SPAGHETTI with RICOTTA MEATBALLS & PECORINO GARLIC BREAD

In my humble opinion (especially now that bread is a rarity in my diet) a “dressed” garlic bread is the ONLY way to go! The strong penetrating flavor of the  Pecorino cheese in the garlic bread as well as the meatballs raises your normal spaghetti to a NEW level.

 

SPAGHETTI with RICOTTA MEATBALLS & PECORINO GARLIC BREAD – serves 2

2 tablespoons Pecorino cheese
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped FRESH Parsley, minced
2 tablespoons chopped FRESH Basil leaves, chopped
3 Garlic Cloves, minced and divide in thirds
3/4 pound LEAN ground beef
2 tablespoons Ricotta cheese
¼ cup Italian Breadcrumbs
1/3 pound spaghetti noodles
1 cup of your favorite marinara sauce
Avocado oil
Fresh ground salt and pepper, to taste
1 French Roll

  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Bring a medium pot of salted water to a FULL boil.
  • Prepare a small baking sheet with foil
.

 

  • Mix together the ground beef, ricotta cheese, parsley, 1/3 of the garlic, pepper and 1 tablespoon of the Pecorino cheese with your hands until well blended.
  • Shape meat into ping pong sized meatballs.

 

  • Heat avocado oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat.
  • Add meatballs to hot oil stirring occasionally until browned ALL over, 6-9 minutes.
  • Set aside.

 

  • While meatballs are cooking cook spaghetti in salted boiling water until al dente, 8-10 minutes.
  • Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
  • Drain pasta. Toss with oil.

 

  • In a small mixing bowl combine 1 tablespoon of Pecorino cheese and 1 tablespoon avocado oil together into a paste.
  • Stir in 1/3 of the garlic.
  • Place bread on lightly greased baking sheet.
  • Spread paste over bread and bake until golden brown.
  • Top with sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

 

  • In a medium sauce pan combine marinara, a pinch of salt and reserved pasta water. Bring to a boil.
  • Return meatball pan to a medium heat. Add remaining garlic, cooking until fragrant.
  • Reduce heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally until meatballs are warmed through, 8 minutes or so.
  • Plate and serve immediately.

Linking up to FULL Plate Thursday.

SLOW COOKER SPAGHETTI CASSEROLE

This is a very altered recipe from the Southern Living Slow Cooker cookbook. I changed amounts, flavor profiles and we really think it was for the best. There was no garlic in the original recipe and they used cheddar cheese! So NOT Italian!

SLOW COOKER SPAGHETTI CASSEROLE makes 6-8 servings
1 pound ground chuck (for something spicier, use Hot Italian Sausage)
1 LARGE shallot, diced
15 ounce jar CLASSICO Four Cheese Tomato Cream Sauce
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup Wondra flour
12 ounces evaporated milk
1/2 cup FRESH grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh ground salt and pepper, to taste
8 ounces uncooked spaghetti, broken into pieces**
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
avocado oil

  • In a large skillet over medium high heat a small amount of avocado oil.
  • Add ground chuck and diced shallot. When just about browned add garlic and saute’ a minute more.
  • Drain off all fat and return meat to pan.
  • Add CLASSICO sauce to meat and blend well.

 

  • In a small sauce pan over medium high heat, melt butter.
  • Add flour, whisking until golden.
  • Slowly whisk in evaporated milk until well blended and thickened.
  • Remove from heat and add Parmesan cheese.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

  • Lightly spray the slow cooker with non stick spray.
  • Spoon half of meat mixture into slow cooker and spread evenly.
  • Top with half of the spaghetti pieces.
  • Spoon half of Parmesan cheese mixture over the spaghetti pieces and spread evenly.
  • Top with half of the Mozzarella cheese.
  • Repeat layers.

 

  • Cover and cook on LOW 4 hours.
  • Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
  • Serve with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

NOTE**: I can sometimes find “pot size” spaghetti which is just half size spaghetti so much less mess with breaking and they fit in the slow cooker perfectly.

PORK MARSALA

The Marsala wine is the key to this dish. Hubby HATES mushrooms so I often substitute shallots and the recipe is just as good.
PORK MARSALA
4 boneless pork tenderloin pork chops, pounded to 1/4 inch thick
2 eggs, well beaten
Fresh ground black pepper and salt, to taste
1/2 cup Wondra flour
2 tablespoons avocado oil
4 tablespoons butter
1 pound mushrooms, sliced thin
1 small bunch green onions, sliced thin
1 cup sweet Marsala wine
1 cup beef broth
2 teaspoons cornstarch or Wondra gravy flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
Buttered egg noodles
Chopped flat leaf parsley

  • Heat oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in large skillet over medium high heat.
  • Generously season pork pieces with fresh ground black pepper and salt.
  • Dredge pork pieces through egg and then flour before adding to skillet.
  • Cook 3-4 minutes per side until browned and cooked through (based on thickness). Set aside and keep warm.
  • Add onions and mushrooms to the skillet cooking 5-6 minutes until golden.
  • Add Marsala wine and beef broth, scraping bits from bottom of pan as you deglaze it.
  • Cook 5-6 minutes until liquid is reduced by half.
  • Whisk the cornstarch into the heavy cream until smooth.
  • When Marsala is reduced and a deep rich color, add the cornstarch mixture and cook 2 minutes until begins to bubble and thicken.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Add remaining butter.
  • Return pork chops to pan, turning to coat.
  • Serve over buttered noodles.
  • Top with sauce and chopped flat leaf parsley.

ITALIAN PIGGY SHELLS

ITALIAN PIGGY SHELLS
SHELLS
1 pound sweet Italian ground sausage
12-15 jumbo shells
1/3 cup diced onions
1/3 cup diced mushrooms
1 tablespoon avocado oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup diced celery & leaf tops
3 tablespoons quality DRY sherry
Fresh ground salt and black pepper, to taste
1 batch Balsamella (Italian béchamel) recipe below
2 cups fresh tomato sauce
1/4 cup fresh torn basil (small pieces)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated Mozzarella cheese

  • Preheat oven to 400°.
  • Add shells to boiling water for 4 minutes in boiling water. Drain in colander and rinse with cool water. Drain again.**
  • Heat avocado oil in skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add onions and celery, stirring to cook until soft.
  • Add pork, cooking until completely browned. DRAIN off any fat.
  • Add sherry and simmer over medium heat until liquid is completely absorbed, about 5 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Remove from heat and cool.

Meanwhile prepare the balsmella sauce recipe below.

  • Combine the meat mixture and the balsmella sauce until well blended.
  • Combine tomato sauce and basil pieces.
  • Pour half the sauce into the bottom of your baking dish.
  • Carefully stuff each shell and arrange on sauce in the baking dish.
  • Cover with foil.@@
  • Bake 15 minutes.
  • Remove foil.
  • Drizzle remaining tomato sauce over top of all the shells.
  • Sprinkle with cheeses.
  • Bake 5 minutes more until cheese is melted and starting to brown.
  • Garnish with basil.

**NOTE 1: BE SURE TO BREAK DOWN THE MEAT INTO TINY PIECES to make stuffing the shells easier. I use my NINJA to breakdown the meat mixture into a smooth consistency.
@@NOTE 2: This can be refrigerated overnight and baked the following day. Bring to room temperature before baking.

BALSMELLA (Bechamel)

1/2 tablespoon unsalted better
2 tablespoons Wondra flour
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
Fresh ground salt and pepper, to taste

  • Melt butter to a saucepan over medium heat.
  • Whisk in flour until golden brown.
  • Whisk in milk and nutmeg until well blended.
  • Bring to a SLOW simmer, whisking intermittently. Simmer until it thickens, about 10 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Remove from heat and cool slightly.

**NOTE: Cook the shells 4 minutes ONLY – JUST enough to be pliable for filling! They will continue cooking while the dish bakes.

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STUFFED MARSALA CHICKEN

STUFFED MARSALA CHICKEN

4 chicken breasts
6 slices of mozzarella (about 1/4 inch thick)
16 sun-dried tomatoes (I use the ones packed in olive oil and Italian herbs)*
1/2 cup baby spinach (optional)
2 tablespoons avocado oil
8 mushrooms, sliced thin
1 large shallot, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup sweet Marsala wine
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt & pepper to taste
2 green onions, sliced thin (optional)

  • Heat oil or butter in a skillet over medium high heat.
  • Add mushrooms and shallots, sweating until caramelized.
  • Cut a horizontal pocket into each chicken breast being careful not to go all the way through.
  • Stuff each breast with one slice of mozzarella, 4 sun dried tomatoes and a spoonful of mushrooms and shallots.
  • Secure with baking bands or toothpicks.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of avocado oil in the same large skillet.
  • Brown chicken breasts on both sides.
  • Move to casserole dish and bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes depending on size of your chicken breasts.
  • Meanwhile using the same skillet heat remaining tablespoon avocado oil over low heat.
  • Add garlic and cook until fragrant; less than 1 minute.
  • Add sweet Marsala wine and reduce by half.
  • Add chicken broth and cook on high for 1 minute.
  • Reduce heat to low.
  • Add cream and simmer until slightly thickened approximately 5-7 minutes; whisking frequently.
  • Salt & pepper to taste.
  • Top chicken breast with 1/2 mozzarella slice and allow to melt.
  • Spoon sauce over warm chicken.
  • Top with optional green onions.

Linking up to FULL Plate Thursday.

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ITALIAN STUFFED CHICKEN

Coating the chicken breast with homemade Italian dressing inside and out helps keep this chicken juicy and adds so much flavor as the dressing combined with the marinade from the sun dried tomatoes constantly bastes the chicken as it bakes.

ITALIAN STUFFED CHICKEN
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup sun dried tomato tapenade
2 slices Mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup spinach leaves, washed and dried
2 tablespoons Avocado or olive oil

DRESSING
1 tablespoon mayonnaise*
1 tablespoon White Wine Vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons avocado or olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Oregano
1/4 teaspoon Basil
1/4 teaspoon Parsley
1/2 teaspoon Thyme
1/4 teaspoon Marjoram
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Whisk together dressing ingredients until well blended (it will not be pourable, but that’s what you want).
  • Cut a slit in each breast to create a pocket, but not all the way through.
  • Stir together the ricotta cheese and sun-dried tomato tapenade.
  • Coat the inside of the pocket with the dressing.
  • Add ricotta sun-dried tomato mixture, spinach leaves and a slice of cheese.
  • Coat outside of chicken with dressing on both sides.
  • Seal with toothpicks.
  • Heat oil in cast iron pan over high heat.
  • Add chicken and sear both sides quickly until golden.
  • Transfer pan to oven and bake 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly and chicken is cooked through.
  • Rest for 5 minutes.
  • Drizzle with any juices that leaked out.

NOTE*: Most people would use a Dijon mustard, but I’m allergic to mustard so substitute mayonnaise and make up the flavor in herbs.

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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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PAELLA STYLE CHICKEN & RICE

PAELLA STYLE CHICKEN & RICE
1 cup frozen pearl onions, thawed and drained
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 pound Andouille (smoked pork) sausage, thinly sliced
1 1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, quartered
1 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground sea salt
2 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
3 tablespoons avocado oil
1 fennel bulb with feathers, sliced saving feathers for garnish
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon saffron
1 can petite diced tomatoes
2 cups Arborio (Italian short grain) rice
1 cup water
3/4 cup dry sherry
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 pound small shrimp, cleaned and de-veined

  • Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in large saute’ pan over medium high heat.
  • Add sausage and brown about 5 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon to a plate and cover.
  • Add chicken pieces and brown on all sides. Remove with slotted spoon to a plate and cover.
  • Add remaining oil to pan.
  • Add fennel, onions and bell pepper to pan sauteing until fennel softens.
  • Stir in garlic, paprika, salt and saffron, stirring until fragrant and sizzling.
  • Add tomatoes and cook, stirring 5 minutes to blend well.
  • Add rice and coat well. Add water, chicken broth and sherry. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.
  • Reduce heat, cover and simmer until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes.
  • Arrange chicken and shrimp on top of rice, cooking another 5 minutes covered to heat chicken and shrimp through.
  • Garnish with fennel fronds and Enjoy.

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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