Ravioli Casserole…

Lately I found myself buying store bought food and doctoring it up. It’s a great way to get a quick meal on the table but with some fresh flavors you don’t often find in simple store bought food. This time I decided to take a package of chicken and mozzarella stuffed ravioli and create a casserole that was simply fabulous. I posted a couple of pictures online and got several requests to post the recipe. So here goes…

Lesson Learned 1 – Use a gourmet ravioli: Although the regular type ravioli (like Butoni) is fine, the type of ravioli I used was much bigger and more flavorful. I used a 9 ounce package of chicken and mozzarella stuffed ravioli that I bought at my local grocery store. 

Lesson Learned 2 – Don’t be afraid to experiment: I found a basic ravioli casserole recipe online and then added some additional agreements. Case in point, the recipe I used call for a 1/2 cup of cottage cheese. I substituted a half cup of whole milk ricotta. The ricotta/cream cheese mixture turned out divine and much better, at least in my estimation, by using the ricotta instead of the cottage cheese. But if all you have on hand is cottage cheese, use it. I also added some Italian seasoning both to the ravioli mixture and then on top of the casserole. And I cooked up some sweet Italian sausage and added it to the marinara sauce. I also added the mozzarella slices on top and that created a great gooey consistency to the casserole. So go ahead, be brave. It is so worth it. 

Lesson Learned 3 – Grate your own parmesan: Again, if you can, buy parmesan by the brick and grate it in your food processor. The texture and flavor is so much better.

I was so pleased with how this turned out. I hope you try this recipe. I know you will love it.

Ravioli Casserole...

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage, cooked 

1 28 oz. jar of marinara sauce

1/2 cup whole milk ricotta

4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

1/8 cup sour cream

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

2 Tbs. fresh flat leaf parsley

2 tsps. Italian seasoning, divided

1 Nine oz. package of gourmet ravioli

Packaged sliced mozzarella, 6 slices

1/3 cup grated parmesan

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 375. Spray a 3 quart casserole dish with cooking spray. In a medium size skillet, cook the Italian sausage. Drain the grease and add the marinara sauce. Bring the marinara sauce to a simmer.

While the marinara sauce is simmering combine the ricotta, cream cheese, sour cream, garlic powder, parsley and 1 tsp. of the Italian seasoning. Stir to combine. Add the ravioli and gently toss it with the ricotta mixture until the ravioli is completely coated. 

Spread a small portion of the sausage and marinara sauce on the bottom of the casserole dish just to slightly coat it. Spread the ravioli mixture evenly into the dish. Pour the remaining marinara sauce over the ravioli mixture. Place the slices of mozzarella on top of the marinara sauce. Sprinkle the remaining Italian seasoning and grated parmesan over the mozzarella. 

Cover the casserole dish with foil and bake for 35 minutes. (you may want to place the dish on a foil lined baking sheet to prevent any spills on the bottom of your oven). Uncover the casserole and bake for an additional 10 minutes. 

Remove the casserole from the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes. Serve with a side salad and some crusty bread and butter. 

 

 

Cheesy Zucchini Rollatini

I saw Valerie Bertinelli make this recipe on the Food Network and I thought I can make this and do a few little twists and turns to make it my own and according to my preferences. So thank you Valerie for the initial idea and know this recipe is my take on the basics of what she made.

Since I do not have a large family I am always looking for ways to scale down recipes in order to make them for two. Just recognize that you can double or triple this recipe according to the number of mouths you need to feed.

I was initially intrigued by how good this recipe looked but was even more pleased with how it tasted. It looks like it would be difficult to do but in actuality it’s really rather simple. All you need is a little patience, and I recognize that may be a challenge for some home cooks. But believe me, in this case, patience is well worth what you will receive in the end.

The original recipe was meatless but I like to put meat in my marinara sauce. I think it adds to the overall flavor. But rest assured, you can easily make this a meatless meal and it will be equally delicious.

So let’s talk cheesy zucchini rollatini…

Lesson Learned 1 – You will need a mandolin slicer for this recipe: In order to get even long strips to roll the filling in, you will need to use a mandolin slicer. When I first saw this on tv I thought it would be hard but it was actually rather simple. Just cut of the ends off the zucchini, set your slicer to cut a 1/8 inch slice, place the zucchini on the mandolin with the palm of your hand on top of the zucchini and move it slowly downwards to create the slice. Chances are the first slice you will need to discard as the bottom of the zucchini will be a little uneven, but beyond that you should get some great slices.

A couple of things to keep in mind: This recipe works better with larger zucchinis. You get larger and longer strips. Also it is very important to take your time during this step. Slowly move the zucchini over the blade with the palm of your hand on top. As you get closer to the top of the zucchini quit cutting and use another zucchini if needed. When I made this recipe I only needed 1 large zucchini but you should plan on two and go from there. I got five nice slices out of a large zucchini which was enough for us. Again I cannot stress enough the need to work slowly and carefully when moving the zucchini through the slicer. It really is an easy process but one you need to do with care.

Lesson Learned 2 – You will need to soften the zucchini slices before filling and rolling them: The zucchini slices will roll more easily if you soften them slightly. You can do this by filling a large skillet with a couple of inches of water and heat the water to simmering. Then put the slices in for a very short period of time (I put them in the water for a minute and a half). Then gently lift them out and place them on a paper lined plate to blot off any excess moisture. You will immediately notice a difference in the texture of the zucchini. It will be softer and much more pliable. Once they cool to the touch you will be able to fill and roll them.

Lesson Learned 3 – Make the cheese mixture first: I found it helpful to have the cheese mixture ready to go once the zucchini slices were ready to stuff and roll. When that process is done you can just keep them on the plate until your marinara sauce is heated and ready for them.

The hardest part, and believe me it isn’t really hard at all, is making the zucchini rolls. The rest is pretty basic but boy does it create one heck of a dish. Try this sometime with some garlic bread and a nice salad and you will have an impressive, delicious meal, one that you will make over and over again.

Cheesy Zucchini Rollatini...

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

1 Italian sausage link, casing removed (or about 1/8 pound Italian sausage)

1-2 large zucchinis

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

1/2 tsp. fresh oregano, chopped

1 tsp. fresh basil, chopped

1/2 tsp. lemon zest

1 1/4 cups shredded mozzarella, divided plus some additional for final garnish

1 egg

1-2 cups marinara sauce

Kosher salt

Italian seasoning, to taste

Italian parsley for garnish, optional

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Add about 2 inches of lightly salted water to a large skillet and bring the water to a simmer.

Mix together the ricotta, oregano, basil, lemon zest and 3/4 cup of the mozzarella. Add 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt. In a small separate bowl, crack open and beat the egg. Add 1 Tbs. of the beaten egg to the cheese mixture. Stir to combine. (You will either have to repurpose or discard the remainder of the egg).

Trim the ends of the zucchini and slice them lengthwise on a mandolin slicer to about 1/8 inch thick. Reserve the larger interior slices and save the rest for other uses.

Place the zucchini slices in batches into the simmering hot water and cook for about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove the slices and place them on a paper lined plate to drain the slices and remove any excess moisture. Continue this process with any remaining slices.

In an eight inch ovenproof skillet (I used a cast iron skillet), cook the Italian sausage until lightly browned. Add the marina and some Italian seasoning and cook until warmed through.

While the sauce is warming lay the dried zucchini slices out on a work surface. Spoon a tablespoon of the cheese mixture on one end of the slice and gently roll up the slice. Place on a plate seam side down. Continue with the remaining slices.

Add the slices into the warm sauce seam side down. Spoon a little marinara sauce over the tops of the slices. Sprinkle some shredded mozzarella on top. Sprinkle some Italian seasoning over the mozzarella.

Cover the skillet with foil and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven after 20 minutes and set the oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle some additional mozzarella on top of the slices and place the skillet uncovered back into the oven for an additional 10 minutes.

Remove the skillet from the oven and let it stand for 5 minutes. Serve with a salad and some garlic bread.

 

Homemade Pizza Bites…

This recipe came out of a kick I’ve been on lately of cleaning out the ingredients in my refrigerator and pantry. It was lunch time and I wanted something different for lunch but not something huge and filling. I started scrounging around and found I had some ingredients for a basic pizza, minus the pizza crust but I had a loaf of take and bake bread.

The wheels in my brain started spinning and I decided to try using the unbaked take and bake bread baguette loaf, cut it into a couple of 1/2 pieces, top it with my pizza toppings and throw it in the toaster oven. I absolutely could not believe how wonderful it turned out, and so I thought I’d share this very, very simple recipe with you.

These bites are great for a light lunch, a snack, or even a meal. For example, for over a year now some friends of mine and I have been playing cards and games every Monday. Each week we take turns hosting. We got into the habit of making lunch before we started our games and as you can well imagine that got my juices flowing as to how I could use these wonderful friends as guinea pigs for recipes for this blog. I let them know that was my intent and they said they were all in. So, last Monday I made these bites along with a side salad and a crudités plate of mozzarella sticks wrapped in salami and blue cheese stuffed olives. The lunch was a hit.

Mozzarella Sticks Wrapped In Salami And Blue Cheese Stuffed Olives

Simple Side Salad

Sausage Pizza Bites

Pesto and Pepperoni Pizza Bites

The most time consuming thing about this meal was assembling the pizza bites. The wrapped mozzarella and stuffed olives were store bought and there’s nothing to putting together a simple salad. And now, since I’ve had these bites both for a snack and a meal I thought maybe I should write about them.

So, with all that being said, let’s talk homemade pizza bites…

Lesson Learned 1 – Use whatever pizza ingredients you may have on hand: I used pesto, pepperoni, sausage, mozzarella slices and shredded mozzarella, grated parmesan, pizza sauce and Italian seasoning. One thing to be aware of, these bites only need 7-10 minutes to cook so if you add sausage it must be precooked. I thought about adding some green pepper but I didn’t this time. I probably will try it at some point, but I know I’ll need to cut the pieces very small so they at least partially cook. I like green pepper with a crunch on my pizza anyway.

Lesson Learned 2 – Forget measurements: You’ll notice this recipe doesn’t have any type of measurements for the ingredients. What you need will depend on how many bites you make and what ingredients you have on hand. I designed this recipe to be a way to use up ingredients you have laying around in your refrigerator or pantry.

Lesson Learned 3 – Use take and bake bread: The key, at least for me, was the take and bake bread. Take and bake bread is designed to be baked for about 10 minutes so it coincides with the overall baking time of the bites. Using this type of bread gave the bites a beautiful crispy crust which, for me, made it more like a Detroit style pizza which I just love.

Lesson Learned 4 – Make sure you bakes the bites on a wire rack: You want to make the bread nice and crispy. Baking them on a wire rack allows the bottom of the bread to cook and crisp up. Make sure you use a foil lined pan underneath the rack to catch any melted cheese that may run off the bread. That way you won’t have an oven mess that’s hard to clean up.

So give this throw together recipe a try. It only takes a few minutes to make a quick lunch. And if you’re making a bigger batch, count on about 20 minutes to prep them all. I know you’ll just love them. I know I do! Let me know what you think…

Homemade Pizza Bites

  • Servings: Varied
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

Store bought or homemade pesto

Pepperoni, sliced thin

Mozzarella, slices and shredded

Precooked Italian Sausage

Homemade or Store Bought Pizza Sauce

Unbaked Take And Bake Baguette Bread

Italian Seasoning

Basil Leaves For Garnish, optional

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the take and bake bread into 1/2 inch slices cut on the bias. Top with either pesto or pizza sauce (you’ll probably need about a teaspoon for each slice). Put a slice of mozzarella on each piece of bread, pre-cut to size. Place two pieces of pepperoni on top of the bite that has pesto. Place crumbles of pre-cooked sausage on top of the bite that has pizza sauce. (Of course you can switch them around anyway you like, I’m just explaining what I did).

Top each bite with shredded mozzarella. Sprinkle each bite with some Italian seasoning. Add some grated parmesan over the tops of each slice.

Place each bite on a wire rack with a foil lined pan underneath it. Bake in oven or toaster oven for 7-10 minutes. Garnish each with some fresh basil. Enjoy!

Bread Slices With Pesto And Pizza Sauce

Oven Ready Pesto Bite

Oven Ready Sausage Bite

Marinated Tomatoes With Herbs and Mozzarella…

It’s the season for tomatoes, and if you planted any in your yard or on your patio you probably have a bunch sitting around right now. I just love this time of year. There is nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, like a home grown tomato. The kicker is they all ripen at the same time and you’re faced with what to do with all of them.

My patio tomatoes

I used to grow tomatoes in my yard and on my deck, but since we moved to a condo I can only plant a couple of pots of patio tomato plants. This year, much to my surprise, my two little plants are producing like crazy! So above and beyond putting them in a salad or serving them with a generous dollop of tuna salad or making salsa or pasta sauce, I wanted to try something a little different. Hence this recipe…

I like this recipe for a variety of reasons. First the finished product is out of this world but also it’s so quick and easy to put together and after that you just let your tomatoes marinate on the kitchen counter for a couple of hours and you’ve got something very special. Second if you plant a pot of herbs like I do it is a great way to use them. The recipe couldn’t be cleaner and the end result is divine. So let’s talk marinated tomatoes with herbs and mozzarella.

Lesson Learned 1 – Cut the tomatoes at least 1/2 inch thick: The marinating process will break the tomatoes down slightly so if you cut them too thin you’ll wind up with mush. Make sure to cut them thick to avoid that. Also make sure you don’t layer them but rather put them in a single layer. That way you’ll be able to get the full effect of the marinade.

Lesson Learned 2 – There is a trick to how long you marinate the tomatoes: As I mentioned earlier, the marinade will slightly break down the fibers in the tomatoes so if you plan to marinate them on the counter only do it for a couple of hours. If you plan on marinating them longer put them in the refrigerator. I know, the cardinal rule is never to put tomatoes in the refrigerator but this time you can if you need to marinate them for a longer period of time.  If you put them in the refrigerator take them out in plenty of time to bring them back to room temperature. That way you won’t be left with cold, mushy tomatoes.

Lesson Learned 3 – Make sure to finely mince the garlic: You’re using raw garlic in the marinade so you’ll want to finely mince the garlic or crush it. That way you’ll get the benefit of the garlic without having to worry about taking a big bite of raw garlic which is not very flavorful.

Lesson Learned 4 – Feel free to vary the amount of balsamic vinegar to taste: The general rule of thumb when making a vinaigrette is one part vinegar to three parts oil. I like more tang, so whenever I combine vinegar and oil I always add more vinegar than called for. Make sure to taste your marinade before you pour it on the tomatoes and if you like more tang don’t be afraid to add more balsamic vinegar. It’s always better to start off on the safe side and add more from there. Most of the recipes I looked at used less than what I’ve listed here but I think using less makes the marinade taste too oily tasting.

Lesson Learned 5 – Turn the tomatoes over mid-way through the marinating process: When you pour on the marinade all of the herbs will be on top of your tomatoes. Mid way through marinating them turn the tomatoes over and spoon some of the liquid with the herbs on top. That way you’ll get the full effect of the marinade on both sides.

So basically you slice the tomatoes, make the marinade and let them bathe in it and throw the mozzarella in at the end. What could be simpler? And the result is fabulous – try it and see!

Marinated Tomatoes With Herbs and Mozzarella...

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

4 large tomatoes sliced 1/2 inch thick

1/3 cup olive oil

3 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

1 Tbs. honey

2 Tbs. finely chopped red onion

1 large clove of garlic, finely minced

1 Tbs. flat leaf parsley, finely minced

1 Tbs. fresh basil, finely minced

1/4 ball of mozzarella, sliced and then cubed (again you can add more if you like)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Cut the tomatoes into thick 1/2 inch slices. Arrange them in single layer in a large shallow dish. In a mason jar combine the oil, vinegar, honey, onion, garlic, parsley, basil, salt and pepper. Put the lid on the jar and shake the mixture vigorously to combine. Pour the mixture over the tomatoes.

Cover the tomatoes with plastic wrap and let marinate for two hours on the counter, or if longer in the refrigerator. (If refrigerated bring the tomatoes back to room temperature before serving.) Half way through the marinating process turn the tomatoes over and spoon the marinade back on top. Before serving, garnish with mozzarella and spoon the marinade over the mozzarella.

Gnocchi Italiano…

I really try to experiment with meals that are quick and preferably only need one pot. This meal fits the bill to a tee. The most difficult part of this meal is the prep, and I’m a prep kinda gal so I enjoy that to the max!

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, we are remodeling our kitchen and this was the first meal I cooked on my brand new stove. I posted a picture of it online and got a ton of oohs and ahhs… one person commented on how beautiful it looked and wondered if that comment was apropos when referring to a stove – well all I can say is of course it is! Here’s my new baby – hello gorgeous!

my new stove

When we moved to a condo, I told my husband I would never move into a place where I could not have a gas stove or cook top. We moved into the model of the development we’re in and of course they had upgraded appliances in the model. The cook top that was is pictured below…

original cooktop

Although the cooktop was sleek looking, I just could not imagine myself cooking on it. Besides not being gas, I couldn’t get over the fact that it looked like I was cooking on Mickey Mouse! We removed it right away. Someone had lived in this condo before. The builder bought it back from the original owners and upgraded it to the model as there were still a few more buildings in the development plan and they needed to be able showcase what one of the units looked like. As part of the sale negotiations we asked the builder to leave the old gas cook top that had been replaced. We used it until we began the process of remodeling and finding our new stove. This is what we used in the interim:

the old cooktop

Our new stove is an LG. What’s interesting about it is the inside is purple.

The inside of the stove

Supposedly this color provides maximum heat transfer as opposed to a dark interior. I’m not sure that is the case, only time will tell. What I am sure of is I cooked two meals on/in it already and it seems to work perfectly. So I am a happy camper!

Now, let’s get back to the recipe. This meal combines ground sweet italian sausage with mini potato gnocchi, fresh mozzarella an your favorite marinara sauce. It couldn’t be simpler but it is oh so good. So let’s talk gnocchi italiano…

sweet italian sausageLesson Learned 1 – I used ground italian sausage but you can also use prosciutto: My husband needs to eat foods that are easy to chew and so I used ground italian sausage. If you choose to use prosciutto, use about 5 thin slices. Add them to the onions once they are translucent and cook them until they are crisp. Then follow the remainder of the recipe as is. I guarantee it will be equally as good.

Lesson Learned 2 – Pay attention to the type of marinara sauce you use: I used a tomato basil sauce. The brand I used was more expensive, but gnocchi and marinara saucewhen I looked at the ingredients they were all natural. There were no names that I couldn’t pronounce. Natural and organic foods are much higher in cost. That is unfortunate as I hate to think about all these chemicals we can put in our bodies every day. But heck, before I was born my mother drank and smoked and I’m still here. I guess the idea is why tempt fate. The better you take care of yourself the better your chances are of living a longer healthier life.

This recipe is pretty straightforward so there’s not many lessons learned to share. Start it off on the stovetop, finish it off in the oven, and enjoy an easy, flavorful meal!

GNOCCHI ITALIANO...

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

Gnocchi Italiano

Gnocchi Italiano

1 small onion, diced

1 Tbs. basil infused olive oil (can use plain EVOO)

1 pound ground sweet italian sausage

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup tomato basil sauce

1 one pound package potato gnocchi  (I used the mini sized gnocchi)

1 tsp. italian seasoning

1/8 cup grated parmesan

1/4 lb fresh mozzarella, sliced

Sliced green onions for garnish, optional

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 375. In a large oven proof skillet heat the olive oil. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the italian sausage and cook through, about 5-7 minutes. Meanwhile, cook gnocchi according to package instructions.

Add the garlic to the cooked italian sausage and let cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Drain the gnocchi and add to the italian sausage mixture. Stir in the tomato basil sauce, italian seasoning and parmesan. Mix well.

Add the mozzarella slices to the top of the mixture. Place the oven proof pan in the oven and cook until the mozzarella has melted and the gnocchi mixture is bubbly, approximately 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and garnish with green onions. Serve immediately.

Add the cooked gnocchi to the sausage mixture

Add cooked gnocchi to the sausage mixture.

Gnocchi, sausage and sauce mixture.

Gnocchi, sausage and sauce mixture.

Add the mozzarella slices.

Add the mozzarella slices.

Ready to serve

Ready to serve

Gnocchi Italiano

Gnocchi Italiano

Chicken Meatballs In Cheesy Tomato Cream Sauce…

I was in search of somewhat quick comfort food meal that was a little bit out of our ordinary faire. My husband suggested trying to make meatballs with ground chicken and I took it from there.

Meatball IngredientsI’d never made meatballs with anything other than ground beef so I was interested to see how they would turn out. They were fabulous, but I have to admit they still tasted like a regular old meatball to me. It was fun experimenting with a different spin on meatballs and the meal was absolutely divine with very little fuss.

So let’s talk chicken meatballs in cheesy tomato cream sauce…

The meatball mixtureLesson Learned 1 – Although in the end they may taste similar, working with ground chicken is different than working with ground beef: Because ground chicken is leaner you have to be careful how you mix it and how much you cook it. Otherwise you will be stuck with dry, tasteless meatballs.

First of all, to keep the mixture moist I added a tablespoon of sour cream and 1/4 cup milk along with an egg. I will warn you now, the mixture will be very moist as seen in the picture to the left. I started out with 1/2 cup of panko bread crumbs and wound up adding about 1/4 cup more. Keep in mind you do want the mixture to be very moist, probably more moist than you think. Although it seemed a little strange at first, this consistency produced tender, juicy meatballs.

You also want to make sure you don’t overcook the meatballs. I formed the meatballs using a well rounded teaspoonful of the mixture and rolling them in my hand. I arranged them on a pan lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray. They went under the broiler for about 6 minutes and then I cooked them through in the simmering tomato sauce. The pictures below show the meatballs before and after going under the broiler.  There appears to be only a slight difference. You put them under the broiler to “set” them so when you take them out they are only somewhat cooked. But trust me, the tomato sauce will do the rest of the work and you’ll have fabulous and tender meatballs in the end.

Meatballs Before Going Under The Broiler

Meatballs Before Going Under The Broiler

How The Meatball Should Look After Coming Out From The Broiler

How The Meatballs Should Looking Coming Out From Under The Broiler

Lesson Learned 2 – Use good ingredients: I always remember Ina Garten saying that you need to use good ingredients in order to have the best outcome. I am especially referring to the tomato sauce you use. With this particular recipe I used a tomato basil sauce. Now you may turn up your nose on “organic” but I actually spent time reading the labels on many sauce jars and was surprised by some of the ingredients in them. I finally settled on a little known organic brand that had only fresh clean ingredients and no chemical sounding names. It was a little more expensive, but I felt good about what I was eating and the sauce was divine. It’s your choice. I just get a little uncomfortable putting ingredients into my body that I cannot even pronounce.

Mozzarella PearlsLesson Learned 3 – Use only a small amount of mozzarella pearls: I was happy to discover that you can buy mozzarella in a size called “pearls”. They are much smaller than mozzarella balls and just the perfect size for this recipe.

You may think you want to put in more than what is called for in the recipe but I would advise against it. Too many mozzarella pearls and your sauce will get overly thick and gloppy. You want the flavor of the mozzarella and a slight texture of melted stringiness in the cheese. In this case a little goes a long way. If for some reason you add too much and your sauce gets too thick, simply add some of the pasta water to the pot to thin the sauce. Or you can use chicken broth and get the same result.

You can find mozzarella pearls in the dairy case next to the fresh mozzarella. This was quite a find for me as I can envision using them in a lot of other recipes.

Adding Mozzarella Pearls To The Sauce

Mozarella Pearls Added To The Sauce

The biggest part of the work in this recipe is assembling the meatballs. If you are pressed for time prepare the mixture the night before. It takes no time to roll them up and put them under the broiler. The rest is basically adding them to the sauce, heating the sauce while cooking the pasta and adding the mozzarella at the end. My husband gave a two thumbs up to this recipe, so you know it has to be good!

Chicken Meatballs In Cheesy Tomato Cream Sauce…

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

1/2 – 3/4 cup italian style panko bread crumbsChicken Meatballs In A Cheesy Tomato Cream Sauce

1/4 cup whole milk

1 lb. ground chicken

1 egg

2 Tbs finely grated onion

1 Tbs. fresh parsley, minced

1 Tbs. sour cream

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

2 cups pasta (I used a pasta called orecchiette)

Pasta water, if necessary to thin out the sauce

1 jar organic tomato basil sauce

1 Tbs. tomato paste

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup mozzarella pearls

Fresh parsley or basil, chopped for garnish.

DIRECTIONS:

For the meatballs: Set your oven rack in the center of the oven and put the broiler on high. In a large bowl combine 1/2 cup panko, milk, chicken, egg, onion parsley, sour cream, salt and pepper. The mixture will be very moist. If too moist add a little more panko being careful not to make the mixture too dry. Take rounded teaspoonfuls of the mixture and roll into meatballs approximately one inch thick. Spray a foil lined pan with cooking spray and arrange the meatballs on the pan. Broil the meatballs for 5-6 minutes until very lightly golden.

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. While the pasta is cooking put the tomato sauce in a deep pan, and heat. Once the sauce is warmed through add the tomato paste and stir until combined. Add the cream and simmer for a few minutes. Add the meatballs and simmer for an additional five minutes. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce. Add the mozzarella pearls and stir until melted. If pasta sauce is too thick, add some of the pasta water to thin it.

Sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve immediately.

Tomato Basil Sauce With Orecchiette Pasta

Chicken Meatballs In A Cheesy Tomato Cream Sauce

Chicken Meatballs In Cheesy Tomato Cream Sauce…

Simple Oven Roasted Tomatoes…

As I have chronicled in my past couple of blogs, this year has been the year of the tomatoes in my garden. Every day I seem to pick about 5-6 large tomatoes and at least a cupful of yellow grape tomatoes. And because of that I have been on a quest to let no tomato go to waste.

I can’t say it enough, the tomatoes in my garden have been nothing short of phenomenal (for a quick read on the heirloom tomatoes I am growing in my garden this year go to my tri-tomato salsa recipe). You just don’t get tomatoes like this in the grocery stores. When the inside of the tomato looks like the picture below, you know you’ve got a juicy, flavorful tomato. The inside of the tie-dyed tomato

I’m surprised my skin isn’t turning red from all of the tomatoes I’ve been eating lately. They are just so darn good and this recipe is a great way to enjoy them. It’s so simple to make and once it’s cooked you feel like you’re eating a decadently thick marinara sauce topped with gooey cheese.

Lesson Learned 1 – You can use different herbs to flavor the tomatoes: The first time I made this recipe I used some lemony thyme. I have a big pot of it growing on my deck. The second time I used fresh basil (also growing in a pot on my deck) and cut it into lardons before sprinkling it on the tomatoes.

Either the way the process couldn’t be simpler. Cut the tomato into half inch slices, sprinkle with herbs and top with mozzarella and shaved parmesan. You can sprinkle a little italian seasoning on the top or leave it plain, then bake and finish it off with a drizzle of good olive oil before you serve (I used white truffle olive oil).

Lesson Learned 2 – Cut the bottom of each end of the tomato to create a flat surface: Since the tomatoes are round, your end pieces will not lie flat on the baking sheet. That’s really no big deal except that if the tomato is too wobbly the melted cheese can fall right off of it onto the baking sheet. All you need to do is cut off a small portion of the round end and the tomato will lie flat.

I would also recommend spraying your baking sheet with a cooking spray so the tomatoes won’t stick to the pan. I actually line my pan with foil and then spray the foil.

Simple Oven Roasted Tomatoes...

  • Servings: 3 Slices Per Each Medium/Large Tomato
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

Fresh tomatoes (1 tomato per person)

Fresh Herbs (I used lemony time or basil, chopped – 1 Tbs. per tomato)

Shredded Mozzarella

Shaved Parmesan (I think it melts better than grated parmesan)

Italian Seasoning, if desired

Good olive oil for finishing (I used white truffle olive oil)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Wash the tomatoes and cut them into half inch slices. Cut a small portion off the bottom of the end slices so they lie flat on a baking sheet. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Place the tomato slices on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the herbs on top of each slice. Top each slice with mozzarella and shaved parmesan. Put the mozzarella on first and top with parmesan. The mozzarella will help the parmesan stick on top of the tomato. Sprinkle with italian seasoning, if desired.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese starts to turn golden brown. Plate the tomatoes and drizzle with some good olive oil. Serve immediately.

Top Each Slice With Herbs

Top Each Slice With Herbs

Top With Mozzarella And Shaved Parmesan - Sprinkle With Italian Seasong

Top With Mozzarella And Shaved Parmesan – Sprinkle With Italian Seasoning

Simple Oven Roasted Tomatoes