It’s that time again, time to use up what I’ve got in the pantry and fridge. I always end with lots of leftover half boxes and bags of things in the cabinet, or things that I’ve bought and just forgot about. The result of this is having crammed cabinets. So I’m trying to use up some of those things in our meals this week. I’ve had a box containing exactly six lasagna noodles in the cabinet for a few months now.  It was leftover from when I made a lasagna sometime ago. Now you can’t make a real lasagna with only six noodles so I decided to make lasagna rolls. When trying to think of what to roll inside them, I automatically assumed I would make a ricotta filling and then remembered I had half a bag of baby spinach in the veggie drawer of the refrigerator. So I decided to chop that up and mix it in. I had never made a bechamel sauce, but knew it wasn’t difficult so I decided to do that instead of a marinara sauce. It turned out amazing! My husband and I both enjoyed this dinner. It was a bit time consuming because there are a few steps involved but definitely something I would make again.

Spinach Lasagna Rolls with Bechamel Sauce

For the lasagna rolls:

6 lasagna noodles
1 15 oz container part skim ricotta
1 egg
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup chopped baby spinach
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Begin by boiling the lasagna noodles whole, in salted water for 8-10 minutes. They should then be pliable but not quite done. Remove them from the water and lay on a lightly oiled baking sheet to prevent sticking. Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl and then spread 2-3 Tbsp of the mixture onto each lasagna noodle and roll. Place in a greased baking dish with the open end of the noodle down.

For the bechamel sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/4 cups milk, heated
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste cooks and bubbles a bit, but don’t let it brown — about 2 minutes. Add the hot milk, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Bring it to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste, lower the heat, and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from the heat. To cool this sauce for later use, cover it with wax paper or pour a film of milk over it to prevent a skin from forming.

Source for bechamel sauce: Epicurious

Pour the bechamel sauce over the lasagna rolls. Top with shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheeses if desired. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and baking for 30-35 minutes. Top with chopped parsley if desired.


Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

April 28, 2009


Why oh why have I never made fresh spaghetti  sauce? I mean, it’s something everyone should at least know how to make right? It’s not like it’s complicated or requires any expert know how. The thing that I think has always intimidated me about homemade tomato sauce are the expectations. Even when you say “homemade spaghetti sauce”, it brings to mind great Italian cooks and secret family recipes. And I guess I’ve just always been afraid that if I were to try my hand at it, the results would be a total failure and I’d go right back to my jar of sauce.

That’s why when I first saw this recipe on Chelle’s blog quite a while ago, I was just too afraid to try it. But I’ve heard great reviews about  it and have seen it on a few other blogs so I figured what the heck. I know she is Italian so it must be good! I made a pot today while I was off work and just a few minutes after it started simmering, my mouth was watering. I had planned on just making the sauce today and using it later this week to make spaghetti, but when I smelled it I decided to move spaghetti up on the dinner list for the week. And am I glad I did! This recipe is really fantastic. I had to make a few changes based on what I had in the pantry but overall it’s the same basic concept. I wasn’t in the mood for meatballs so I just added cooked ground beef to the sauce and made a meat sauce instead. Either way, it’s a great sauce recipe that I’ll be using again in the future.

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 28-oz. can tomato puree (I pureed one can diced tomatoes because I didn’t have any puree)
1 28-oz. can tomato sauce (I used one can diced tomatoes because I like chunks of tomato in my sauce)
2.5 teaspoons dried parsley (I used 3 tsp fresh parsley)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil (I used 2 tsp fresh basil)
Water from rinsing extra sauce and puree from inside of cans
2 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons sugar

*I added 1 tsp fresh chopped oregano.

1. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil over medium-low heat until onion is tender.

2. Add tomato sauce, tomato puree, parsley, basil, water, salt, and sugar. (and oregano)

3. Stir and lower heat to a slow simmer. This best if it’s left to simmer for at least 2 hours.

Pasta Fagioli

August 19, 2008

I know I know! It’s only August and already I’m making soup. I do this every year. I start getting the itch for cooler weather around August/September and I always start making Fall-ish foods way too early. I do it every year so get used to it! I guess it’s my way of willing the Fall to come sooner. If only it really worked. Fall doesn’t show its face around here until well into October or November. hmph

I saw this recipe on Chelle’s blog a while back and pasta fagioli being one of my favorite soups, I put it on my list to try. Now I knew I’d be the only one eating this (remember my husband? the bean hater?) so I figured I’d make the whole recipe and freeze half for later. And it certainly didn’t disappoint. I just had a big bowl for lunch and it was great! In fact, I think I ate too much. I’m absolutely about to pop. I guess that’s a good sign though. If you like pasta fagioli, give this a shot. You won’t be sorry!

Pasta Fagioli
(Adapted from Tricia’s Kitchen)

2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 package sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
½ large (or 1 medium) onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 carrots, thinly sliced
4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can white cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
64 oz. beef broth
28 oz. can tomato sauce
2 teaspoons dried parsley (I used 1 Tbsp fresh parsley)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil (I used 1 tsp fresh basil)
1 teaspoon salt
4 oz. small dry pasta (I used elbow macaroni because that’s what I had)

1. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large stockpot over medium high heat, and brown the sausage, crumbling it as it cooks. Once brown, remove sausage from pot with a slotted spoon and discard any grease that remains in the pot.

2. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in the same pot, and add the onion, garlic, carrot, and celery, and saute over medium heat until vegetables are soft, about 8 minutes. Add sausage back to the pot, add the can of diced tomatoes (do not drain), stir briefly, and simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Stir in the beans, and add the beef broth and tomato sauce. Add in all of the seasonings, stir well, turn the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil. Once it boils, turn down to low heat, cover, and simmer for at least 30 minutes.

4. Add the dry pasta and continue to simmer on low for another 30 minutes. Serve with your favorite bread or crackers.

Chicken Parmesan Pasta

August 14, 2008

This is one of those dishes that isn’t fancy and it’s not pretty. But when you eat it you just think “comfort food”. It’s also one of my husband’s favorite kind of meals. Pasta with cheese and sauce. What can I say, it’s the simple things for him. A local place here makes a dish similar to this that my husband always orders when we go there, so I decided I would make up my own rendition. It’s very simple but very good and one of the few foods which he will actually eat the leftovers.

Chicken Parmesan Pasta

For the chicken:

2 chicken breasts, pounded thin
1 cup italian style bread crumbs
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper

For the pasta:

8 oz penne
24 oz jar of marinara sauce
1 cup chopped baby spinach (You can omit this if you like. I add this to most pasta dishes because it’s a good way to get my picky husband to eat a vegetable.)
1 cup shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 375. Set up three shallow bowls; one with the parmesan cheese, one with the eggs, and one with the bread crumbs. Salt and pepper both sides of your chicken breasts. Dip one chicken breast in the parmesan and pat to coat it with the cheese. Then dip it in the egg and then the bread crumbs. Be sure to coat it well. Do this for the other remaining chicken breast and place them in a baking dish. Bake for 20-25 min until chicken is no longer pink. Broil on each side 2 min for a crispier crust. Remove from the oven and let sit about 10 minutes. Cut into 1″ cubes.

While the chicken is cooking, you can prepare the pasta. Boil water for the pasta and cook until al dente and then drain. In a large pot, combine the jar of sauce, chicken that has been cut into cubes, penne, and spinach. Stir to coat the pasta with the sauce. Add mozzarella cheese and stir. Let heat through about 5-10 minutes.

His and Hers

July 31, 2008

My husband and I are pretty much alike. We like the same tv shows, the same movies, the same home decor, and the same music. The one thing we normally don’t agree on is food. I love fruit, vegetables, low-fat yogurt, and pretty much anything good for you. He doesn’t. He loves pasta with cream sauce and cheeseburgers. Oh and don’t forget his relationship with Lil’ Debbie. And the differences don’t stop there. We are never able to order a pizza without doing half and half. Most of the time when I make pizza at home it’s the same way. Last night was no different. I had decided I wanted to use up some of my basil and I had some fresh tomatoes. I thought a margherita pizza would be great but I knew my husband wouldn’t touch it. So I decided to do spinach, pesto, and feta on his side. Both sides turned out great. And it was a quick dinner because I already had the dough in the freezer from when I had made some about a month ago. There really is no recipe for this. Very simple but really good!

Margherita Pizza

(makes one whole pizza)

1 medium tomato, thinly sliced

1/2 cup basil leaves, washed and dried

mozzarella cheese (as much as you want…I would never tell you how much cheese to put on your pizza.)

olive oil, about 1 Tbsp

2 cloves of garlic, pressed or finely minced

crust of your choice (I used this recipe)

Combine the garlic and olive oil in a bowl. Brush your crust with the garlic and olive oil. Put a thin layer of cheese on the crust, to keep it from getting soggy from the tomatoes. Next, do a layer of tomatoes. Then comes the basil leaves. Top with additional mozzarella. Bake at 450 for 12-14 min or until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly.

Shrimp Carbonara

May 31, 2008

Do you ever see a recipe and instantly know you have to try it? That was the case with this one. I was sitting at home one lazy Sunday afternoon watching the Food Network and saw Giada make this on her show. I’ve never had any sort of carbonara, but I instantly knew I wanted to try this dish. It just looked so flavorful. Plus it was the perfect excuse to use some of the fresh basil I just planted. This dish tasted amazing! I changed it up a bit by adding the shrimp and omitting the fried egg on top but still the basil aioli was awesome and full of flavor! Another point for Giada on this one!

Giada’s Carbonara (with my alterations)

1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed, rubber band left on
1 pound linguini (I used spaghetti)
1 cup Basil Aioli, recipe follows
1 cup shaved pecorino (I used parmesan)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons butter
4 to 6 large eggs (I omitted these)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

*14-16 medium shrimp, tails removed, thawed if frozen

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the asparagus and cook for 3 minutes. Transfer the asparagus to a bowl of ice water and let sit until cool, about 5 minutes. Remove from the water, remove the rubber band, and cut into 1-inch pieces.Meanwhile, add the pasta to the large pot of salted water used to cook the asparagus and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta into a large bowl. Add the Basil Aioli, cut asparagus, shaved cheese, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine and place on a long, rectangular serving dish. Saute the shrimp in a skillet with a couple Tbsp olive oil until done. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Add these to the dish with the pasta.

I skipped the next step and used shrimp instead of fried eggs in the dish.

Place the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the eggs and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fry the eggs to your liking. Place the eggs on top of the pasta and serve immediately.

Basil Aioli:
1 clove garlic, minced
2 large egg yolks*
2 teaspoons mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I only used 1/4 cup. I felt it had enough oil)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oilYield: 1 cup
Prep Time: 5 minutes

Combine the garlic, egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice, basil, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a food processor and run the machine to mix. With the machine running slowly drizzle in the vegetable and olive oil. Basil Aioli can be kept, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Food Network Kitchens suggest caution in consuming raw and lightly-cooked eggs due to the slight risk of Salmonella or other food-borne illness. To reduce this risk, we recommend you use only fresh, properly-refrigerated, clean, grade A or AA eggs with intact shells, and avoid contact between the yolks or whites and the shell.

Source of original recipe: Food Network


Here’s a little variation on classic lasagna. It’s a dish comprised of things I had leftover in the fridge and pantry. I had a bunch of chicken, some baby spinach that needed using up, and 1/2 a large box of lasagna in the cabinet. So out of that came this meal. I prepped it all yesterday on my day off so all I had to do tonight was throw it in the oven. It turned out so amazing! I mean, it was one of those dishes where you could just stand over the pan with a fork taking bite after bite until you made yourself sick, which I may or may not have done. It was really a nice change from regular lasagna. I’ll definitely be making this again.

Chicken and Spinach Lasagna

1 box lasagna noodles, uncooked

2 24 oz jars pasta sauce (or 1 large jar, not sure of the size) (I used Bertolli Five Cheese)

8 oz ricotta cheese

1 egg

1 tsp italian seasoning

2 chicken breasts

1 cup mozzarella cheese

2 cups baby spinach, chopped

1/2 a large onion, diced

extra virgin olive oil

Begin by baking the chicken breasts at 375 until done, about 25 min. Shred into bite size pieces. Set aside. In a skillet, add 1-2 Tbsp olive oil and add the onion. Cook 3-5 minutes or until the onion starts to soften. Add the chicken to a skillet with the sauce and heat over low heat until simmering. While the sauce is simmering make the ricotta filling. Mix the ricotta with the egg and stir in the italian seasoning. Set aside. In a baking dish, put a thin layer of the chicken pasta sauce. Next, add a layer of uncooked lasagna noodles. Add another layer of sauce then a layer of the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle one cup of the chopped spinanch over the ricotta. Add another layer of noodles and repeat layers as before. End with a layer of noodles and a layer of sauce. Top with the mozzarella. Cover the dish with foil and place into the preheated 375 degree oven. Bake for 45 minutes, remove the foil and bake an additional 10 minutes.

Turkey Meatball Subs

February 27, 2008

Nope, this isn’t a toasted sub from a chain sandwich place. It’s homemade and much better than I’ve gotten at any chain restaurant if you ask me. My husband always orders a meatball sub anytime we do happen to eat at a sandwich place, so I decided a while back I would start making them at home occasionally since he likes them so much. I didn’t have any ground beef in the freezer but I did have some lean ground turkey. I decided to use that for my meatballs tonight along with some whole wheat sub rolls I had in the freezer. They were so delicious and somewhat healthier than regular meatball subs! Healthier if you don’t count all the cheese I put on mine.
; ) Subway’s got nothing on me!

Turkey Meatball Subs

1 lb lean ground turkey
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1 tsp italian seasoning
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp each salt and pepper
1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

*1 jar marinara sauce
*sub rolls
*provolone or mozzarella cheese-2 slices per sub

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until just combined. Heat a skillet over medium heat with about 1-2 Tbsp olive oil. Form the turkey mixture into balls and place in the skillet. Turn the meatballs every couple minutes to brown on all sides. Add marinara sauce to the pan, cover and let simmer over low heat about 15 minutes to ensure the meatballs are completely cooked. Place 4 meatballs on each sub roll that has been sliced lengthwise and spoon the marinara sauce over the meatballs. Top with cheese (I used provolone) and place under the broiler for a couple minutes to toast the bread and melt the cheese.

Stuffed Shells

February 9, 2008

I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m cleaning out or reorganizing my pantry, I always seem to find at least a couple half boxes of pasta that I’ve had for who knows how long. I mean, with just me and my husband here, rarely do I cook an entire box of pasta at once. Lucky for me, whenever I manage to stumble upon those half empty (or half full if you like) boxes, it always seems to spark a dinner idea. Well last week as I was standing on my tip toes trying to reach something on the top shelf of my pantry, I happened upon a partial box of large pasta shells. Well, naturally I thought of stuffed shells. I haven’t made these in so long so I thought I’d add them to my menu for this week. I had forgotten how good these little cheese stuffed shells are. I had planned on having leftovers for our lunches tomorrow, but let’s just say it looks like one of us will have to order out for lunch. They were just too darn good!

Stuffed Shells

1/2 box jumbo shells
1/2 cup part skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg
1/4 tsp italian seasoning
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4-1/2 cup baby spinach
salt and pepper
4 cups pasta sauce or meat sauce (I used a meat sauce made with ground turkey and jarred sauce)

Preheat oven to 350. Begin by boiling the shells until done (about 8-9 minutes). Drain. Combine cheeses, egg, italian seasoning, garlic powder, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a food processor. Add baby spinach and pulse a couple more times until the spinach is slightly chopped. In a baking dish, spread 2 cups of the meat sauce in the bottom of the dish. Next, scoop about 1 1/2 tsp of the cheese mixture into each shell and place them in the dish on top of the sauce. Top with the remaining sauce and additional mozzarella cheese is desired. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 25-30 min.

It’s funny how you see recipes you want to try and then sometimes just forget about them. That is the case with this recipe. I saw it several months ago and thought it looked great and put it on my list to try. Somehow it got pushed further and further down the list until I had almost forgotten about it. Then I saw the episode of Everyday Italian last week where Giada makes this dish and remembered saving it to try. So I decided I would put it on the menu for the week. It turned out pretty well. The roast was a little tough, but I thought the sauce was great! I really enjoyed it with my pasta. I’m not sure if I would make the recipe again as it is. I will be saving the sauce recipe though. It’s slightly spicy and there’s a subtle bite from the red wine vinegar that I thought was so good with the roasted tomato flavor.

Roast Beef with Spicy Parsley Tomato Sauce

Beef Roast:

1 (2 to 2 1/2-pound) sirloin tip or chuck beef roast
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 Roma tomatoes, cut in 1/2
2 teaspoons herbs de Provence
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Spicy Parsley Tomato Sauce:

1 1/2 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

To make the beef roast, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.Season the beef with salt and pepper. Season the tomatoes with salt, pepper, and herbs de Provence.

Place a medium, heavy roasting pan or Dutch oven over high heat. Heat the olive oil. Sear the beef over high heat on all sides. Turn off heat. Place the seasoned tomatoes around the seared beef and place the pan in the oven. Roast until a meat thermometer reads 130 degrees F. for medium rare, 135 for medium, about 30 to 40 minutes. Take the roast out of the oven, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes. The internal temperature of the meat should rise 5 degrees F more and the juices will redistribute into the roast.

To make the sauce, place the parsley and garlic in a food processor and pulse until the parsley is finely chopped. Add the red pepper flakes, salt, red wine vinegar and the roasted tomatoes from the beef pan and process until pureed. Add the olive oil in a steady stream with the machine running.

To serve, slice the roast and place on a serving platter. Drizzle a little sauce over the meat. Serve the remaining sauce in a small bowl alongside.