Baked Ziti

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Do you know what today is? It’s 10k day for those of us participating in NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated)  is a project to write 50k words of a novel in 30 days. It’s a little crazy and a lot fun. This is my 7th year participating in NaNo and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my past attempts, it’s that you need to plan ahead.

As part of my NaNo prep this year, I stocked our freezer with dinners. I’ve never really done much freezer cooking, but spending less time in the kitchen and more time writing sounded like an excellent idea. This is one of the meals we’ve got in the freezer for this month. The recipe makes two pans – so we ate one when I made in and froze the other. This is a pretty basic, no-frills baked ziti, but it’s a really good one. We’re really looking forward to enjoying the second pan.

I’ve got a whole lot of freezer meals on the menu this month. I’m planning to share the hits and include freezing instructions on some already-blogged recipes. Keep your fingers crossed this goes as well as planned!

Baked Ziti
(from Six Sisters’ Stuff)
Makes 2 8×8″ trays

1 lb. penne pasta
1 onion, diced
1 lb. lean ground beef, seasoned with pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and minced garlic
2 (26 oz.) jars spaghetti sauce
8 slices provolone cheese
1 1/2 cups sour cream
6 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta to al dente, according to package directions.

In a large skillet, cook the onion and ground beef over medium heat until the meat is browned and onions are translucent. Drain off any excess fat. Add in the spaghetti sauce and simmer for fifteen minutes.

If cooking it now, preheat the oven to 350F degrees.

Spray two 8×8-inch pans with non-stick cooking spray. Layer in each pan: 1/4 of the ziti, 1/4 of the sauce, 4 slices of Provolone cheese, 1/2 of sour cream,  1/4 of ziti, 1/4 mozzarella cheese and 1/4 of sauce mixture. Top with grated Parmesan cheese and remaining mozzarella cheese.

Bake, covered, for 30 minutes, until cheeses are melted. Or, cover and freeze.

To cook from frozen: bake at 350F degrees, covered, until heated through and bubbly.


One Pot Tomato Basil Pasta

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Our pasta pot was passed down to us from Mark’s parents when we moved into our first apartment. It works – so we’ve yet to replace it – but, my goodness, does that pot take a lot time to come to a boil. And I sometimes avoid making pasta because I don’t want to deal with it. Sad, but true.

It’s one of the reasons I was so drawn to this recipe – one pot pasta that doesn’t need to be made in the pasta pot! This was as easy as it gets: dump, stir, cook – done. Simple, but delicious.

One Pot Tomato Basil Pasta
(from Apron Strings)
Serves 4-5

12 oz. linguine pasta
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes with liquid
1 large sweet onion, cut in julienne strips
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
2 t. dried oregano leaves
2 large sprigs basil, chopped
4 1/2 c. vegetable broth
2 T. extra virgin olive oil Parmesan cheese for garnish

Add pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic and basil to a large stock pot. Add in vegetable broth and sprinkle the pepper flakes and oregano over the top. Drizzle with oil.

Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, keep covered and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes or so. Cook until the desired amount of liquid has evaporated .

Season to taste with salt and pepper, stirring the pot several times to distribute the liquid in the bottom. Serve garnished with parmesan cheese.


Spicy Sausage Pasta

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I’m very fortunate. Even though I love cooking, there are nights that I just don’t want to spend time in the kitchen. When that happens, Mark is always happy to step in and take care of things. He’s a great cook.

This is one of the dinners he cooked up recently. Its a one-pot meal – you don’t have to cook the pasta separately, just keep adding things to the pan and in the end you have a creamy, spicy pasta dish. It was awesome.

 

Spicy Sausage Pasta
(from A Bitchin’ Kitchen)
Serves 4

1 T. olive oil
1 14 oz. package smoked sausage, sliced into rounds
1 1/2 c. diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
1 10 oz. can diced tomatoes with jalapenos
1/2 c. heavy cream
8 oz. uncooked whole wheat penne pasta (about 2 1/2 c.)
1/2 t. black pepper
1 1/2 c. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
Thinly sliced scallions
Salt, to taste

In a cast iron skillet, heat the oil until smoking.  Add the sausage and onion to the pan, and cook until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic, and cook for an additional 30 seconds.

Add the broth, tomatoes, heavy cream, uncooked pasta and pepper, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then cover the skillet and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until the pasta is tender, about 15 minutes, stirring once or twice while cooking.

While the pasta cooks, preheat the oven broiler. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in 1 cup of the cheese. Add salt to taste. Top with the scallions and remaining cheese. Broil until the cheese is melted and lightly browned, about 3 minutes.


Pepperoni Pizza Casserole

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June is a very busy month for us. Both Mark and I are June babies, we’ve got a vacation scheduled and two of our good friends are due at the end of the month! I promised myself last month that I’d get ahead and put together some freezer meals to break out on crazy nights. And, I failed.

I’m really going to try to have at least one freezer-friendly meal on our weekly menu for the next couple weeks so when we get back from vacation I’m not totally swamped with cooking. This was last week’s meal and it turned out beautifully – although, it’s really hard to go wrong with a pizza/pasta combo!

Pepperoni and olives are my favorite, so I didn’t bother to play with other ingredients here but now I’m wondering how ham and pineapple would be. I love Hawaiian pizza – do you think it would work in casserole form?!

 

Pepperoni Pizza Casserole
(from Closet Cooking)
Serves 6

12 oz. whole wheat penne
1/2 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
3 c. marinara sauce
1/2 c. sliced black olives
4 oz. pepperoni
8 oz. ricotta
2 c. mozzarella, shredded
1/2 c. parmigiano reggiano, grated

 

Cook the pasta as directed on package, stopping a minute or two before fully done. Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.

In a large skillet, cook the sausage over medium heat until no longer pink. Add the sauce, 3/4 of the olives and 3/4 of the pepperoni to the pan and stir to combine. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan. Set aside.

Spray a large baking dish with non-stick spray and then place half of the pasta in the bottom. Top with half of the sauce and then half of the cheese mixture. Repeat each layer, and then arrange the remaining olives and pepperoni on the top.

Cover with foil and bake for 20-30 minutes, until bubbly. Remove the foil and bake an additional 10 minute, until the cheese has melted.


Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Broccoli

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This time of year always seems endlessly dreary. It’s cold, but we’re not getting snow. The days are depressingly short and I still seem to have a holiday hangover. By the time I get home from work, I just don’t feel like cooking so I’ve been relying on old favorites like homemade pizza and ham and cheese waffles.

In an effort to jumpstart more cooking, we took a trip to Whole Foods to do some impulse shopping, We ended up getting some basil and garlic chicken sausage which was perfect for this dish. Despite being really simple, it was incredibly flavorful.

Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Broccoli
(adapted from Real Simple)
Serves 4

12 oz.  penne (about 4 1/2 cups)
1 T. olive oil
1 onion, sliced
6 oz. chicken sausage, casing removed
1 small head broccoli, cut into florets and stems sliced
1/4 c. grated Parmesan (1 ounce)

Begin cooking the pasta according to the package directions. Five minutes before the pasta is finished, add the broccoli florets and stems to the boiling water. When pasta is done cooking, drain, reserving some pasta water and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion to the pan and cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Add the sausage to the pan. Break up and cook, stirring, until browned and cooked through.

Toss the pasta with the sausage mixture, including a little of the pasta water, and the Parmesan.


Hibachi Style Noodles

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I recently had my first Hibachi restaurant experience. I had no idea what I was missing. I loved everything about it – but I especially loved the noodles. They were sweet and spicy and I devoured my whole portion entirely way too fast.

I dreamed about them for a few weeks (hubby vetoed going back to the restaurant so soon) before googling to see if I could find a recipe to make them at home. When I ran across this one, I couldn’t believe how easy it was. Seriously, if you can boil water, you can handle making these. They’re also rediculously quick – mine took about 10 minutes start to finish.

We served these as a side with grilled steak and veggies. They also reheated well for lunch the next day.

Hibachi Style Noodles
(from Best of the Veg*)
Serves 4 as a side

1 package fresh, Chinese-style noodles
1 T. oyster sauce
2 T. soy sauce
8 T. sugar
2 T. honey
2 T. sesame oil
1 t. chili garlic

Cook the noodles according to package directions.

Whisk together the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl to make the sauce. Set aside.

Heat a wok or large skillet over medium/high heat. Add half of the sauce, then the noodles, followed by the remaining noodles. Toss for 2 minutes, then transfer to a serving bowl.

*Note: I’m not linking the blog here like I usually do because the last two times I visited the site, my antivirus flagged it as a site that was distributing viruses. If you’re interested in visiting the site anyway, you can find it by googling the name.


Homemade Manicotti

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One thing I love about doing recipe swaps is that I often end up with recipes I wouldn’t have picked out on my own. I’ve had homemade pasta on my to-make list for a while, but I’ve been treating it as something of a pipe dream – something I’d get to on some lazy Saturday when we’re snowed in and I happened to have all the ingredients on hand.

Instead of getting the perfect storm, I got a recipe that involved homemade pasta for this round of the recipe swap – vegetarian recipes. I’ll fully admit I was nervous about this – not only was it way out of my comfort zone, it was something I’d have to pull off on a weeknight after work because of our schedule. Eeek!

All of my worrying was for naught, though – these were incredibly easy, even for a weeknight. It took a few tries to get the noodles the right thickness, but once I got the hang of it the process moved along quickly.

If you have “make homemade pasta” on your cooking bucket list, this is a great recipe to start with!

Homemade Manicotti
(from Simple Gormet Cooking with Dawn)
Serves 6-8

For the noodles:
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. milk
3 eggs
Dash of kosher salt

For the filling:
1 1/2 lbs. ricotta cheese
1/4 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese (plus additional for topping)
1 egg
1 T. minced fresh parsley
2 c. spinach leaves (optional)
1 jar pasta sauce

Preheat oven to 350F degrees.

Whisk flour, milk, 3 eggs, and salt in a bowl until smooth.  Pour about 2-3 tablespoons into a hot greased frying pan and spread to a 5 inch circle or smaller.  Cook over medium heat until set-do not brown.  The top will be slightly doughy.  Repeat with remaining batter, making about 18 crepes.  Stack crepes between wax paper and set aside.

Pour half of the sauce into an ungreased baking dish and set aside.

Saute the spinach with a dash of salt in an ungreased saute pan until wilted, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat.

For the filling, combine the cheeses, egg, parsley, and spinach.  Spoon about 3-4 tablespoons into each crepe.  Roll or fold up and place the crepes over the sauce.  Pour remaining sauce over the top.

Cover and bake for 20 minutes.  Uncover and bake for an additional 20 minutes.  Sprinkle with additional parmesan cheese and serve.

Linked up with Finding Joy in My Kitchen’s Ingredient Spotlight: Cottage Cheese/Ricotta Cheese


Lazy Lasagna Bake

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The summer before my junior year of college, I moved into an apartment with two fabulous girls – Jackie and Isabel. We were all out on our own for the first time and, as you’d expect, we really weren’t the best cooks. They are also Filipino, so a lot of their normal was downright foreign to me. I remember cleaning out the fridge one day and finding a cake that was bright purple – and quickly pitching it, wondering how long it had managed to sit there to turn that color. When Isabel went looking for it later that night, I told her what an awful color it had turned. She stared at me dumbfounded before telling me it was from a Filipino bakery and was supposed to be that color… oops!

One day that first summer, I came home to dinner – Jackie had made lasagna. Except, instead of lasagna noodles she’d used elbow macaroni and her version of “layer the noodles, meat and cheese” was all the noodles, all the meat, all the cheese. It was our first home-cooked meal in a while and we devoured it, but I remember being really amused at her interpretation of the recipe.

So, I had to laugh when I got my latest swap recipe for a Ground Beef Ricotta Bake from Cooking for Fun. I imagine that Jackie really had a recipe like this and didn’t botch it as badly as I was imagining. I’m so sorry for doubting you, Roomie!

I made a few adjustments to make this more lasagna-like: I used broken lasagna noodles and swapped the tomato and ketchup for canned tomatos and pasta sauce. It’s got all of the flavor of lasagna without the tedious step of layering things properly – aka, Lazy Lasagna.

Lazy Lasagna Bake
(adapted from Cooking for Fun)
Serves 6

8 oz. Lasagna noodles, broken into pieces
1/2 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. basil
1 T. oregano
1 (14oz.) can diced tomatoes
3/4 c. ricotta cheese
3/4 c. pasta sauce
1/4 c. parmesan cheese
1/2 c. mozarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Spray an 8×8″ baking pan with non-stick spray and set aside.

Cook lasagna according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, brown ground beef and drain any excess fat. Add garlic and onion to skillet and cook until onions are transluent and soft. Stir in basil, oregano and tomatoes and heat through. Mix in ricotta cheese. Remove from heat.

Add the cooked lasagna pieces and pasta sauce to the pan. Toss until everything is well combined.

Spread in prepared baking pan and top with parmesan and mozzarella. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbly.


White Cheddar Chicken Pasta

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Today is a two-post day! I wanted to share a meatless Friday recipe, as promised, for Lent but it’s also recipe swap day.

The most recent recipe swap was a little different – rather than getting assigned a certain recipe, we were each given a blog and could pick anything we wanted from it. My assigned blog was Sarah’s A Taste of Home Cooking who hosts these recipe swaps. Sarah’s style is very much homey comfort food – right up our ally!

There are so many great recipes on her blog that I had trouble picking – so I delegated the decision to my husband.  He picked this pasta dish and I made it on a rainy evening -super warm and satisfying.

If you’re interested in more recipes like this or want to see more recipes from this swap, be sure to check out A Taste of Home Cooking.

White Cheddar Chicken Pasta
(from A Taste of Home Cooking)
Serves 3-4

1/2 lb. chicken breast, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 t. dry mustard
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1 T. olive oil

1/2 lb. pasta
1 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 t. olive oil 
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2  small onion, finely diced
1 T. flour
1 oz. dry white wine
2 t. Dijon mustard
1 c. milk
1 c. chicken stock 
4 oz. sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/2 t. dried oregano

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Mix together mustard, thyme, salt and pepper and sprinkle over chicken pieces. When pan is hot, add chicken and brown about 3 minutes per side until cooked through. Remove to a plate and cover with foil.

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt butter and oil in the now-empty skillet you used to cook the chicken. Add garlic and onions and cook until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and whisk to combine. Add wine and Dijon mustard. Cook about 5 minutes, then reduce heat to low and slowly add milk and chicken stock, stirring to combine. Cook about 5-7 minutes more until mixture begins to thicken. Add cheese, thyme and oregano and stir to melt cheese. Add chicken and pasta and toss to incorporate sauce. Top with Parmesan cheese and serve.

Linked up with Ingredient Spotlight: Chicken & Pasta at Finding Joy in My Kitchen.


Spaghetti with Tomatoes, Olives and Feta

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Pasta tossed with olive oil and garlic is a staple in our dinner rotation. Often, we end up throwing in whatever veggies and leftover meat are in the fridge. Our version is rarely as put-together as this one, which made it seem extra special.

This was also ridiculously easy to make. If you can boil water, you can pull this off. Honest. And because it’s so quick, it makes a great weeknight meal.

Spaghetti with Tomatoes, Olives and Feta
(from Food and Wine)
Serves 4

1 1/2 lbs. tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 c. Kalamata or other black olives, pitted
1/4 lb. feta cheese, crumbled
3 T. drained capers
3 T. chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. fresh-ground black pepper
3/4 lb. spaghetti
6 T. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced

In a large glass or stainless-steel bowl, combine the tomatoes, olives, feta, capers, parsley, salt, and pepper.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the spaghetti until just done, about 12 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a medium frying pan, heat the olive oil over moderately low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the cooked pasta and the garlic oil to the tomato mixture and toss.