2-in-1 Lasagna and Eggplant Parmigiana

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This meal was partly born out of the beautiful eggplant that I bought from a local vegetable farm. Knowing that my children would never go near the eggplant, I had the idea to make a portion of the dish into a traditional lasagna.  It was a perfect pairing because I used the exact same filling ingredients for both sides of this combo dish.

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I just love the color of eggplant, don’t you?  Did you know the color and vegetable is technically called aubergine?  I just love saying that word.  Try it with me…….”oh-ber-zheen.”

eggplantlasagna02Get it all sliced up into about 1/4 inch slices.

eggplantlasagna03I then put it through a 3-step breading process.  Flour first, then egg wash and lastly, Italian breadcrumbs.

eggplantlasagna04Here is my favorite kitchen helper.  My daughter has to stand on a stool to make it all work.  Love it!

eggplantlasagna07My favorite part of the eggplant parmigiana is that I bake it, not fry it with oil.  I feel like I taste the flavor of the eggplant more and without all the fat and calories of the oil.

eggplantlasagna08Make a slit down each Italian sausage and remove it from the casing.

eggplantlasagna09I then crumble it into a pan and brown it until cooked through.

eggplantlasagna10I used a whole bag of fresh spinach.  It looks like a lot, but it will wilt and shrink before your eyes.

eggplantlasagna11Here it is cooking in hot water……

eggplantlasagna12Here is the spinach after cooking.  It’s amazing how it cooks down like that.

eggplantlasagna13While you let your spinach cool enough to touch, boil up your lasagna noodles.

eggplantlasagna14This is really the amount of spinach that came out of that whole colander.  I don’t know why, but it surprises me every time!!  Still!

eggplantlasagna15Give it a good chop.

If you don’t want to go through the trouble of using fresh spinach, feel free to use a package of frozen spinach.  It works just as well.

eggplantlasagna16Add it to the ricotta, egg, and spices.

eggplantlasagna18Get it all mixed thoroughly.

eggplantlasagna17Here’s the lovely browned eggplant, out of the oven.

eggplantlasagna19Put down a layer of your favorite pasta sauce.

eggplantlasagna20Here’s my assembly line, all set up and ready to put together.

eggplantlasagna21I used the largest glass pan I own.  You can tell about 1/3 was eggplant and 2/3 was pasta.

eggplantlasagna22It’s easiest to spread the ricotta mixture first, then the sausage, then mozzarella and sauce on last.

eggplantlasagna23Continue with the layers until you’re all done.  The top layer has more sauce and cheese.

eggplantlasagna24Bake it until your kitchen smells like your Italian grandmother’s house.  If you don’t have an Italian grandmother, just pretend.  That’s what I did!

eggplantlasagna25Here’s a side shot of the eggplant……I mean aubergine parmigiana!! Delectable, I promise.

Warning: If you eat this right away, make sure you blow on it for a bit or you’re likely to burn the roof of your mouth.  I speak from personal experience.  But, it was kinda worth it!

2-in-1 Lasagna and Eggplant Parmigiana

1 medium size eggplant, ¼ inch slices

12 lasagna noodles, cooked al dente

3 cups Italian bread crumbs

4 eggs

2 tablespoons water

2 cups flour

5 links sweet Italian sausage, crumbled and cooked

1 bunch spinach, blanched chopped

16 oz ricotta cheese

½ cup parmesan cheese

Pinch nutmeg

2 cups mozzarella cheese

1 jar pasta sauce

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

After your eggplant is sliced, cover each piece first in flour, then 2 eggs that have been scrambled with water and lastly the bread crumbs.  Lay each slice of eggplant on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Set aside.

For your lasagna filling, combine the ricotta cheese, the other 2 eggs, spinach, parmesan, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Set aside.

To assemble this dish, use an 11×14 inch pan or your largest baking dish.  Start by pouring enough pasta sauce to cover the bottom of the dish.  Lay noodles down on one side and the baked eggplant on the other.  Spread on a layer of ricotta mixture, then sausage and mozzarella cheese.  Lightly spoon on and spread enough pasta sauce to cover each layer.  Continue each layer until you run out of ingredients.  For me this was 4 layers of pasta/eggplant and 3 layers of cheese/sausage.

The top layer is pasta and mozzarella cheese only.  Bake this at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and golden brown.

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Meatball Marinara Sub

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My family likes to go to a popular sub sandwich shop for lunch on the weekends.  For as long as we have been going to this home of the $5 foot long, my daughter only orders the meatball sub.  With all the different options of sandwich fillings, I cannot get her to try anything else but that.  So, that’s what gave me the idea to make them myself.  My daughter did say that mine tastes better……….smart girl!


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Start with the combo of beef and pork.

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This is the best way I’ve found to make uniform meatballs.  My secret weapon is the ice cream scoop.  I use it for ice cream, cookie batter and of course meatballs.


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Roll each meatball  into little balls.

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Baking makes for a little healthier meatballs and it’s a lot faster than cooking on the stove top.  Really, it’s because I’m just too lazy to stand at the stove and turn each of these little meatballs.

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When they come out of the oven, place them into a pan with marinara sauce.  Of course you can use these with spaghetti, but my daughter insisted on meatball subs this night.

Meatball Marinara Sub

Meatballs

1 ½ pounds ground beef (80/20)

1 ½ pounds ground pork

2 eggs, beaten

¼ cup milk

½ cup breadcrumbs

1 tsp garlic salt

½ tsp pepper

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp onion powder

½ tsp dried basil

¼ tsp paprika

Sandwich

1 jar marinara sauce

Bread rolls

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Combine all ingredients into a large bowl and mix until well incorporated.  Scoop with ice cream scoop onto baking pan.  Roll between your hands to make them into a ball.  Drizzle some olive oil over each meatball.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes.

Place the meatballs into a pan and pour in your favorite jar pasta sauce until sauce is warmed through and the meatballs soak in the sauce.  Slice and toast the rolls in the oven until a little crisp.  Fill each roll with meatballs and sauce on top, then sprinkle on some mozzarella cheese.

Makes 35 large meatballs.

Baked Turkey Meatballs

In our house, we are trying to eat healthier, so we’ve replaced ground beef with ground turkey altogether.   Switching to turkey did not leave us missing beef at all.  These meatballs were tender and moist with tons of flavor.  I definitely felt like I could eat more just because it was turkey.

And, they passed the kids test with flying colors.

Here is my flavor-filled turkey meatball mixture.  Using this scooper really saves me time and makes sure they are all the same size and cook evenly.

After scooping them, I still have to roll them between my hands to get them round.

My kids comes in handy for this task too.  They may as well put all those years of playing with play-doh to work, right?!

Because these meatballs are baked, that adds an extra health benefit from shallow frying with oil.

Look at that juicy white meat!  Just delectable.

The night I made these, I used them with spaghetti.  They would also be great in a meatball sandwich.  If you made them smaller, they could be a tasty appetizer with teriyaki  or sweet and sour sauce.  Be creative!  I know you can.

Baked Turkey Meatballs

2 20 oz pkgs Italian Seasoned Ground Turkey

2 eggs, beaten

¼ cup milk

½ cup breadcrumbs

1 tsp garlic salt

½ tsp pepper

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp onion powder

½ tsp dried basil

¼ tsp paprika

Combine all ingredients into a large bowl and mix until well incorporated.  Scoop with ice cream scoop onto baking pan.  Roll between your hands to make them into a ball.  Drizzle some olive oil over each meatball.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes.  Enjoy in your favorite spaghetti sauce or as a meatball sandwich.

Makes 35 large meatballs.

Chicken Picatta Pasta

It is HOT!  Southern California has been having a heat wave of triple digit temps all week.  And, the hotter it is, the less I want to use my oven, let alone be in the kitchen.  So, I found this refreshing pasta recipe that did not use the oven.

I did have to be in the kitchen though, but not for too long.

This is diced chicken breast, seasoned and browned nicely.

Pull it out when it’s done and set aside for now.

I’ve diced the aromatic shallots and garlic and gotten together the other ingredients for the dish.

Saute shallots and garlic in olive oil and butter.

After adding in the wine and reducing, add in some flour to make a thick sauce.  Thin out the sauce with chicken broth.

Stir in the capers.

Once all the flavors have had some time to marry, add the chicken back in and a squeeze of lemon.  Add in some penne pasta and you’ve got a simple and quick meal, made all in one pan.  You gotta love only having to clean up one pan, right?

Here’s is the very aromatic and savory chicken piccata pasta, garnished with some slices of green onion.  I love the creamy sauce with the hint of sour lemon juice and capers.  Refreshing for a hot summer night.  A tall glass of lemonade would complete the meal for me!

Chicken Picatta Pasta Toss

Adapted from Rachel Ray

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 pounds chicken breast , cut into 1-inch pieces

Salt and pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 shallot, chopped

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 cup white wine

1 lemon, juiced

1 cup chicken broth or stock

2 tablespoons capers, drained

1 pound penne rigate pasta, cooked to al dente

Chopped scallions, for garnish

Heat a deep nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil and the chicken to the pan. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Brown chicken until lightly golden all over, about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove chicken from pan and return the skillet to the heat. Reduce heat to medium. Add another tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter, the garlic and shallots to the skillet. Saute garlic and shallots 3 minutes. Add flour and cook 2 minutes. Whisk in wine and reduce liquid 1 minute. Whisk lemon juice and broth into sauce. Stir in capers. When the liquid comes to a bubble, add remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter to the sauce to give it a little shine. Add chicken back to the pan and heat through, 1 to 2 minutes. Toss hot pasta with chicken and sauce and serve. Adjust salt and pepper, to your taste. Top with fresh snipped scallions.

Cilantro Parsley Pesto Chicken

I know this bowl of green stuff looks very unassuming and maybe even a little scary.  Let me put you at ease by saying that this may be my favorite new condiment/sauce/dip/very yummy stuff!  It is really easy to make and packs a lot of flavor in one spoonful.  I’ve used it on chicken (as I’ll show below), mixed it into pasta and even spread it on a sandwich.  It just gives anything bland a punch of flavor.

This is not a traditional pesto as there is no basil or pine nuts, or any nuts at all.

The easiest part of this pesto is it’s all made in a blender, without cutting or chopping anything else.  First add in olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper.

Wash one bunch each of cilantro and flat leaf parsley.  I know this looks like a lot, but it all gets blended into only about one cup of pesto.

With your bare hands just rip off the tops, stems included.

Poor herbs, they had no idea was was comin’ to ’em!

Stuff the herbs down into the blender.  Now here’s the hard part, if you have a cheap blender like mine.  Once you start the blender it will blend the bottom half pretty easily, but the herbs toward the top would be blended.  Intermittently stop the blender and push all the leaves down toward the blades.  You can also drizzle more olive oil in slowly as the blender is running.

Here’s the lovely green concoction!

Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

My favorite way to use the pesto is on chicken breasts.  I use chicken with bone and skin on.  Lift the skin and with your fingers and rub the pesto onto the meat, and then some more over the skin too.

Roast the chicken in the oven and savor the beautiful herbal flavors of cilantro and parsley in the juicy chicken dish.

Cilantro-Parsley Pesto Chicken

2 cups loosely packed fresh cilantro

2 cups loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 large garlic clove, minced

3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

6 chicken breasts, bone and skin on

 

Add in oil, garlic, herbs and seasoning to blender.  Pulse blender until blended well. With machine running, add in more oil in a slow, steady stream if needed.

Lift the skin of the chicken and with your fingers and rub the pesto onto the meat, and then some more over the skin too.

Bake at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes or until done.

Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Shells

These stuffed shells are a cinch to make and bake.  They are also a great make-ahead dinner item.  They can sit in the fridge during the day and just bake them right before dinner time and voila, dinner is ready!

My only problem is that my daughter doesn’t eat anything green.  So her plate ends up with all the cheesy stuffing and the shells are devoured quickly.  That’s why I always cook extra shells just for her.  Can someone please tell me when this perpetual-fear-of-vegetables stage will be over?

Combine the ricotta, spinach, basil, egg, nutmeg and salt and pepper and mix well.

The options are endless as to what you’d like to add to your stuffing…………fresh herbs, bacon, prosciutto, Italian sausage.  You can also substitute the spinach with artichokes or any other vegetable.

If you add a protein, this dish would hit all the food groups; meat group, dairy group, vegetable group, and pasta group.

Here’s the lovely mixture.  I really could just eat this with a spoon………..except for the raw egg part.

Use the jumbo shells.

I always cook extra shells,  for my picky daughter and also because some will break in the boiling process.

Once stuffed, cover with sauce and cheese and bake.  Simple and delicious!

 

Spinach Ricotta Stuffed Shells 

24 jumbo pasta shells

1 15-oz. container ricotta

2 cups shredded mozzarella

1 10-oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

10 leaves fresh basil, chopped

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Salt and pepper

Pinch of ground nutmeg

1 26-oz. jar spaghetti sauce

 

1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Cook pasta shells according to package label directions; drain and set aside to cool. While pasta cooks, in a large bowl, stir together ricotta, spinach, basil, egg, salt, pepper, nutmeg.

2. Spread 3/4 cup spaghetti sauce over bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Stuff shells with cheese mixture and place in dish. Spoon remaining sauce over shells and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella.

3. Cover baking dish with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove foil and bake about 10 minutes longer, until bubbly and cheese begins to brown.

Italian Bruschetta Sandwich

This whole sandwich was made from leftovers of an Italian dinner date at home with my hubby.  The sandwich is the perfect package when it comes to packing in lots of flavor all in one bite.  It was so very true in this instance.

Here I have layers of creamy cheese and avocado, salty Italian deli meats, and the bruschetta provides the tang from the balsamic vinegar and freshness of basil.

I layered a piece of whole wheat bread with goat’s milk cheese, capicola, salame and my homemade tomato bruschetta (which I’ve posted before).

And then I topped it all off with avocado slices.  Why?  Because everything tastes better with avocado.  I used hass avocados because that’s what we have most of in Southern California and because I think it has the best flavor.

I didn’t provide a recipe because the pictures are pretty self-explanatory and because this post was mostly to get you thinking about putting anything into a sandwich that you might want.  There are NO RULES when it comes to sandwiches, am I right?!

Stromboli

I would be bold enough to say that I like stromboli more than pizza.  Technically they are the same thing, but with the stromboli you get more toppings.  And I am all about the toppings!

Stromboli is a made on a rectangular piece of pizza dough, filled with anything you would put on a pizza.  It’s then rolled up and baked until the dough is browned and crispy.

I also love how I can peek through the slits on top and see the filling all nestled up inside, bubbling away.



When I’m in a hurry for dinner, I usually go to my local mom and pop pizza restaurant and buy their premade dough balls.  So good and cheap.  I can get one large dough ball for $4.00 and make three stromboli from it.

Roll it out to a rectangular-like shape, spoon on your favorite pasta sauce and go crazy with your fillings.  Here I have spinach, cooked Italian sausage, artichoke and pepperoni.

And, what’s a stromboli without cheese?  Sprinkle on your mozzarella cheese.

Roll the whole thing up and lay it seam side down.  Make sure to pinch the ends closed so all the goodness stays inside.  I also sprayed a sheet of aluminum with oil to help with the sticking.

Make sure you cut some slits into the top of the stromboli to release the steam.  You don’t want this thing busting open in your oven!

If I had remembered, I would have taken a picture of this baked beauty cut open and shown you yummy inside.  But trust me, it was beautiful and just as delectable as it’s flat cousin, the pizza.

Stromboli

3 (10 ounce) pizza dough ball

1 (14 ounce) jar pizza sauce

1 (8 ounce) package sliced pepperoni sausage

5 links Italian sausage, cooked and crumbled

1 jar marinated artichokes, sliced thin

1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed squeezed dry

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

olive oil

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Roll out pizza dough flat into a rectangle on cookie sheet. Spoon on the pizza sauce on over the surface of the dough (some may be left over). Place your toppings as desired.   Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Fold dough over and place seam side down.  Pinch ends and sides together. Cut slits in the top and brush with olive oil.

Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Slice into individual sections to serve.   Enjoy warm, but watch that first bite.  It will be hot.

Lasagna Rolls

This my new favorite way to have lasagna!!  They are made with all the same ingredients, but just assembled differently. They’re also great because I like having more of the pasta with my filling.  Speaking of filling, this recipe calls for prosciutto, which is one of my favorite Italian deli meats………yum!  The bits of salty meat works so well with the creamy ricotta and spinach.

I think they’re a little fancier than normal layered lasagna.  It’s good for when you want to make comfort food a little nicer to look at.

Boil the pasta until al dente and then lay out to allow them to cool down and dry out a little.  I used a paper towel to dab off excess water.

Mix up the ricotta and parmesan cheese, chopped spinach, prosciutto and egg.

Spoon some of the cheese mixture onto one end of the lasagna noodle.

Here’s the cute little bundle all snuggled up in the noodle.

Line them all up without touching each other.

Spoon on some marinara sauce over each roll.

Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the whole thing and bake it until golden and bubbly.

 

 

 

Lasagna Rolls

 

Adapted from Giada DeLaurentis

 

1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped

1 large egg, beaten to blend

3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for salting water

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

12 uncooked lasagna noodles

2 cups marinara sauce

1 cup shredded mozzarella (about 4 ounces)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Whisk the ricotta, spinach, 1 cup Parmesan, prosciutto, egg, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl to blend.

Add a tablespoon or 2 of oil to a large pot of boiling salted water. Boil the noodles until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Arrange the noodles in a single layer on a baking sheet to prevent them from sticking.

Butter a 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass baking dish. Lay out 4 lasagna noodles on a work surface, then spread about 3 tablespoons of ricotta mixture evenly over each noodle. Starting at 1 end, roll each noodle like a jelly roll. Spoon some marinara sauce into a baking dish and lay the lasagna rolls seam side. Repeat with the remaining noodles and ricotta mixture. Spoon 1 cup of marinara sauce over the lasagna rolls. Sprinkle the mozzarella and remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan over the lasagna rolls. Cover tightly with foil. Bake until heated through and the sauce bubbles, about 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until the cheese on top becomes golden, about 15 minutes longer. Let stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the remaining marinara sauce in a heavy small saucepan over medium heat until hot, and serve alongside.

Chicken Cacciatore

I just learned that cacciatore means hunter in Italian.  So this dish, is chicken made in the “hunter-style” with tomatoes, onions and herbs.  I served it here with creamy parmesan polenta.

I think that driving to the grocery store in my SUV and picking out a package of raw chicken thighs to bring home could be a form of hunting.  Okay, I know it’s a stretch, but none the less I managed to get meat into my kitchen and prepare it for my family, as a hunter would have done.  And boy was it tasty!

Start by browning the chicken thighs.

In the same pan, add the vegetable and cook until soft.

Add in the tomatoes, capers and wine.

Reduce and add the chicken back in to finish cooking and for all the flavors to marry.

I deeply implore you to try this with creamy polenta.  The flavors just sing together.  The creaminess helps to balance the acid of the tomatoes and capers in the chicken.  You will call this a new favorite, I just know it.

And when you serve this to your family,  make sure that they appreciate the fact that you “hunted” for the meat and prepared for them a delicious home-cooked meal with your bare hands!

Chicken Cacciatore

Adapted from Giada De Laurentis

 

8 chicken thighs

2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

1/2 cup all purpose flour, for dredging

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large red bell pepper, chopped

1 large green bell pepper, chopped

1 onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

3/4 cup dry white wine

1 ( 28-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice

3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

3 tablespoons drained capers

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves

 

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour to coat lightly.

In a large heavy saute pan, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and saute just until brown, about 5 minutes per side. If all the chicken does not fit in the pan, saute it in 2 batches. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.

Add the bell peppers, onion and garlic to the same pan and saute over medium heat until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, broth, capers and oregano. Return the chicken pieces to the pan and turn them to coat in the sauce.

Bring the sauce to a simmer. Continue simmering over medium-low heat until the chicken is just cooked through, about 30 minutes for the breast pieces, and 20 minutes for the thighs.

Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a platter. If necessary, boil the sauce until it thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Spoon off any excess fat from atop the sauce. Spoon the sauce over the chicken.