The “Use What You Have, Spaghetti Crust, Pizza Pie”

Pizza Pie 1

Pizza Pie 1

The “Use What You Have, Spaghetti Crust, Pizza Pie”

So, yesterday, my husband and I were entertaining the idea of homemade pizza for dinner. I’ll tell you my idea of home made pizza at a later post… Well, after working all day, running 3 miles in the 110 degree heat, and a couple of glasses of wine at the end of the day…  the left over gumbo sounded like a better idea.  However, when I got up this morning, the thought of pizza was still running through my mind.   Only I was in the mood to get creative and not have to drive to the store (that’s always a plus in my book).  After a quick inventory of what I had in my fridge, I came up with this recipe…..  It’s one of those recipes that you could easily change out ANY of the ingredients for what you have on hand…  Here is my recipe!  Use it as a guideline to create your own pizza pie!!!

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees

For the “crust”:

Left over, cooked pasta. Mine happened to be spaghetti, so it was probably about 2/3 of a 1 lb. box

1 tsp anchovy paste

1 tsp basil paste

2 – 3 TBS olive oil

3 – 4  TBS chopped sundried tomatoes

1/4 cup chopped green onions

Chopped fresh herbs, I used parsley, basil, and oregano.  More Parsley and basil and a little less oregano.

1/2 cup or more grated parmesan cheese

Kosher salt and coarse ground pepper to taste

More olive oil if needed

For the filling:

Mozzarella cheese, sliced thin.  I probably have 2 large balls altogether

2 large fresh tomatoes, sliced thin

1/2 large onion, sliced thin

Fresh basil

Minced garlic

Olive oil

Kosher salt and Coarse ground black pepper

Salami, very thin sliced.  Mine was only about 2” long and was plenty.

Black olives

1 – pkg. Proscuitto, torn

More mozzarella cheese

Parmesan cheese

olive oil for drizzling

Here’s how I put it all together:

First prepare the crust:

Mix the anchovy paste and basil paste with the olive oil.  In a medium mixing bowl, coat this mixture with the pasta.  Toss in the remaining ingredients.  Be sure to turn it really good to make sure all of the ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the pasta.  Spray a 9 inch spring form pan with olive oil spray.  Press the pasta into the pan. I actually used a potato masher to press it in.  Press firm without “smashing” the pasta. 

Now Layer in the filling:

Layer 1/3 of the mozzarella on top of the “crust”

Add a layer of the thin sliced tomatoes, onions, garlic, and basil.

Drizzle this with some olive oil and give it a good sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Add the salami in a single layer.  Top this with the black olives.

Add another layer of the mozzarella cheese.

Next goes the remaining thin sliced tomatoes, onions, basil, and garlic drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper.

Now add all of the proscuitto.

Top this with the remaining Mozzarella cheese.

Top this with a heavy amount of grated parmesan cheese and the last few thin sliced onions.  Gently press everything down into the pan with your hands.  Give it a heavy drizzle of olive oil.  Cover with tin foil.

Put a layer of tin foil on a baking sheet.

Wrap another layer of tin foil around the bottom of the spring form pan.  Place in the preheated oven and bake for an hour.  Remove the top covering of tin foil. Change the oven to broil and let the cheese get a nice golden color to it.  Take it out of the oven and let it rest for 15 – 20 minutes before removing it from the spring form pan.  Use a knife to detach the edges of the pie from the pan before you remove it.  Cut into desired wedge sizes eat it up!!!

Serve and Enjoy!!!

Pizza pie 2

Pizza pie 2

Veal Marsala Over Pasta

Veal Marsala over Pasta

Veal Marsala over Pasta

     This dish was so good and actually pretty easy.  I think the key is to have your pasta cooked and all of your ingredients prepared and ready because once you begin the cooking process, it comes together rather fast.  If you are having salad, have that ready too.  We ate this dish along side a simple green salad with a homemade dressing and it was perfect!!!

Ingredients List: 

6-8 veal cutlets

Olive oil for drizzling

Kosher salt

coarse ground black pepper for seasoning

2 Tbs unsalted butter

aprox. 1/2 cup olive oil

More olive oil if needed

1 large onion, chopped

6 cloves of garlic, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, smashed with the back of a knife

1 package baby portobella mushrooms, sliced

Juice of a Lemon

1 cup dry Marsala wine

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 cup chicken stock

2 Tbs butter

Bouquet Garni of rosemary and thyme

1 tsp Kosher salt

1 tsp coarse ground black pepper

Pinch of red pepper flakes

Pasta of your choice

Fresh parsley to garnish

Drizzle both side of the veal cutlets with olive oil and season both sides with the salt and pepper.

Melt the butter and heat the oil in a skillet large enough to hold at least 4 of the cutlets.  When the butter is melted and the oil is hot, sear the veal for about a minute on each side.  Repeat with the remaining 4 cutlets.  Set aside but don’t clean out the skillet.  If you need to add more olive oil to sauté in, you will need to do this now.  Saute the onions in the oil over medium high heat until soft and somewhat golden.  Add the garlic and continue to sauté for about 30 seconds.  Add the mushrooms and the parsley.  The mushrooms are going to soak up a lot of liquid and oil.  Pour in the Marsala wine and the lemon juice.  Let this cook down for about a minute.  Pour in the chicken stock and let it go until the liquid starts to reduce.  Swirl in the remaining 2 Tbs of butter and add the bouquet garni and seasonings.  At this point you may want to taste it and see if you need to adjust any of the seasonings.  Add the veal cutlets to the pan.  Let this cook for about 2 minutes over a medium low heat.  Serve this over the pasta of your choice.  In this case, I happened to use Penne because it was in my pantry.  Garnish with the fresh chopped parsley. Our veal was slightly pink in the center. 

Serve and Enjoy!!!

Eggplant Parmesan

 

Delicious Eggplant Parmesan

Delicious Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan

This has always been one of my favorites since I first had it at a little local Italian restaurant, Marguerite’s, right here in our home town.  The restaurant never reopened after hurricane Katrina and we all miss it so much!  You can use what ever pasta you have on hand.  I am using angel hair here but I have also used penne, linguine, and spaghetti.  They are all good!

 Basic Marinara:

4 Tbs olive oil

2 onions chopped

2 bellpeppers chopped

4 stalks celery, chopped

1 whole pod of garlic, peeled and fine chopped

1/2 cup white wine

4 – 28 oz. cans whole tomatoes, drained (liquid reserved) and hand crushed

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

4 chicken bullion cubes

1 tsp salt (or more for adjusting taste)

1 tsp pepper (or more for adjusting taste)

1 TBS Garlic powder

1 TBS Onion Powder

1 TBS Dried thyme

1 TBS Dried oregano

1 TBS Dried Basil

4 bay leaves

1 Bouquet Garni (fresh rosemary, oregano, and thyme)

In a medium sauce pot, heat the olive oil over high heat.  When hot, add the chopped onions, bell pepper, and celery.  Let this sauté until lightly golden.  You may have to reduce your heat just a bit.  This should take about 5-6 minutes.  Add the garlic and let it saute for about another minute, stirring continually so the garlic doesn’t burn.  Pour in the white wine.  Stir well.  Reduce heat to low and add the tomatoes, fresh basil and parsley.  You may need to add a cup or so of the reserved liquid.   Mix well and add bullion cubes, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, dried thyme, oregano, basil, bay leaves and bouquet garni.  Bring the heat back up to a slow boil then reduce it again to medium low.  Cover it and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.  Check it a couple of times during the cooking process to make sure you don’t need to add anymore liquid.  After 30 minutes, uncover and let it cook on low for another 15-20 minutes to thicken.  If you feel that it is too liquidy, you can add a little tomato paste.  Reduce heat to low until ready to use.

 Alfredo Sauce:

1 stick of unsalted butter (not margarine)

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (no canned stuff)

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

fresh chopped parsley (optional)

In a medium skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Stir in the heavy cream.  Continue to stir until the sauce starts to thicken and is slightly bubbly.  Stir in 1/2 of the parmesan cheese and stir until the sauce reaches the desired thickness. Season with the salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.   Reduce heat and cover until ready to use. Whisk often so a skin doesn’t form.  The sauce will continue to thicken somewhat which is alright.

 Frying the eggplant and assembling the dishes:

Preheat your oven to bake at 350 degrees

Ingredients list:

1/2 – 3/4 cup olive oil for frying

4 large eggplant aprox 1 1/4 lbs each cut into 1/2 inch circles

1 cup Panko bread crumbs

1 cup Italian bread crumbs

1 tbs salt

1 tbs pepper

I Tbs dried oregano

1 tsp cayenne pepper

3 eggs beaten with about 3 tbs water or milk

*1 box angel hair pasta cooked and drained according to package direction.  Drizzle with a little          olive and set aside until ready to use.

*2 cups fresh grated mozzarella cheese

*1 1/2 cups fresh grated Parmesan cheese

*1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

*these ingredients are used in assembling the dishes

When frying the eggplant, I like to create  an assembly line.  I lay all of my sliced eggplant out on a baking sheet.  I line another baking sheet with foil (makes an easier clean up).  On this baking sheet, I mix all of my breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, oregano, & cayenne.  Mix well.  In a medium sized bowl (big enough to fit the eggplant in one slice at a time, I beat my eggs with the water or milk.  I set it in the corner of the sheet that has the flour mixture.  I have all of this lined up on the left side of my skillet.  On the right side of the skillet, I place another baking sheet and line it with paper towels or brown paper bags to drain the cooked eggplant on.  Next, I am ready to heat my oil.  Pour the oil into the large skillet over high heat.  While the oil is heating, get the eggplant ready.  Dip it into the egg mixture making sure it sticks to both sides.  Then coat each side of the eggplant with the bread crumb mixture.  Test to see if the oil is hot enough by dropping a tad of the flour mixture into the oil.  If it sizzles then it is ready.  You will have to work in batches.  Add as many eggplant slices to the pan that will fit without crowding the pan.  My pan holds about 5-6 slices.  Reduce the heat to medium for the duration of the frying time (this is what works for my cooking surface.  Different surfaces may require adjusting but you don’t want the oil to burn.). Cook the eggplant for 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until golden.  As the eggplant cooks, place the rounds on the lined baking sheet to soak up excess oil.

Now to assemble the dish.  You can use a rectangular casserole dish or individual au gratin dishes.  I prefer to use the individuals but either is perfectly fine.  On the bottom of the dish  you are using, spread a THIN layer of the marinara.  Top this with a generous layer of the pasta.  Drizzle a generous amount of the Alfredo sauce over the pasta.  Sprinkle in a thin layer of the mozzarella. Next, layer in the eggplant.  For the individuals, I have found that 2 of the large circles works great.  I sort of overlap them slightly.  Next, ladle the remaining marinara.  Top with the remaining mozzarella. Line another baking sheet with foil (hopefully you have been cleaning as you were cooking and have one of the ones you just used cleaned and ready to go). Place the au gratin dishes or casserole dish on the baking sheet uncovered.  Place into preheated oven and cook for 12 – 15 minutes for the au gratin dishes or 15 – 20 minutes for the casserole.  Add the Parmesan cheese to the tops and cook until melted (3 – 5 minutes).  Sprinkle the tops with the fresh parsley.  This meal is perfect with a spiring mix salad and some garlic French bread.

 Serve and Enjoy!!!

Incredible Pasta Salad

Incredible Pasta Salad

Incredible Pasta Salad

Incredible Pasta Salad 

 This pasta salad just can’t be beat!  Years ago, we had a little yogurt shop in town that also sold some lunch items.  They had the best pasta salad in the world!  At the time…I must not have known enough about cooking to try and create it at home.  I searched cook book after cook book trying to come up with something similar with no luck.  The little shop ended up changing owners and eventually closed.  That was over 20 years ago.  That pasta salad was so tasty that it’s goodness remained in the back of my mind after all of those years.  As I started to enjoy cooking and creating recipes I decided to take the memory of that salad and create my own kitchen.  Their salad did not have shrimp in it and that is completely optional.  I make this a lot on Fridays during Lent.

 Ingredients list:

1 –  13.25 box of rotini pasta cooked according to package directions

1 – 32 oz. jar of Boscoli olive salad, drained

1 – 14 oz. jar large artichoke hearts, quartered (NOT marinated)

1 – 15 ounce can of pitted black olives, chopped

1 – 10 ounce box of cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered

1 – bunch of green onions, chopped

1/4 cup – fresh basil, chopped

1/4 cup –  fresh parsley, chopped

1 TBS minced garlic

1 –  cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Kosher salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Optional:  2 lbs cooked medium shrimp (recipe below)

Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Set the pasta aside and allow to cool so that it doesn’t melt your Parmesan cheese.   Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

Recipe for the shrimp:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Evenly spread the shrimp on the baking sheet.  Spray the shrimp with olive oil no stick.  Season the shrimp with salt, pepper, and a slight sprinkle of red pepper flakes.  When the oven is ready, cook the shrimp for exactly 10 minutes.  Let them cool and add them to the pasta salad.

Middle of the Week, Running around like Crazy, Dinner!!!

Seared Pork Chops with Spinach and Fresh Herbs

Seared Pork Chops with Spinach and Fresh Herbs

Middle of the Week, Running around like crazy, Dinner!!!

Pan Seared Pork Chops with Lemon and Rosemary With a Side of Seared Spinach and Pasta

Is anyone else like me???…  It’s the middle of the week, school has started back, last minute school supplies, signing up for this and that, just getting back into the routine in general, and you need a quick, middle of the week dinner.  Here is your answer!  If you have everything on hand, this entire meal should only take about 30 minutes from start to finish…  And it is so healthy and delicious that you’ll probably find yourself doing this one often.  I usually always have some already cooked, leftover pasta in my refrigerator, whether it be angel hair, spaghetti, linguine…whatever you have!  And if you don’t have leftover…  just cook a box of pasta!  I am also going to plug this one in here…  I have mentioned a time or two that we like to eat “somewhat” low carb…  However, I DO LOVE pasta!  And most of the low carb garb out there is pretty nasty.  I use Dreamfields Pasta in all of my pasta dishes and you honestly can not tell the difference.  It is a high fiber pasta with only 5 grams of digestible carbohydrates!  And it tastes great!  Cook or prepare the pasta before you cook the pork chops so that it is already done and you’re not waiting on it at the last minute.   So, now that I have said that…  lets cook dinner!!!

Pasta Side

Ingredients List:

Cooked pasta of your choice

1/4 cup olive oil

Juice of a lemon

Kosher salt to taste

Cracked black pepper to taste

about a tsp of garlic powder

pinch of red pepper flakes

3 – 4 green onions, chopped

Put the cooked pasta into a medium skillet over low/med heat.  Add in the remaining ingredients and mix well making sure that the pasta is coated with all of the seasonings.  Taste to see if you need to add any salt or pepper.  Set aside until ready to eat.  Now, time to cook the chops!!!

Pan Seared Pork Chops with Lemon and Rosemary

Ingredients List:

Olive oil spray

6 – Thick cut boneless pork chops

Olive oil

Balsamic Vinegar

Kosher Salt

Coarse ground black pepper

garlic powder

1/2 cup white

1/2 cup chicken stock

2 lemons, sliced very thin

6 sprigs of fresh rosemary cut in half

Put the chops on a baking sheet or platter to season.  Drizzle all sides with olive oil and balsamic, coating well.  Season all sides with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Let them sit out while your oven is preheating so they are more room temperature when you get ready to cook them.

Spray a 13” cast iron skillet with olive oil spray.  Put it in a cold oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  When the oven has preheated, remove it to the stove top and turn the burner to high.  Add the chops and let them sear for 3 minutes.  (Hang on to all of the oil/balsamic/seasoning on the pan you used to season the pork chops.  We are going to use it in just a minute.)  No need to move them around…  just let them sear.  After 3 minutes, flip them over, add the “extra” seasonings that were left on the pan, just drizzle it all over the top of the chops.  Now, let them sear another 3 minutes.  While they are searing, top each one with a several slices of lemon and a sprig of rosemary.  Toss the remaining lemon slices and rosemary sprigs into the pan.  When there is one minute left on the timer, pour in the 1/2 cup of wine.  Just before putting them back in the oven, pour in the chicken stock.  Put the skillet back into the 325 degree oven.  Let them cook for 5 minutes.  Take them out and let them rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Now that the pasta is ready and the chops are resting…  sear the spinach.

Seared Spinach

Ingredients List:

2 – bags of fresh spinach

olive oil

kosher salt

 

First of all, set a colander in a bowl so that you can drain the spinach after you sear it. The spinach creates a lot of liquid and will ooze all over your plate.  You are also going to do this in batches.  Its hard to get all the spinach in one pan all at once.

Heat about 2 TBS of olive oil in a medium skillet over med/high heat.  Once it has heated,  add a couple of handfuls of spinach.  Using tongs, quickly turn the spinach until it starts to wilt.  Give it a light sprinkle of salt (don’t over do it).  Once it starts to wilt, transfer it to the colander to drain.  Don’t worry if there are some leaves that have not wilted.  They will continue to wilt down in the colander.  Add more olive oil to the skillet and continue to do this in batches until all of the spinach is cooked.  Taste it and see if you need to add any more salt.  That’s all there is to it!

The chops should be rested by now…  Plate it up and enjoy a wonderful meal!!!

Good Ole Spaghetti

Spaghetti

Spaghetti

Good Ole Spaghetti

 Okay, so your are thinking… spaghetti???  How gourmet can that be?  Doesn’t everyone already know how to make spaghetti? Maybe so, but I have a few “extra” ingredients that turns ordinary spaghetti sauce into spaghetti extraordinaire!  I am not a believer in doctoring up pre-made sauces and the ingredients here are usually found in everyones pantry (Maybe not the fresh herbs). I have been hesitant to post this recipe because I felt I may get some “flack” from people who may know more than I do about Italian cooking.  But when I thought about how much everyone LOVES this sauce…I thought… why not?  The original recipe came from my sweet mother in law, Mary.  I still have her hand written copy and will cherish it forever.  I have made some major changes from the original but three ingredients remain the same and are what give this sauce its great flavor…ketchup, yellow mustard, and worcestershire sauce. So here goes…  I am laying it out there and if anyone says anything…  Well…just try it!

 Ingredients Lists:

Olive oil spray

1 1/2 lbs. ground sirloin

1 1/2 lbs. ground sweet Italian sausage

1/4 cup olive oil

1 lg. onion, chopped

1 lg. bellpepper, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

5 cloves of garlic, chopped fine

1/2 cup of red wine

4 – 28 oz. cans of whole tomatoes, drained (reserve liquid) and hand crushed

1 tsp kosher salt (or more)

1 tsp coarse ground black pepper

1 TBS garlic powder

1 TBS onion powder

1 TBS dried oregano

1 TBS dried basil

1 TBS dried thyme

2 – 4 chicken bullion cubes (Start out with 2.  You can always add more)

1/2 cup ketchup

2 TBS yellow mustard

2 TBS worcestershire sauce

2 TBS tomato paste

4 bay leaves

1 bouquet garni of 1 sprig of rosemary, 3 sprigs fresh oregano, 3 sprigs fresh thyme

(to make this, just tie all of the fresh herbs together with kitchen twine)

1 box spaghetti pasta cooked according to package directions

Fresh grated parmesan cheese

Fresh parsley, hand torn into small pieces

 

Cooking instructions:

Spray a large skillet with olive oil spray.  Heat the skillet over medium/high heat.  Add the sirloin and sausage to the skillet and let it brown.  You want to break the meats apart so that the two are blended.  When the meats are thoroughly cooked (about 10 minutes), drain in a colander until ready to use.

In a medium stock pot, heat the olive oil over high heat.  Add the onion, bell pepper and celery and saute for about 2 minutes over the high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium/high and saute another 3 – 4 minutes or until the onions start to turn golden.  Add the garlic and continue to saute for another minute, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn’t burn.  Pour in the red wine. Let this go for about 30 – 40 seconds.  Add the browned sirloin and sausage along with the crushed tomatoes.  Just a note here about why I hand crush… So far I have not found a can of already crushed tomatoes that isn’t soupy.    Hand crushing only takes a few extra minutes and you actually get bits of chunky tomatoes in the sauce.  Just a warning though,  the tomatoes will “squirt” juice and seeds out all over the place so put the bowl of tomatoes down in the sink before you start crushing them.  I learned this the hard way!  Also, be sure and put them in a large enough bowl that will contain the tomatoes as well as the liquid you will get from crushing them. So, having said that, lets finish the spaghetti sauce.  Add 1- 28 ounce can of the reserved liquid from the tomatoes.  Add in the next 12 ingredients.  Get everything blended and bring the sauce to a slow boil.  Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium.  Toss in the bay leaves and the bouquet garni.  Give it a taste and see if you need to adjust any of the seasonings.  I usually add another bullion cube or two here.  Let the sauce simmer for 35- 40 minutes.  Stir it frequently.  The sauce should be somewhat thickened at this point.  Remove the bay leaves and the bouquet garni.  Serve the sauce over the spaghetti pasta and top with some freshly grated parmesan cheese and fresh parsley.  A simple garden salad and a big piece of garlic toast made with fresh french bread is all you need to complete a wonderful meal!!!

 Enjoy!!!

Cappellini Pomodoro

Capellini Pomodoro,

Fresh, Delicious, Simple Recipe

There simply could not be a more perfect recipe to cook when fresh tomatoes are in season.  And simple is the keyword here!!!    I think that is what gives this dish it’s wonderful flavor.

Ingredients list:

One 13.5 ounce package of angel hair pasta cooked according to package directions

Exactly one cup of cut in half fresh cherry tomatoes

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Four cloves of fresh garlic, finely chopped

1/4 cup white wine

1/4 cup of finely chopped fresh basil

1/2 cup of finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

In a medium-size pot heat the olive oil over high heat.  When the oil is hot add the tomatoes and let them simmer for about three minutes, continually stirring.  Add  the garlic and continue to simmer for about another minute.  Pour in the wine and continue to simmer.  You want the tomatoes to cook down but you also want them to still have some texture.  This is going to take about three more minutes.  When the tomatoes Are at the right consistency stir in the cooked pasta.  Add in the basil and Parmesan cheese.   Salt and pepper to taste.  Mix all of the ingredients up really good!!!  You want all those tomatoes and really good juices to get in there and coat that pasta!