Tortellini Bolognese


This week I had one of those days where no matter how many recipes I looked at, all I wanted was some savory, comforting, meaty pasta dish. Nothing else would satisfy my mood. I had the time, so decided to be patient and make a bolognese sauce. Few pasta sauces are better than one with three meats that has been simmering for two hours in vegetables and wine. Because health was out the window last night, I served the sauce over cheese tortellini, but it would also be delicious with a simpler noodle. Try this next time you’re making pasta, but don’t rush it! The long simmering time really makes this sauce.

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups white onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
6 0z ground beef
6 oz ground veal
3 oz pancetta, chopped
2 1/2 cups beef broth (more as needed)
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 tsp oregano
3 tbsp tomato paste
kosher salt and fresh black pepper
3/4 cup half and half
grated Parmesan as a garnish

1) Heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Cook onions, celery, and carrots, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.
2) Add all three meats, and cook until brown, about 10-15 minutes.
3) Pour in wine and cook for 1 minute. Then add stock, paste, and oregano. Stir and remove heat to very low. Cook, uncovered, for 1 and a half hours.
4) After that time is up, season sauce with kosher salt and fresh black pepper.
5) Cook for another 30 minutes, with the lid on. Stir in half and half, 1/4 cup at a time until the 30 minutes is over. Add more stock if you want for desired consistency.
6) Serve garnished with Parmesan and your favorite pasta!



Jamie’s Bad Day Spicy Meatballs


Ever have one of those days where you just need some feel good food that makes both your heart and your taste buds happy? My friend Jamie sent me this recipe for just that. I made it on a Monday and it was just what the day needed. I mean really… who doesn’t feel better after spaghetti and meatballs? Especially ones filled with basil and spicy Italian sausage.

1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup white onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup packed fresh basil, chopped
19 oz package spicy Italian sausage links

1) Preheat oven to 350.
2) Mix together the 5 ingredients in a large bowl.
3) Remove sausage from their casings and add to bowl. Stir in basil and mix together well with your hands.
4) Grease a baking sheet and form meatballs (makes around 18-20).
5) Bake for 20 minutes and serve with spaghetti and marinara, or some veggies and fresh bread. And feel better!

Spiced Roasted Chicken, Three Cheese Macaroni and Strawberry Spinach Salad


Three recipes all in one post! These dishes pair so well together – a sweet and tangy salad, cheesy pasta and salty spiced chicken. If you have the time, brining the chicken overnight or since the morning makes a world of difference.

Roasted Chicken:

4 split chicken breast on the bone
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
bay leaf
2+ tbsp Montreal seasoning blend (divided)
onion powder
garlic powder
fresh black pepper

1) The night or morning before your dinner, fill a large pot (I use a soup pot) with water and stir in kosher salt, sugar, brown sugar, bay leaf, and 2 tbsp Montreal seasoning. Bring to a boil.
2) Once boiling, remove from heat and let cool. Fill a large bowl with chicken and pour some ice over the chicken. Then pour brine over chicken (make sure it’s not hot anymore or it will start to cook the chicken). Cover and put in fridge and let soak in brine overnight or all day.

1) Once you’re ready to cook the chicken, preheat oven to 350.
2) Rinse chicken and pat dry. Then season each piece to taste with Montreal seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder, fresh black pepper and paprika. Feel free to add any more spices too. This can’t really be over spiced (just be careful not to over salt – Montreal seasoning has salt in it).
3) Spray a roasting pan with pam and place chicken bone side down. Roast for 1 hour.
4) Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Strawberry Spinach Salad:

6 cups spinach
1 pint strawberries, sliced
1 avocado, diced
1/4 cup sliced almonds
half red onion, sliced thin
poppyseed dressing (I like Brianna’s)

1) Combine spinach, strawberries, almond, and onion in a large serving bowl.
2) Just before serving, add avocado and toss with poppyseed dressing.

Three Cheese Mac & Cheese

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium white onion, diced
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups 2% milk
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola
3/4 cup grated Parmesan, divided
1/4 tsp salt, plus more to taste
2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
2/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2/3 cup panko
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
dash of nutmeg
dash of cayenne (optional)
2 tbsp butter

1) Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan and cook 8-10 minutes or until tender. Add flour and garlic, cook one minute, stirring constantly. Stir in milk and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes or until thick (stirring constantly with a whisk). Add Gorgonzola, 1/2 cup Parmesan, salt, and stir until cheese has melted. Discard the bay leaf.
2) Preheat oven to 350 (you can cook this while the chicken is roasting – I put it in for the last 30 minutes and then remove and cover with foil while chicken is resting).
3) Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add pasta. Cook for 5 minutes. Drain.
4) Add pasta to cheese mixture and stir well. Stir in mozzarella and sprinkle in some nutmeg and cayenne to taste.
5) Spray a square baking dish with Pam and pour in the pasta and cheese mixture. Top with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan and panko.
6) Spray top of pasta with Pam and sprinkle with a little black pepper. Bake for 30 minutes.


Stuffed Shells


It’s hard to beat Italian comfort food, and stuffed shells are just that. These cheesy stuffed shells are covered in a meaty sauce and are great served with a simple salad and garlic bread. Thanks, Pioneer Woman! Made a few minor adjustments for my own personal taste, such as San Marzano tomatoes, a little less sugar, and a little red pepper for some heat. If you can find San Marzano tomatoes at the store, I highly recommend them!

8 0z jumbo pasta shells (not quite a whole box)
30 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
8 oz (one container) grated Parmesan, divided
1/2 cup grated or shredded Romano cheese
1 whole egg
12 basil leaves, chiffonade
4 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped, divided
kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp evoo
1/2 white onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 lb Italian sausage
1/2 cup red wine
28 oz can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
15 oz can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
crushed red pepper, to taste
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

1) Cook pasta shells for half the cooking time. Drain and rinse in cool water and set aside.
2) Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add Italian sausage and cook until brown, breaking up into small pieces.
3) Pour in red wine and cook for another minute or two.
4) Pour in cans of tomatoes and stir. Add sugar, salt, and red pepper, then bring to a boil. Once just boiling, reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5) While the sauce is cooking, mix ricotta, half the Parmesan, Romano, egg, salt and pepper, basil and 2 tbsp parsley in a bowl. Stir until combined.
6) Preheat oven to 350, and spray a baking dish with Pam. Once the sauce is done, pour some over the bottom of the baking dish to coat. Then fill each shell with the cheese mixture and place face down on the sauce. Repeat with remaining shells. Top all the shells with the remaining sauce, and then sprinkle on the rest of the Parmesan and parsley.
7) Bake for 25 minutes.


Le Pappardelle del Cantunzein


In interest of full disclosure, I have no idea how to pronounce this. But I liked it so much I made it three times in one week for different groups of people. I found this recipe after reading about it in one of Patricia Cornwell’s books about Kay Scarpetta. There are over 20 books in the series about a medical examiner who is also very Italian and loves her wine and cooking good Italian food. In each book she references several different meals she’s making, and when I read about this one my mouth watered. Sweet Italian sausage and two kinds of bell pepper with spinach pasta? Simple, but incredible flavor. I served this with herb-crusted lamb chops on the side, but it’s just as good by itself.

1 package spinach pasta
2 large links sweet Italian sausage (make sure you get sweet, it makes all the difference in flavor)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 red bell pepper, julienned (not chopped)
1 yellow bell pepper, julienned
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 medium to large fresh tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
kosher salt to taste
fresh black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup Parmesan

1) In a large pan, cook Italian sausage over medium-high heat until brown and thoroughly cooked (about 10 minutes). Drain the sausage on a paper towel-lined plate.
2) In the same pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add red and yellow peppers, onion, and garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in sausage, tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer on medium-low heat for 10 minutes.
3) While the rest is simmering, cook pasta according to package directions.
4) Drain pasta and toss in a large bowl with butter and parmesan. Stir in the sausage and pepper mixture. Enjoy!

Pasta Carbonara


I love this classic pasta dish from the Pioneer Woman. I mean, it has bacon in it. Who wouldn’t love it? This recipe serves two very hungry people, or makes two dinners and a leftovers lunch. Double it for more people.

1 half box pasta (I like spaghetti, but you can use whatever you like)
4-6 pieces of thick cut bacon, diced small
1/3 white onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 eggs
1/3 cup grated parmesan
1/3 cup heavy cream
kosher salt and fresh black pepper
1/2 cup frozen peas

1) Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add pasta and cook 8-10 minutes depending on the package directions.
2) While the pasta cooks, fry the bacon in a pan until getting crisp. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels on a plate. Use some paper towels to soak up excess grease from the pan, but don’t clean it.
3) Using the same pan, bring to medium-low heat and cook the onions and garlic until starting to brown. Set aside.
4) Mix together eggs, parmesan, cream, and salt and pepper in a bowl until smooth.
5) Drain the pasta, while reserving a cup of the pasta water. Place pasta in a bowl, and drizzle the egg mixture into the pasta, stirring constantly while the sauce thickens. Add any of the pasta water if needed for consistency.
6) Stir in peas (the hot pasta will thaw them), bacon, and sauteed onion and garlic. Enjoy!


Pasta Aglio e Olio


Have you seen previews for the movie Chef? I really want to see it. Great cast, and one of my favorite subjects… food! In the movie, Jon Favreau (Chef) makes a simple, delicious pasta to try to woo Scarlett Johansson. Thanks to Food and Wine Magazine, I found the recipe! This was simple, garlickly, spicy, and fast. This will definitely be a pasta staple for me.

1 pound  (1 box) dried spaghetti
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
12 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper, plus more to taste
kosher salt and fresh black pepper
1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving

1) Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, salt the water and add the spaghetti and cook about 8 minutes, or until al dente. Drain, and reserve 1/4 cup or so of the pasta water.
2) In a large pan, heat the olive oil. Add garlic slivers and cook over medium heat until just starting to brown. Add the crushed red pepper and stir. Season with a little salt and pepper.
3) Add drained spaghetti to the pan, a little pasta water, and stir until spaghetti is thoroughly coated.
4) Remove the pan from the heat. Add parsley, parmesan, and mix together. Taste test and add more salt, pepper, parmesan, or red pepper if desired. Squeeze in lemon juice, and serve with Parmesan and lemon wedges.