SAUCY MEATBALL SLIDERS

SAUCY MEATBALL SLIDERS makes 6 sliders
3/4 pound ground beef
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon ricotta cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
FRESH ground salt and pepper, to taste
1 batch authentic meat sauce
6 buns
Parmesan cheese

  • Preheat oven to 450°.
  • In a large bowl combine your breadcrumbs, ricotta cheese, 1 1/2 tablespoons meat sauce, egg, salt and pepper.
  • Add ground beef and minimally mix by hand JUST until well blended.
  • Form 6 meatballs.
  • Place meatballs on a baking sheet that has been lined with foil.
  • Bake 15-18 minutes until browned and cooked through.
  • While meat balls cook, heat sauce in large skillet.
  • When meatballs are finished baking add them to sauce, turning to coat.
  • Toast buns.
  • Plate bun bottoms.
  • Add a meatball to each bun bottom and top with a spoonful of meat sauce.
  • Top with Parmesan cheese.
  • Add bun tops.
  • Serve with salad.

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CHICKEN PARMESAN CASSEROLE

CHICKEN PARMESAN CASSEROLE
1/2 pound penne pasta
3/4 pound chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
Wondra flour for dredging
Fresh ground black pepper and salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon avocado oil
1/2 batch marinara sauce (recipe below)
1 1/4 cup grated Mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 slices Provolone cheese

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Spray 9×9 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Cook pasta per package directions on the al dente’ side. Drain and set aside.
  • Combine flour and seasonings in a ziplock bag.
  • Heat butter and oil in skillet until sizzling.
  • Dredge chicken pieces in flour mixture, shaking off the excess.
  • Add chicken pieces to hot oil and quickly sear all sides.
  • In a large bowl gently combine sauce and pasta with the majority of the Mozzarella and Parmesan reserving some for the top.
  • Gently fold in chicken pieces and stir to coat.
  • Spread ingredients evenly into baking dish.
  • Top with provolone slices followed by the remaining Parmesan and Mozzarella.
  • Cover with foil and bake 40 minutes.
  • Uncover and return to oven baking another 10-15 minutes until cheese is bubbly and brown.
  • Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

SAUCE
1 tablespoons avocado oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 small red onion, chopped
24 ounce can whole tomatoes
1 KNORR beef gel
3/4 cup moscato white wine
Juice from 1 lemon
5-6 cloves garlic, finely minced into a paste
3 tablespoons Classico sundried tomato pesto
1 teaspoon fresh ground Himalayan pink salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground red pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons fresh chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil

  • Heat avocado oil in a large saute’ pan over medium high heat.
  • Add onions and garlic sauteing until tender.
  • Whisk together the beef gel, wine, pesto and juice from the tomatoes.
  • Add seasonings, blending well.
  • Add tomatoes and gently crush.
  • Bring to a SLOW boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer 2 hours.

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CHICKEN PARMESAN LASAGNA

CHICKEN PARMESAN LASAGNA

Barilla ready to bake lasagna noodles
1 tablespoon avocado oil
3/4 pound ground chicken
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small carrot, grated
1 small stalk celery, diced
1 can petite diced tomatoes, drained VERY WELL
2 tablespoons chicken broth
3/4 cup marinara sauce
8 ounces ricotta cheese
FRESH ground salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1 small egg, beaten
1 tablespoon butter
9-10 button mushrooms, sliced thin

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Spray a 9×9 deep baking dish with non-stick spray.
  • In a large skillet heat avocado oil over medium high heat.
  • Add chicken, onion, carrot and celery, stirring until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are soft.
  • Add garlic and cook a minute more until fragrant.
  • Stir in tomatoes,marinara sauce, chicken broth, salt and pepper.
  • Reduce heat to low simmer, cover and cook 45 minutes.
  • In a mixing bowl stir together the ricotta cheese and egg until smooth and well blended.
  • Toss together the Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.
  • Over a medium-high heat melt butter.
  • Add mushrooms ans saute until caramelized.

ASSEMBLY

  • Add 1/3 of chicken mixture to baking dish.
  • Top with a layer of lasagna noodles.
  • Add a thin layer of chicken mixture.
  • Top with a layer of the ricotta mixture.
  • Top with a layer of the cheeses.
  • Repeat layers 2 more times ending with mushrooms before final cheese layer.
  • Cover and bake 20 minutes.
  • Uncover, bake another 20-25 minutes until bubbly and cheese is golden.
  • Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

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CREAMY SUN DRIED TOMATO PARMESAN CHICKEN

CREAMY SUN DRIED TOMATO PARMESAN CHICKEN
1 1/2 pounds large THINLY sliced boneless and skinless chicken breasts
1 shallot, sliced thin
1 cup sliced mushrooms
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon black cracked pepper (adjust to your tastes)
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
5 ounce jar sun dried tomato strips in oil drained (reserve 3 tablespoons of oil for cooking)
3 tablespoons reserved sun dried tomato oil or olive oil, divided
5-6 button mushrooms, diced
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 – 2 cups spinach (optional)
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley to serve

  • Season chicken with salt, pepper, paprika and onion powder.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of the reserved sun dried tomato oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Sear the chicken for 2 minutes or so each side, or until golden and cooked through.
  • Transfer to a warm plate and set aside.
  • Add the remaining oil to the pan.
  • Add shallots and garlic, sautéing a minute or so until garlic is fragrant.
  • Add in the sun dried tomatoes and mushrooms if using sautéing 1-2 more minutes to release their flavors.
  • Add paprika and Italian seasoning, stirring to blend.
  • Reduce heat to a medium-low.
  • Add white wine and then the heavy cream, stirring to blend.
  • Bring to a gentle simmer, while stirring occasionally.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Add the Parmesan cheese. Allow sauce to simmer for a few minutes until cheese melts and blends into sauce.
  • Add in spinach leaves if using and allow to wilt in the sauce.
  • Add the chicken back into the pan; top with parsley and serve over pasta.

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AUTHENTIC ITALIAN MEAT SAUCE

AUTHENTIC ITALIAN MEAT SAUCE

6-8 button mushrooms, trimmed and finely chopped
2 carrots, cleaned and finely chopped
1 slice sourdough bread, torn into pieces
2 tablespoons whole milk
FRESH ground salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound lean ground beef
1 tablespoon olive oil or avocado oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Classico sun dried tomato pesto
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 can petite diced tomatoes, drained but reserve juice
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons FRESH torn basil or oregano pieces
3 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Pasta of choice

  • Add bread and milk to food processor. Process until well blended.
  • Add meat and process until well blended.
  • In a large dutch oven heat oil over medium heat.
  • Add carrots and onions, cooking until carrots soften.
  • Add mushrooms and continue cooking until mixture darkens. Be sure to scrape up all the bits from the bottom of the pan.
  • Add garlic, red pepper flakes and tomato pesto, cooking a couple minutes more.
  • Add reserved tomato juice.
  • Add beef mixture and cook, stirring regularly to break up beef into small pieces.
  • When beef has lost its raw coloring DO NOT CRISP BROWN BEEF**, add diced and crushed tomatoes and blend well.
  • Simmer on low 30 minutes until sauce has thickened and flavors are well blended.
  • Stir in Parmesan cheese and season to taste.
  • Serve over prepared pasta.
  • Garnish with fresh basil or oregano.

NOTE:** You want the meat to be tender so do not cook until it is dry and crispy!

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BALSAMIC BAKED MOZZARELLA CHICKEN

BALSAMIC BAKED MOZZARELLA CHICKEN serves 4
adapted from CafeDelites.com

4 skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons lemon olive oil
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning mix
FRESH ground salt teaspoon salt, to taste
FRESH ground black pepper, to taste
6 cloves garlic, minced
6 ounce jar marinated artichokes, drained well
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 red onion, sliced
1 LARGE shallot, sliced
1/4 cup QUALITY balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
3/4 cup fresh shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon FRESH chopped Italian parsley
1 tablespoon FRESH chopped basil

  • Preheat oven to 425°.
  • Place chicken breasts in a baking dish and drizzle with lemon olive oil.
  • Mix together Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.
  • Rub seasoning all over each breast.
  • Arrange the tomatoes, half of the garlic, shallot slices and red onion slices around the chicken in the dish.
  • Whisk together the balsamic vinegar, sugar and remaining garlic in a jug to combine.
  • Pour over the chicken breasts, flip each breast in the sauce to evenly coat.
  • Bake 20-25 minutes (depending on the thickness of your chicken breasts), or until no longer pink in the middle.
  • Sprinkle with cheese and broil for 4-5 minutes, until cheese is melted and golden.
  • Garnish with parsley and basil.
  • Serve over pasta
  • Drizzle with the pan juices.

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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.

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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.

Linking up to FULL Plate Thursday.

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