medium high and saute onion and garlic until fragrant and softened. Drain off oil and toss with lemon juice.
    • In a lightly greased baking dish arrange chicken pieces in a single layer.
    • Generously salt and pepper.
    • Cover and bake 15 minutes. 
    • Remove from oven, uncover and layer pepperoni in a single layer over chicken pieces.
    • Top with onion garlic mixture.
    • Top with mozzarella cheese and return to oven uncovered for another 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
    • Top with Parmesan, oregano and parsley.
    • Serve over angel hair pasta.