Tag Archives: mozzarella cheese

Gnocchi Mac & Cheese

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I love macaroni and cheese; actually my entire family does. The premise behind the dish is so simple, noodles and cheese baked together in the oven but the execution can be anything but ordinary. Classic macaroni and cheese is delicious as is roasted garlic mac & cheese and broccoli mac & cheese. Or perhaps you prefer your mac and cheese even a bit more different; in that case, beer and jack chili mac n’ cheese might be what you want or if you are looking for an impressive presentation sausage macaroni & cheese stuffed squash is what you need. But what if your mac and cheese doesn’t include the traditional noodles?

That is exactly what this mac and cheese, adapted from Sugar & Soul, is all about. Here, gnocchi, those little Italian pillows of potato goodness, take the place of traditional noodles. The cheese sauce remains the same and is comprised of a variety of cheeses which only adds to the complexity of the sauce. Its so easy and so good.

Serve these cheesy gnocchi with a green salad and dinner is ready. Yum!

GNOCCHI MAC & CHEESE

1/4 pound diced pancetta

1 pound potato gnocchi

1 tablespoon butter

1 clove garlic, minced

1 1/2 tablespoons flour

3/4 cup milk

1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese

1/3 cup shredded asiago cheese

1/4 cup toasted bread crumbs

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • Preheat oven to 375 F. Coat a ceramic casserole dish with non-stick baking spray and set aside.
  • Cook the gnocchi according to package instructions. When the gnocchi is cooked, drain it a colander and transfer it to the prepared casserole dish.
  • Fry the pancetta in a medium sized skillet set over medium-high heat until browned and crisp.
  • Drain the pancetta onto a paper towel then sprinkle evenly over the gnocchi.
  • Add the butter to the pancetta fat and stir in the garlic. Cook until fragrant.
  • Stir in the flour and wisk until bubbly.
  • Add in the milk, salt, and pepper and stir until thick, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the cheddar, mozzarella, and the parmesan cheese to the skillet and then immediately remove it from heat.
  • Wisk until cheese has melted.
  • Pour cheese sauce over the gnocchi and sprinkle with the asiago cheese and the bread crumbs.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until top layer of cheese is melted and golden brown.

Serves 6

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Turkey & Roasted Red Pepper Calzones

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Turkey leftovers…….after a big Thanksgiving dinner, they seem to haunt you for days on end.  In the immediate aftermath of the turkey coma sandwiches filled with turkey, stuffing, and gravy are on the menu.  Next you might simply reheat the original meal but after that what do you do with your mounds of turkey?  In reality, the possibilities are endless.

Right about now, after four full turkey dinners plus an assortment of leftovers, I’m just plain tired of turkey.  But I still have a lot of turkey in the refrigerator that needs to be eaten.  Last night’s solution was to use the turkey in a way that is decidedly un-Thanksgiving like. There wasn’t any mashed potatoes, bread stuffing, or Brussels spouts on the dinner table. Instead, I put a Mediterranean twist on the turkey and made calzones stuffed with red peppers, lots of gooey cheese, and yes, turkey.  The calzone crust is a Williams Sonoma flat bread recipe but the filling is all pantry and refrigerator leftovers.  I served it with a marinara dipping sauce but I think the calzones would be especially good accompanied by a roasted red pepper and eggplant avjar.

TURKEY & ROASTED RED PEPPER CALZONES

For the pastry:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast

1/2 tablespoon sugar

1/2 tablespoon salt

3/4 cup warm water

1 tablespoon olive oil

  • In a food processor, combine the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt and pulse to blend.  Add the warm water and the olive oil and pulse until the dough comes together.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 1 to 2 minutes to form a smooth ball.
  • Place the dough in a large oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled in bulk and is very spongy, about 1 1/2 hours.
  • After the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, punch it down, and knead it into a smooth cylinder.  Reshape the dough into a smooth ball and allow it to sit, covered with a dry kitchen towel, for 10 minutes.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough ball into a cylinder that is 10 inches long.  Cut into 10 even pieces and roll each piece into a smooth ball.  Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.

For the filling:

1 cup diced cooked turkey

1/3 cup ricotta cheese

2/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup minced green onion

3/4 cup diced roasted red peppers

1 teaspoon fresh minced thyme

Salt & pepper to taste

1 egg, slightly beaten

  • Combine the turkey, cheese, green onion, red peppers and thyme in a small bowl and toss well to combine.  Season with salt and pepper
  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll each dough ball into a round that is 5 to 6 inches in diameter and 1/8 of an inch thick.
  • Divide the calzone filling evenly on the center of each round and brush the edges of the dough with water.
  • Life the edges, stretching and adjusting the dough and compacting the filling, so the edges meet in the center.  Firmly crimps the edges and transfer each calzone, seam side down, to the prepared baking sheet.
  • Cut a small steam vent into the top of each calzone.
  • Place the egg in a small bowl and add 2 teaspoons of water.  Brush the egg wash over the top of each calzone.
  • Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes, then serve.

Yields: 10 calzones

Caprice Pasta

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion.  If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

This quick dish brings together the best flavors of a Mediterranean summer.  Ripe tomatoes pair with fresh basil and mozzarella to make a flavorful Caprice salad. Add this to pasta and you have a complete meal.  The balsamic reduction brings a rich sweetness to the dish making it fancy enough for a dinner party but also simple enough for a casual meal.

CAPRICE PASTA

1/2 cup good quality balsamic vinegar

1 pound ziti or other tube-shaped pasta

8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into bite-sized pieces

4 ripe tomatoes, chopped

1 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped

4 tablespoons olive oil

Freshly ground salt & pepper to taste

  • Place the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and heat over medium high heat until the vinegar boils.  Reduce heat to a temperature that allows the liquid to simmer and continue to cook until the mixture is syrupy and has reduced to approximately 1/4 cup.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions.
  • Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.  Drizzle the olive oil over the top of the pasta and toss to coat.
  • Add the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil to the pasta and season with salt and pepper.  Stir gently to combine.
  • Divide amongst four serving dishes and drizzle the balsamic reduction evenly over the top of each bowl.
  • Serve immediately

Serves:  4

 

Tomato & Sausage Skillet Gnocchi

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It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

Here is an easy gnocchi meal that is adapted from a Cooking Light recipe. Gnocchi is always a favorite go-to meal for my family but this dish is great since it is a one pot meal. Instead of boiling the gnocchi, which often results in over-cooked and soggy pasta, these gnocchi are pan sauteed in the same skillet as the sausage. The result is firm yet perfectly cooked gnocchi that hold their shape. And of course, only having a single pan to clean up is an added bonus.

TOMATO & SAUSAGE SKILLET GNOCCHI

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 16-ounce package gnocchi

12 ounces spicy Italian sausage (loose)

2 large tomatoes, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth

3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

  • Preheat a broiler to high.
  • Heat the oil in a large, oven proof skillet over medium-heat.
  • When the oil shimmers, swirl it to coat then add the gnocchi, cooking for 7 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove the gnocchi from the skillet and set aside.
  • Add the sausage to the skillet and cook for 5 to 6 minutes until browned on all sides. Stir the meat occasionally to crumble it.
  • Return the gnocchi to the skillet along with the tomatoes and garlic. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the broth and cook for an additional minute.
  • Sprinkle the mixture with the mozzarella cheese and place under the broiler for 3-4 minutes until the cheese has melted and is beginning to brown.
  • Remove the skillet from the oven, sprinkle with the chopped basil and serve.
Serves 4

 

Chicken Parmesan

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This is the meal that started it all….When Glenn and I first started dating I put on the facade that I didn’t cook. At the time I actually didn’t cook a whole lot so what I said was partially true. When I did cook, I had a handful of go-to recipes that never failed me and this chicken parmesan recipe is one of them. When I finally decided to hint that I might cook a little bit and I wanted to make Glenn dinner, this is the dish I made. And, as I suspected, it was once again a success with Glenn happily eating the leftovers all week-long.

Over the years I’ve continued to make this dish both for large get togethers and family dinners. Unlike many parmesans the chicken in this dish isn’t breaded making it lighter than you would expect. A generous amount of fresh rosemary and fresh thyme ensures that the dish is so flavorful that you won’t miss the breading. As an added bonus you can assemble the entire dish ahead of time and keep it, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, in the refrigerator until ready to bake it. If you do this, increase your baking time by 10 minutes.

So try this dish tonight. I’m sure your family will enjoy it as much as mine does.

CHICKEN PARMESAN

1/4 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary

2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

8 boneless skinless chicken breast filets

4 cups marinara sauce (I like Newman’s Own Organic)

1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

3/4  cup finely shredded parmesan cheese

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Combine the oil, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
  • Heat a heavy, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Working in two batches, brush both sides of the chicken filets with the oil and herb mixture.
  • Place the chicken in the skillet and lightly sear on both sides just until the filets are no longer pink. Move the chicken to a plate and repeat with the remaining filets.
  • When the second batch of chicken is cooked, return all of the chicken to the pan.
  • Pour the marinara sauce over the chicken and top with first the mozzarella then the parmesan cheeses ensuring that the cheeses are evenly distributed.
  • Bake, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes until the cheeses are melted, browned, and bubbly.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.
  • Serve over your favorite pasta.

Serves 4

 

Sausage Lasagna

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There is a tradition amongst Navy wives that the easiest way for us to support each other during our times of need is to make food.  Whether it be a birth or death, a new family in town, or any circumstance that makes getting dinner on the table unusually difficult, we make and bring food to one another.  When Sidney was born the food came in waves and fed us, in many cases breakfast, lunch, and dinner, for weeks.  Having been on both the giving and receiving end of food hospitality, I realize that the easier the dish is for the recipient to put on the table, the more it will be enjoyed.  After all, when you have your hands full the last thing you want is to have to cook.

This lasagna is my go-to meal when it is my turn to provide another family dinner.  This version uses ground Italian sausage but you can easily substitute ground beef, pork, or turkey or make it vegetarian by omitting the meat all together.   You can make the lasagna ahead of time and store it in the freezer, uncooked and tightly wrapped for up to two weeks.  When I make this for my own family I often prepare it in two smaller pans then freeze one for a later meal.  It is also very easy to increase the amount you make; I once quadrupled the dish for a friend who was bringing home her sixth child and had a large household to feed.

If you’re making this to give away, construct the lasagna in a disposable tin tray so your recipient won’t have to worry about returning your dish.  I add a fresh loaf of Italian bread, a bagged salad and bottle of dressing , and bottle of wine and deliver a complete meal where the only preparation effort is putting the dish in the oven.  It really doesn’t get any easier than this!

SAUSAGE LASAGNA

For the sauce:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound spicy Italian sausage, removed from the casings and crumbled

4 cups good quality marinara sauce

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet set over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and garlic and saute until soft, 4-5 minutes.
  • Add the sausage and stirring occasionally, cook until the meat is no longer pink, 5-6 minutes.
  • Stir in the marinara sauce and basil.  Season with salt and pepper.
  • Off the heat and set aside.

For the cheese filling:

2 cups low-fat ricotta cheese

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup broad leaf parsley, minced

Pinch fresh grated nutmeg

Salt and pepper

  • Place the ricotta cheese in a medium bowl and stir to soften.  Add the mozzarella cheese and stir until well combined.
  • Add in the eggs and stir until blended.
  • Fold in the parsley and nutmeg then season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

To assemble the lasagna:

1/2 box no-boil lasagna noodles

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Coat an 8 inch by 8 inch square baking pan with cooking spray.
  • Using a large ladle, place two scoops of the tomato and meat mixture on the bottom of the pan.  Use a rubber spatula to evenly distribute it across the entire surface.
  • Place three lasagna noodles on top of the sauce slightly overlapping their edges.
  • Add another scoop of sauce and evenly distribute it over the top of the noodles.
  • Top the sauce with 1/3 of the cheese mixture.
  • Repeat the noodle, sauce, and cheese layer until you have either used all of the cheese mixture or have filled the pan, ending with a sauce layer.
  • Top the sauce with the 2 cups of mozzarella cheese and the Parmesan cheese.
  • Cover the lasagna with tin foil and bake for 25 minutes (45 if the lasagna has been sitting in the refrigerator prior to baking).  Remove the foil from the pan and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes or until the cheese is brown and has melted.  Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 6

Turkey & Roasted Red Pepper Calzones

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Turkey leftovers…….after a big Thanksgiving dinner, they seem to haunt you for days on end.  In the immediate aftermath of the turkey coma sandwiches filled with turkey, stuffing, and gravy are on the menu.  Next you might simply reheat the original meal but after that what do you do with your mounds of turkey?  In reality, the possibilities are endless.

Right about now, after four full turkey dinners plus an assortment of leftovers, I’m just plain tired of turkey.  But I still have a lot of turkey in the refrigerator that needs to be eaten.  Last night’s solution was to use the turkey in a way that is decidedly un-Thanksgiving like. There wasn’t any mashed potatoes, bread stuffing, or Brussels spouts on the dinner table. Instead, I put a Mediterranean twist on the turkey and made calzones stuffed with red peppers, lots of gooey cheese, and yes, turkey.  The calzone crust is a Williams Sonoma flat bread recipe but the filling is all pantry and refrigerator leftovers.  I served it with a marinara dipping sauce but I think the calzones would be especially good accompanied by a roasted red pepper and eggplant avjar.

TURKEY & ROASTED RED PEPPER CALZONES

For the pastry:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast

1/2 tablespoon sugar

1/2 tablespoon salt

3/4 cup warm water

1 tablespoon olive oil

  • In a food processor, combine the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt and pulse to blend.  Add the warm water and the olive oil and pulse until the dough comes together.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 1 to 2 minutes to form a smooth ball.
  • Place the dough in a large oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled in bulk and is very spongy, about 1 1/2 hours.
  • After the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, punch it down, and knead it into a smooth cylinder.  Reshape the dough into a smooth ball and allow it to sit, covered with a dry kitchen towel, for 10 minutes.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough ball into a cylinder that is 10 inches long.  Cut into 10 even pieces and roll each piece into a smooth ball.  Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.

For the filling:

1 cup diced cooked turkey

1/3 cup ricotta cheese

2/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup minced green onion

3/4 cup diced roasted red peppers

1 teaspoon fresh minced thyme

Salt & pepper to taste

1 egg, slightly beaten

  • Combine the turkey, cheese, green onion, red peppers and thyme in a small bowl and toss well to combine.  Season with salt and pepper
  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll each dough ball into a round that is 5 to 6 inches in diameter and 1/8 of an inch thick.
  • Divide the calzone filling evenly on the center of each round and brush the edges of the dough with water.
  • Life the edges, stretching and adjusting the dough and compacting the filling, so the edges meet in the center.  Firmly crimps the edges and transfer each calzone, seam side down, to the prepared baking sheet.
  • Cut a small steam vent into the top of each calzone.
  • Place the egg in a small bowl and add 2 teaspoons of water.  Brush the egg wash over the top of each calzone.
  • Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes, then serve.

Yields: 10 calzones

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