Pesto Sauce

This sauce is extremely versatile.  You can put it on pasta, pizza, chicken, shrimp… the list goes on!  I use pesto a lot — so, I figured I’d post the recipe I use, which is really simple and quick and easy to make.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups packed basil leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese (Parmesan works, too)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth
    • Storage: I typically make this in bulk during the summertime and then freeze it in ice cube trays – then I can enjoy fresh pesto sauce anytime
Advertisements

Mac ‘n Cheese Bites

If you’re looking for a good appetizer idea for Super Bowl Sunday, look no further.  I tried this out for New Year’s Eve – and it was a-mazing.  Crispy bite-sized mac ‘n cheese?  Yes, please.  

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups white cheddar, grated
  • 1 1/2 cups pepper jack, grated
  • 1 cup mozzarella, grated
  • 1/2 cup pecorino romano, grated
    • Tip: an easy way to grate all of this cheese is to thickly slice it and toss it into a food processor fitted with a metal blade – you could also use the grater attachment if you’ve got it
  • 1 lb. egg noodles
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Approximately 1 – 1 1/2 cups ‘Italian’ seasoned breadcrumbs
* This recipe yields 36 mac ‘n cheese bites – you can easily freeze this and bake when you need it!

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Place all of the grated cheese into a large bowl and toss together with your hands until well blended
  • While the noodles are boiling, prepare the baking dish…
    • Make sure not to overcook the noodles because they will continue to cook in the oven
  • Spray the mini muffin pans with  nonstick cooking spray
  • Pour some bread crumbs into each cup of the mini muffin pan and turn the pan around until it’s totally coated with the crumbs; reserve the extra crumbs, if you can, and reuse to coat the other pans
  • Once the noodles are just cooked, strain them and put the tbsp of butter into the hot pot
  • Pour in half of the noodles and then half of the cheese and stir together
  • Add in the rest of the noodles and the all of the cheese and continue to mix well over low heat
  • Once the noodles and cheeses are well combined spoon the mixture into each mini muffin cup – use your fingers to pack it in
  • Top the mac ‘n cheese off with another sprinkle of breadcrumbs and bake at 350°F for approximately minutes or until the tops are golden brown
  • Once the mac ‘n cheese is cooked, run a butter knife along the edge of the muffin cups to loosen the mac ‘n cheese bites from the side of the pan

** This is basically the Christmas Mac ‘n Cheese recipe without the breadcrumb crust.   I did try making the breadcrumb crust in the mini muffin pans and you really couldn’t tell the difference between the crust and just plain breadcrumbs – so save yourself the work and leave that step out!

Christmas Mac ‘n Cheese

This is another one of my Godmother’s recipes and Christmas just isn’t the same without it on the dinner table.  When I asked her for the recipe, she told me there wasn’t one.  I would have to come over and watch her make it… let’s just say we were both amazed by how much cheese actually goes into this dish – but it’s worth every bite.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups white cheddar, grated
  • 3 cups pepper jack, grated
  • 2 cups mozzarella, grated
  • 1 cup pecorino romano, grated
    • Tip: an easy way to grate all of this cheese is to thickly slice it and toss it into a food processor
  • 2 lb. egg noodles
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 eggs
  • Approximately 2 cups ‘Italian’ seasoned breadcrumbs

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Place all of the grated cheese into a large bowl and toss together with your hands until well blended
  • While the noodles are boiling, prepare the baking dish…
    • Make sure not to overcook the noodles because they will continue to cook in the oven
  • Spray a large glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray (I use PAM olive oil spray and I use this 4 quart oval Pyrex roasting dish – it’s the best for this dish)
  • Pour 1 cup of bread crumbs into the baking dish and turn the dish around until it’s totally coated with the crumbs; reserve the extra crumbs
  • Beat the 2 eggs and pour them into the baking dish – again, rotate the dish until it’s evenly coated with egg; discard any excess egg
  • Pour the rest of the breadcrumbs back into the pan and rotate the dish until it’s coated with the crumbs again – you’ve just created the crust for the mac ‘n cheese!
  • Once the noodles are cooked al dente, strain them and put the tbsp of butter into the hot pot
  • Pour in half of the noodles and then half of the cheese and stir together
  • Add in the rest of the noodles and the all of the cheese and continue to mix well over low heat
  • Once the noodles and cheeses are well combined pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish
  • Top the mac ‘n cheese off with another sprinkle of breadcrumbs and bake at 350°F for 40-50 minutes
    • Baking this in a glass dish is helpful because you can watch to see that the breadcrumb crust is turning golden brown
  • Once the mac ‘n cheese is cooked, run a butter knife along the edge of the dish to loosen the crumb crust from the side of the dish
    • My Godmother always serves this dish tipped over like a mac ‘n cheese “cake” and then cuts it into squares – the breadcrumb crust should hold everything together when you place a large platter on top of the dish and flip it over

*This dish also freezes really well — so you can make it ahead of time, freeze it and defrost it the night before you plan on baking it!

Eggplant Parmesan

If you couldn’t tell, I’m slightly obsessed with Italian food… I’m pretty sure that even if you don’t like eggplant, you’ll like this. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large eggplant (try to pick a male eggplant because they have less seeds – here’s how you tell if it’s male or female)
  • 2 -3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups Italian breadcrumbs
  • Olive Oil
  • Robust Red Sauce (approximately 1-2 cups, depending on preference)
  • Mozzarella cheese, grated
  • Parmesan cheese (or Pecorino Romano), grated

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Prepare your eggplant by peeling it and slicing it very thin, at most 1/8″ thick (I think I’m going to buy a mandolin to make this process easier)
  • Pour the eggs, and breadcrumbs into two separate containers (I use these breading pans – they’re great)
  • Dip your eggplant slice into the egg and then coat it in breadcrumbs
  • Continue this process with all of the eggplant slices
  • Brush a baking tray with olive oil and place the eggplant onto the tray
  • Generously brush the breaded eggplant slices with olive oil
  • Bake for 20 minutes (10 minutes on each side) at 350°F
  • Remove the eggplant from the oven and layer the slices on a dish in between paper towels (to blot excess oil)
  • Lightly coat the bottom of a deep casserole dish like this one with the tomato sauce
  • Place a layer of eggplant down and spoon more sauce on top of eggplant, I usually make sure it’s covered but I don’t like to use too much
  • Next, put down a layer mozzarella cheese and then sprinkle a bit of parmesan (or pecorino) – you can make this as cheesy as you want, but I wouldn’t put down too much because it adds up over the layers
  • Put another layer of eggplant on top of that and follow the same steps until you reach your desired height
  • Bake in the oven at 350°F for about 30 minutes (covered for 20, uncovered for 10) or until it’s heated through

Chicken Parmesan

I’m always in the mood for anything followed by … Parmesan.  Plus, baking the chicken cutlets instead of frying them makes this dish a healthier choice (bonus).

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. chicken breasts (or veal), pounded fairly thin (about 1/3″ thick)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups Italian breadcrumbs
  • Olive Oil
  • Robust Red Sauce (approximately 1-2 cups, depending on preference)
  • Mozzarella cheese, grated
  • Parmesan cheese (or Pecorino Romano), grated

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Prepare your chicken breast by pounding it out and cutting into pieces of desired size (I typically get 7-8 cutlets per pound)
  • Pour the flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs into three separate containers (I use these breading pans – they’re great)
  • Dredge your chicken it the flour (shake off any excess), then dip it in the egg, and finally coat it in breadcrumbs
  • Continue this process with all of the chicken breasts
  • Brush a baking tray with olive oil and place the cutlets onto the tray
  • Generously brush the breaded chicken breasts with olive oil
  • Bake for 20 minutes (10 minutes on each side) at 350°F
  • Remove the chicken from the oven and layer the cutlets on a dish in between paper towels (to blot excess oil)
  • On a clean baking tray, spoon a bit of sauce where you plan on placing each cutlet.  Place the baked cutlets on top of the sauce, cover with desired amount of sauce and top off with equal parts mozzarella and parmesan (or pecorino romano) cheese
  • Put the cutlets back in the oven at 350°F for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese has melted



Classic Baked Rigatoni

This Italian comfort food always hits the spot… hot, or cold the next morning (is that so wrong?).   There are so many things you can do with this dish to personalize it to your taste, consider it a blank canvas.

INGREDIENTS

The Basics…

  • 1 lb. Rigatoni
  • 1 small (15 oz.) container Ricotta cheese – approximately 2 cups
  • 2 cups Mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 1 cup Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan) cheese, grated
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 1/2 cups Robust Red Sauce (approximately 5 ladles full – or as much as you desire)
Consider Adding…
  • Fresh veggies (broccoli, zucchini, artichoke hearts, red peppers, black olives)
  • Ground beef or turkey; sausage (brown the meat separately and add it to your sauce)

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Cook your pasta a minute less than ‘al dente’ – you want it to be too hard to eat, but somewhat cooked
  • Strain the cooked pasta and return to the same pot – stir in the ricotta cheese while the pasta is still hot
  • Add in the beaten egg and mix well
  • Pour in at least 1 cup of mozzarella cheese (you can either save the rest for topping, or cut it off there)
  • Add in 1/2 cup of the pecorino romano (or parmesan) and save the rest for topping
  • Pour in the sauce and mix well – you want the mixture to be pretty wet because it will absorb in the pasta when it cooks in the oven
  • Pour the cheesy pasta into a large baking dish and top off with desired cheese(s)
  • Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes (covered with aluminum foil for 20 minutes and uncovered for the last 10)