Category Archives: Italian

Asparagus & Goat Cheese Pizza

YUM!

Seriously, this pizza is amazing. I found the recipe in my Williams-Sonoma Weeknight Fresh and Fast cookbook. It’s absolutely delicious and super easy to make. I added some mushrooms to it because 1) I love them and 2) I had some sitting in my fridge!

It’s perfect for lunch, dinner or slice it into smaller pieces for a great appetizer.

For the pizza dough, feel free to use either store bought whole wheat or regular pizza dough, or make your own batch and freeze for when you need it. And to make the clean up easier, I’ve started by putting my dough on the parchment paper that I’ve cut to put on my baking sheet and laying a sheet of plastic wrap on top. Then, roll away! That way, I don’t have to get the kitchen covered in flour. Then, I just transfer the parchment paper with the rolled out dough onto the baking sheet. If you prefer the flouring method, by all means go for it!

I took some help from the store by buying pre-chopped pancetta from Trader Joe’s – if you can’t find pancetta, bacon would work well here too. I also bought sliced portobello mushrooms to save on time.

When picking out asparagus spears, the thinner the better (they’re more tender). You want them to be nice and bright, stay away from brown, wet-looking spears!

20120613-103514.jpg

Asparagus & Goat Cheese Pizza
(Serves 2-4)

1 ball of whole wheat or regular pizza dough
10 spears of asparagus, 1″ of the end trimmed off
1/2 c. diced pancetta or bacon
4 scallions, trimmed and sliced (greens & whites!)
8 oz. creminis, sliced
1/2 c. shredded Italian cheeses (a blend or use mozzarella)
4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Cut a piece of parchment to shape your baking sheet. Place your room temperature dough on the parchment sheet.

In a small frying pan, cook the bacon or pancetta until brown over medium-high heat, about 5-8 minutes. Meanwhile, slice your scallions and asparagus. Cut the scallions to about 1/4″ thick. Cut the asparagus into 2″ pieces, cutting on the bias (diagonal).

To roll out the dough, place a piece of plastic wrap similar in size to the parchment paper on top of the dough. Roll out to about 1/4″ thick. Changing directions as you roll each time to really spread it out! Once you’re done, place your dough with the parchment paper onto your baking sheet (the parchment paper keeps it from sticking).

Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of pancetta grease onto your pizza dough, discard the rest, and sprinkle the pancetta or bacon pieces on top. Leave a one inch border. Then, sprinkle the scallions evenly. Next, the mozzarella cheese and goat cheese, then the asparagus and mushrooms.

Pop in the oven for about 15-20 minutes or until the crust is nicely browned to your liking. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Slice into desired servings and enjoy!

Tagged , , , , ,

Healthier Carbonara

Apparently night shift also doesn’t allow me to write posts either!

This recipe I got from my new-ish Williams Sonoma Weeknight Fresh & Fast cookbook. As soon as I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it out. I love carbonara, but the thought of it usually clogs my arteries immediately.

This version is much healthier and absolutely delicious! It comes together quickly, which is also a bonus.

I took some help from the grocery store by buying precut and washed kale, and prediced pancetta. Oh how I love Trader Joe’s!

20120422-113028.jpg

Spaghetti Carbonara with Kale
(Serves 4-6)

6 oz. pancetta, chopped
2 large shallots or a medium onion, minced
1/2 c. dry white wine or chicken broth
16 oz. pkg of dried spaghetti, whole wheat or another favorite
4 c. chopped kale (1-2 bunches)
3 eggs
3/4 c. parmesan/romano cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add 2 tablespoons-ish of salt. Drop in your pasta and cook to al dente.

Meanwhile, place a large nonstick frying pan or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and saute until it begins to brown about 3-5 minutes. Add the shallot or onion and cook until the onion starts to become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the wine or chicken stock and let it boil, stirring up the browned bits at the bottom of the pan for about 1 minute. Add kale and cook until tender about 5-8 minutes.

In a small bowl, add the eggs and beat with a fork. Mix in cheese and about 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper.

Remove 1/3 cup of the pasta cooking water and reserve. Drain the pasta. Take the pancetta/kale pan off the heat. Add the pasta. Slowly whisk 1/3 cup of the pasta water into the egg mixture. Add the egg mixture to the pasta and stir until it coats the pasta and makes a creamy sauce, not runny! If it’s runny put the pan back on the warm burner and stir until it just comes together. Cooking it over heat will cause the egg to curdle.

Serve immediately and top with additional cheese, if desired.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Healthy Meatballs

Do you ever just crave a big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs? I did recently, so I whipped up a big batch of turkey meatballs to pair with some whole grain pasta and sauce.

I know pre-packaged meatballs in the freezer section are extremely tempting and usually pretty delicious. But do you ever look at the nutrition info? Usually they have a lot of saturated fat and sodium. So let’s stay away from that.

I used 99% lean ground turkey and put a lot of flavorings in it so you don’t really miss the fat. Now with ground turkey, you can’t just assume that it’s more healthy. You do need to look for the lean stuff!

For the pasta and sauce, I just picked up my favorite jarred sauce, and kicked it up with chopped onion, mushroom and some added red wine. Easy right? Thought so.

This meal comes together quickly, so making it on a weeknight is definitely doable!

20120229-124325.jpg

Turkey Meatballs with Mushroom Tomato Sauce
(Makes about 18 meatballs)

1 lb. lean ground turkey
1 medium onion, 1/4 grated, the rest chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 slice whole wheat bread, put in a food processor or blender to make bread crumbs
1/4 c. parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
2 pinches each of dried basil and oregano
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, chopped or sliced
1/2 c. red wine
1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce
1 box of your favorite pasta
Salt, pepper, red pepper flake
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Start your pasta water and cook according to package directions while you prepare the rest of the meal.

In a large bowl, mix together the turkey, bread crumbs, dried herbs, 1/2 of the minced garlic, 1/4 onion grated, parm cheese (if using) pinch of red pepper flake 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

When the mixture is combined, grab a heaping tablespoon of the mixture and roll into a ball the size of a golf ball. Repeat until all the turkey is used. Pop into the oven and bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn on the broiler and cook meatballs until they’re browned.

20120229-124229.jpg

While the meatballs are cooking, in a large frying pan, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the rest of the chopped onion, mushrooms, the rest of the garlic and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook until onions are translucent and the veggies start to brown. Add in the red wine. Scrape off all the bits off the bottom of the pan. Turn heat to medium low, then add sauce.

Add the meatballs to the sauce when finished under the broiler. Allow to cook in the sauce for about 5 minutes.

Top your cooked pasta with meatballs and sauce. Sprinkle with extra parmesan cheese if you’d like!

Tagged , , , , , ,

Roll It Up!

Yep, roll up your lasagna. You might wonder, what’s the point? I think it’s easier to control the portion sizes, and I tend to like a little more pasta with my filling. It’s also just kind of fun 🙂

This recipe is quick, easy, and absolutely delicious. It was a big hit with my guinea pig that I’m living with now. It made a big batch and the leftovers were great for a few days after!

20120204-123944.jpg

I used store bought pasta sauce *GASP*. Whatever, store bought pasta sauces are getting way better, and it makes dishes easier to make and faster to put together.

This lasagna is a bit lighter than your traditional lasagna. I used part skim ricotta, 2% milk shredded mozzarella, ground turkey and loads of veggies.

Lasagna Roll Ups
(Serves 4-6)

12 sheets of your favorite lasagna sheets
1 lb lean ground turkey
1 small onion, chopped
2 c. frozen spinach, thawed and extra liquid squeezed out
6-8 cremini mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 8 oz. container of part skim ricotta cheese
1 c. shredded mozzarella, divided
1 pinch of dried basil and oregano
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce
Salt and pepper
Red pepper flake

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cook lasagna sheets according to package directions. When cooked, strain and run cold water over them to stop the cooking process.

In a large frying pan over medium high heat, place onions, ground turkey, sprinkle of red pepper flake, garlic and mushrooms. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until there’s no longer any pink in the turkey, about 10 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese, 1/3 cup mozzarella, spices, and squeezed out spinach. Add 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Look how cheesy and yummy that looks.

20120204-124115.jpg

Add in the turkey mixture when cooked. Stir to combine.

In a 9 x 13″ baking dish, pour about 1/2 cup sauce and spread along the bottom of the pan. I used Safeway roasted garlic sauce…I was drawn in by the whole cloves of garlic! I wasn’t disappointed.

20120204-124239.jpg

On a cutting board or other clean surface, lay out a few lasagna sheets. Place about 1/3 cup of filling on the edge of a lasagna sheet.

20120204-124347.jpg

Roll up and place in the baking dish. Any leftover filling? Just spread it across the top.

20120204-124420.jpg

Top with the rest of the jar of sauce. Then the rest of the cheese. Bake for about 20 minutes until the cheese is bubbling brown. Let set for about 10-15 minutes before serving.

Tagged , , , , ,

A Soup for a Different Kind of Cold…

Well, you may or may not be happy that I’m posting 2 soup recipes in a row.

My boyfriend is feeling very under the weather, so I surprised him this morning by going over and making a spin off of Italian wedding soup. Now, when you think of a soup to make someone when they’re sick, I’m sure your mind jumps to chicken noodle soup.

Mine too. But I wanted something with more nutrients and flavor.

I made my own chicken meatballs with ground chicken and some spices. Traditionally, meatballs have some breadcrumbs, egg and Parmesan cheese in them. I tried it without all that. They turned out great! Though they were a little wet to work with, they held together beautifully.

You can really use any of your favorite small pasta for soup I decided to go with these.

20120119-153536.jpg

I used that whole little box, because my boy and I both enjoy more pasta than broth. If you like more broth, add more liquid or use less pasta.

I also cooked my pasta in water with the veggies. They absorb so much liquid that I wanted to save my chicken broth for the broth of the soup! You’ll see.

Lastly, I cheated by using one of those plastic containers of sliced carrots and celery in water in the produce section. I only had to dice the pieces! It’s a good timesaver if you need it.

So make this for someone with the sniffles and they’ll love you. Or just make it for yourself when you need a nice hot bowl of comfort!

20120119-155707.jpg

Italian Wedding Soup
(Serves 4-8)

For the meatballs:

1 lb. lean ground chicken or turkey
1/4 of a medium onion, grated
2 tbsp. flour
2 pinches each of dried basil, parsley, and oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground pepper

For the soup:

1 lb. box of acini de pepe, pastina, orzo, etc.
1-1 1/2 c. each of diced celery and carrots
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 qt. chicken stock
1 bag of fresh washed spinach
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Red pepper flake or hot sauce to taste for a little kick

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large pot or a Dutch oven, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Throw in your carrots, celery and garlic. Cook for about 10 minutes until the veggies soften.

Then, add enough water to the pot to cook your box of pasta. Bring to a boil. Cook your pasta until it’s al dente and puffs up.

Meanwhile, put all of your meatball ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix until combined. Grab a couple of spoons and using about a tablespoon sized amount, drop onto a cookie sheet like you’re making drop cookies. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until they look like this.

20120119-155122.jpg

When the pasta is done, add in the meatballs, chicken stock, and red pepper flake or a dash or two of hot sauce.

Now, see the brown bits left on the pan from the meatballs? While the pan is still warm, put in about a cup of water and scrape the pan to get all of the good bits up. Pour into the pot of soup.

Add in your spinach and let it gently wilt down. When the spinach is wilted, the soup is done! Just make sure you taste it along the way for salt and pepper.

Ladle up a bowlful and enjoy 🙂

Tagged , , , , ,

Cooking 101: Chicken Cacciatore

I love food. I love cooking. I love helping people out. So when one of my good friends asked if I could give her some cooking lessons, I jumped at the opportunity.

She had some ideas of what kinds of foods she’d like to make, so I picked something that was delicious, hearty, and easy to make. Even better the next day leftover. Great to freeze and heat up later. Easy to make for a crowd, just double or triple the ingredients.

Lesson one: chicken cacciatore.

While I come from a very Italian family on my mom’s side, this is something that is rarely made in my household. But, I’ve had it before, made it once … and hell, I’ve watched cooking shows all my life.

Some people put it over white or brown rice, some people put it over egg noodles or some other sort of pasta. I prefer putting it over buttery, chive laced egg noodles. Heaven.

Feel free to cook in a crock pot for a few hours after getting the veggies going in a pan. Chop up the raw chicken, then throw everything in the pot! Cook 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 on low)

So here’s my version of chicken cacciatore. I hope you enjoy it, cause we sure did 🙂

Chicken Cacciatore
(Serves 6)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into 1” cubes
1 large onion, sliced into half moons
1 large bell peppers (whatever color floats your boat), sliced into strips
1 pkg. cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 medium zucchini, sliced into half moons
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans Italian seasoned diced tomatoes (or add in some dried basil, thyme, oregano, to taste etc.)
¼ – ½  c. flour
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 c. white or red wine, or chicken stock
Red pepper flake (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a heavy bottomed skillet, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil over medium high heat.
  2. Meanwhile, put ¼ c. flour in a plate or shallow baking dish. Pat chicken pieces dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lightly coat the chicken breasts in the flour and place into the preheated pan.
  3. Brown chicken on both sides. About 3-4 minutes a side. (Don’t worry, the chicken won’t be cooked through, but we’ll cook it more later…)
  4. Put chicken aside. Turn the heat down to medium. Add your last tbsp. olive oil and throw in the onions and bell peppers. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add in the mushrooms. Cook another 3 minutes. You want the veggies to get slightly soft and little spots of brown.
  5. Add in your wine or chicken stock and scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Then, add your cans of tomatoes and red pepper flake if you’d like some kick.
  6. Place the chicken back in your pan. Cover. Turn to medium low and simmer for about 25-30 minutes.
  7. If the sauce seems too thin for your liking, turn the heat up to medium and cook with the lid off for about 10 minutes.
  8. Make a bed of noodles or rice on a plate, top with chicken, veggies and sauce and enjoy!

Tagged , , , ,

Low and Slow Lasagna

Ever made lasagna in the slow cooker? Well, it’s pretty great. And I’m glad my Italian grandmother cannot read this post – it’s better than hers. Shhhh!

It’s super easy, no special “no boil” lasagna noodles necessary. It’s loaded with protein and veggies. It also packs a ton of flavor.

Give it a try! You won’t be disappointed. The noodles cook up really nicely – surprising, right?

I’ve made this on several occasions. For my friends that can’t handle cheese very well, I tried it this time without the ricotta and just a little shredded mozzarella on top. Still tasted great. Just leave it out!

Slow Cooker Lasagna
(Serves 6)

10 lasagna noodle sheets
1 lb ground turkey
1 medium onion, diced
1 pkg. cremini mushrooms (aka baby portobello), sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce
1 8 oz. container ricotta (optional)
1 bag fresh spinach
1 pkg. shredded mozzarella
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ tsp. red pepper flake

  1. In a large pan over medium-high heat, cook the turkey, onion, and mushrooms until brown.
  2. When browned, add garlic and cook until fragrant. Season with red pepper flake, salt and pepper (about 1 tsp. salt and ½ tsp black pepper).
  3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, put in the ricotta and season with salt and pepper (about 1 tsp. salt and ½ tsp black pepper).
  4. Time to layer! In your crockpot, place in this order…
    1. ¼ of your sauce
    2. 2 ½ sheets of lasagna sheets, uncooked. You’ll have to break some up to fit.
    3. 1/3 of your ricotta, if using, and spread in an even layer
    4. 1/3 of your turkey-mushroom-onion mixture
    5. 1/3 of fresh spinach
    6. ¼ of sauce (except over the last layer of spinach)
    7. ¼ of mozzarella
  5. Repeat until you’re done layering your last bit of spinach. You may have to push the ingredients down from time to time, while layering.
  6. Top with the last lasagna sheets, sauce and mozzarella.
  7. Put the crockpot on high and cook for about 4 hours. The lasagna is done when the noodles are soft!

Tagged , ,

A Pizza Classic

Sometimes all you need to do is go with a classic. The first image I picture when I hear the word “pizza” is slices of fresh mozzarella, leaves of basil, and tomatoes on top of a pizza. Margherita is the ultimate pizza that showcases fresh, delicious ingredients.

When I was shopping in Trader Joe’s for the ingredients to my pizzas, I was going to buy Campari tomatoes. They have a great flavor and always taste like they’re right from the vine. BUT I quickly saw this little guys: mini heirloom tomatoes.

I love the little yellow guys!

Now, make a mini of anything and I immediately gush. Yes, even over tomatoes. Seriously though, how can you resist these?

I picked them up because I knew that sliced in half or thirds (depending on size), they would look adorable on my pizza. (Bonus: they tasted delicious too.)

Isn't it pretty?

Margherita Pizza
(Serves 2)

1 grilled pizza crust
½ carton of Mini Heirloom Tomatoes (or use 3-4 small tomatoes)
8 oz. of fresh mozzarella (I used low moisture part skim)
Handful of basil leaves, washed
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

  1. Slice the tomatoes into halves or thirds, depending on the size of the tomatoes.
  2. Slice the mozzarella into ¼” slices (about 7 or 8 slices).
  3. Bring all of your ingredients out to the grill when you’re ready to top your pizza!
  4. Lay the mozzarella down onto the pizza in a nice pattern so it’s spread evenly and looks pretty.
  5. Scatter tomatoes and basil across the top evenly (I tore the bigger leaves of basil).
  6. Sprinkle with the minced garlic clove. Close the lid!
  7. After a minute or so, take a peek. Is the mozzarella melting? Yes? Okay, turn the heat up to medium and keep an eye on the bottom of the crust so it doesn’t get overdone.
  8. Slide off the grill, drizzle with olive oil to finish, slice, and serve!

So happy I picked up those tomatoes!

Tagged , , , , ,

Pizza Heaven: BBQ Chicken

First of all, I’d just like to say that I can’t believe it’s September 1 already! Today is the beginning of the end of the summer, but it also means my favorite season is coming up: fall! But anyway, back to my original reason for posting…

I’d have to say that BBQ chicken pizza is probably my favorite type out there. So when experimenting with grilling pizza, of course I had to make it! It really couldn’t be easier. Also, the best thing about making your own pizza is that you can make it how YOU want! I hate when there’s regular tomato sauce on a BBQ chicken pizza. And I like when there’s a decent amount of BBQ sauce on it – no skimping! So here’s my perfect version of a BBQ chicken pizza.

As promised - you can see the left side of the pizza had buckled when I flipped it with just the aluminium foil!

BBQ Chicken Pizza
(Serves 2)

1 grilled pizza crust
1 chicken breast
1 small-medium-ish onion, sliced or diced
½ cup of your favorite BBQ sauce
¾ cup of shredded cheese (I had Mexican in the fridge – feel free to use colby jack, moz, etc.)
Optional topping: crumbled bacon

  1. Brown the chicken in a pan along with the onion (I put a sprinkle of salt, pepper and chili powder on it). One pan = less cleanup!
  2. Shred or dice up the cooked chicken.
  3. Once you are ready to put the toppings on your grilled pizza, spread out the BBQ sauce, leaving a ½-1” border.
  4. Sprinkle the chicken, onions, and cheese on. Top with crumbled bacon, if you desire.
  5. Close the lid and turn on low. Take a peek, and when the cheese starts melting, turn the grill up to medium so the bottom gets nice and crispy
  6. Slide off the grill onto a cutting board. Slice up with whatever shapes and pieces work with your pizza. Serve and enjoy!

nom nom

Tagged , ,

Grilling Pizza?! Yes you can!

Today I tried something a bit out of my comfort zone: grilling pizza. Why is it out of my comfort zone? I’m horrible flipping things (i.e. omelettes, crepes, spaghetti pizza, etc.). I refuse to believe it’s a lack of hand-eye coordination because I’ve been playing sports my whole life. I have to admit, my heart was beating pretty quickly before I flipped my first dough onto the grill. But, it was a success! (at least the second one was).

So here’s how I did it. I used my thawed out 2 balls of dough leftover from my whole wheat pizza dough recipe from Deliciously Organic. To thaw out the dough, I let it hang out in the fridge the night before and this morning I let it come to room temp slowly on the counter.

To grill pizza (my way – without a pizza stone), you will need:

  • a grill
  • dough
  • flour
  • cutting board (or other flat surface)
  • 2 sheets of aluminium foil (about 18” or so long – big enough to fit your finished dough)
  • olive oil
  • a round cookie sheet (to flip the dough onto the grill – or just use your cutting board)

When it came time to use the dough, I lightly floured my cutting board and placed the ball of dough, which was now more resembling a disk, onto it. I stretched out the dough until it was about a ¼” thick. If any holes or very thin areas emerged, I just pinched the surrounding areas together.

Take one sheet of aluminum foil and spread out olive oil on it until it fills an area big enough for your pizza. Place your stretched out dough onto the oiled sheet. Rub some more olive oil onto the top of the pizza. Put the second sheet of aluminum foil on top, repeat steps with second dough ball after it is stretched. (stacking the dough was easier to transport to the grill, but you don’t have to…or you could just make one pizza!)

Preheat your grill on high for about 8-10 minutes so it gets nice and hot. In the meantime, prepare whatever toppings you’d like. I made a margherita pizza and BBQ chicken, which I will post tomorrow! Scrape your grill off so it’s nice and clean.

Now, time for the show!

So I found with my second pizza dough that it was easier to use a round cookie sheet to help with the flipping. Put one dough with the aluminium foil on the cookie sheet. Then, grab it on the sides from underneath (so it’s easier to flip). Now, you want to be quick with this because once the dough is down, it’s difficult to move it!

Confidence is key…

Ready…set…FLIP!

How did you do?!

I promise I screwed up the first one a little (as you will see in my BBQ chicken post). I was more confident with the second one and it turned out better!

This is my second attempt...which later becomes margherita!

Now, close the lid! Turn the heat to medium. Cook for about 2 minutes. Check the underside with a big spatula. Turn the dough around if you notice one side getting more cooked than another. Admire the grill marks while you’re at it. 😉

When it looks nicely browned, slide the pizza back onto the cookie sheet and flip!

By the way...the smell of this dough cooking is heavenly.

At this point, I turned the heat to low so I could take my time putting toppings on. Once they’re on, turn to medium again, close the lid, and let it hang for a couple minutes. Now, check on it! Is it done? Nice grill marks? Good. Pop that bad boy in the oven if you’re making another one. Or eat it if you can’t wait. Repeat the process. Enjoy!

Questions? Comments? Give me a post and I’ll get back to you. I tried to make it pretty detailed for the beginners!

Come back tomorrow for this recipe!

Tagged , , ,