Archive for ‘Italian’

July 10, 2012

Antipasto Skewers

When you are “Entertaining Elegantly” – it does not need to be stuffy or stuck-up or difficult! Throwing your food “on a stick” is a great way to have beautiful presentation, easy to grab goodies, that everyone will love!

Make skewered antipastos for your next picnic, they are perfect for a grab and go hearty bite between whatever activity you have going on with your picnic. No need to grab junk food or stop your fun to sit and eat – grab a stick & have fun. You could also enjoy these as tasty appetizers, a great way to start off your next party and impress your friends. These skewered antipastos are even perfect for a formal gathering (maybe in a tall vase).

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September 11, 2011

Stuffed Tomatoes

These stuffed tomatoes are everything you could want in a late summer meal…. fresh, filling, healthy. They are easily adaptable too! Think of Stuffed Tomatoes as you would Stuffed Peppers… they work basically the same way! I wanted to go full-out Italian so I stuffed these with the same type things I would use if I were making a nice bowl of summer pasta!

Italian Stuffed Tomatoes

  • 4 – 6 large vine ripened tomatoes
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1/2 cup frozen (defrosted/drained) spinach
  • 1/2 cup ricotta
  • 1/4 cup pesto (garlic pesto if you have it)
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic (if you are using a basil pesto – with garlic pesto: omit)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan
  • 2 Tablespoons Parsley
  • 2 Tablespoons Basil (or about a dozen fresh leaves)
  • 1 Tablespoon Oregeno
  • Salt & Pepper to Taste

Prepare rice according to package directions. Cool rice a little bit, then mix in all of the rest of your ingredients (except tomatoes). Cut the tops off of your tomatoes & scoop out the insides (put them aside – they are perfect for making soup/salsa/juice/sauce). Stuff your mixture into the tomatoes, top with some mozzarella or fresh grated parmesan & place them in a lbaking/casserole dish. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes

And I leave you with this, Today’s Question of the Day… what foods do you like stuffed (chicken, mushrooms, pepper, etc) and what do you like to stuff them with!?

May 9, 2011

Manicotti stuffed with spinach & ricotta

I originally made these as stuffed shells but had some manicotti in the house and returned to this filling since it was so tasty!

Stuffed Shells and Manicotti were not an Italian food that I grew up with (or had ever made before this year), probably because they are not as easy as most other pastas. With just a little bit of time (assemble the night before – the way you would lasagna) you can have the awesome flavors you want and crave with the beautiful presentation you deserve!

So next time manicotti OR large shells are on sale, pick up a box and try this filling out for yourself, I promise you’ll be happy you did! (and feel free to use as many or as few containers to prepare this in like I did – you can even make more than one night’s dinner ready to go and just leave in the fridge or freezer)

before the oven - because let's face it.. once cooked they just don't look as pretty!


[adapted from Handle the Heat & Two Peas and their Pod]

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 can mushrooms
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded (divided)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (divided)
  • 1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed, & drained (or fresh)
  • 1 T fresh basil
  • Dash of crushed red pepper
  • Salt and pepper
  • About 3 cups of marinara sauce
  • 1 box (about 18 jumbo) pasta shells OR 1 box (about 12) manicotti, cooked al dente (read box instructions)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray Pyrex 9 by 13 pan with cooking spray and put about 1/2 cup of sauce in the bottom of the pan Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Once hot, add the onion, cook until soft. Add in garlic, mushrooms. Remove from heat and cool. Meanwhile: in a large bowl combine the ricotta, 1/4 cup of the mozzarella, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, stir well. Add in the egg, spinach, basil, crushed red pepper, salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste. Mix well until creamy. Then, add the mushroom, onion, red pepper mixture.

Place the cooked manicotti/shells in the pan. Make sure they are spaced out evenly. Stuff each manicotti/shell with cheese/veggie mixture. Pour the remaining sauce over the stuffed shells. Add the leftover mozzarella and parmesan. (refrigerate with saran & foil at this point if making the night before, and add about 10 minutes to baking time – just go ahead and put your cold pan in cold oven and then start the timer once you are preheated and your pan is up to temperature!)

Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes – manicotti/shells should be bumbling and irresistible! Let cool for a few minutes and serve burn – your – face – off warm.

January 19, 2011

Mexican Stuffed Shells

Recently we were supposed to have a big “Post-Holiday Party” for all of Rich’s far-away friends but everyone ended up not being able to come (and even our local friends couldn’t make it). I had a pan of Ricotta-Spinach Stuffed Shells all ready to go already for our guests though. Since my parents were hanging out with the dogs while we hit the slopes we decided to bring dinner over. The shells were awesome (I used the sauce from my Venison Meatballs) but the pictures were not (guess I will have to make them again!)

After making my awesome Italian shells I had about a half-dozen shells already cooked that I ran out of filling and then another dozen or so shells in the box that didn’t get cooked the first time. I then stumbled across a brilliantly amazing recipe for MEXICAN Stuffed Shells (think Enchiladas but in a pasta shell instead of taco shell)


  • apprx 15 jumbo shells
  • 1 chicken breast (boiled in seasoning [taco] & shredded)
  • 1 stalk green onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, grated or finely chopped
  • 1 can refried beans
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 2 oz. cream cheese [optional]
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1 can of your favorite enchilada sauce
  • 1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
  • any other Mexican toppings of choice (cilantro, avocado, sour cream)


Boil your chicken breast with cayanne pepper, cumin, & chili powder for approx 15 minutes (just until you can easily shred it). Let it set in the flavored water for a few minutes to soak up the flavors then dump out the liquid and pour in your can of refried beans as well as your green onions (scallions), garlic, and sour cream. Mix all ingredients well, turning the heat back on if needed. Let the mixture cool while your shells are cooking

Pre-heat your oven to 350. Cook jumbo shells in boiling water until al dente (follow box directions). Drain and rinse with cold water. Pour 1/2 of your salsa & enchilada sauce in bottom of a large baking dish. Stuff each shell with your mixture and place in baking dish Cover with the other half of the enchilada sauce & salsa, then with cheddar cheese.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Let cool a few minutes so your mouth can actually enjoy this and not burn your face off! Place on a plate and top with your favorite Mexican toppings & ENJOY!

Remember what I keep telling you… think outside the box & don’t be afraid to experiment! MEXICAN would not be what comes to my mind first when I think of STUFFED SHELLS – but combining these two different origins really works.

Get in the kitchen & (think) out of the box!

January 18, 2011

Pasta Fagioli

I have said it before & I will say it again… soup is one of those things that you can just play with and can’t really mess it up too badly! Pasta Fagioli is a soup that has beans, tomato, & pasta – but once you have those basics, you can pretty much play around to get what you like! We are currently experiencing Snow Day #3 in the past three weeks: so you probably have [most of] what you need to make this soup and enjoy it (maybe even by lunch!) This was the perfect (snow day #2) meal to enjoy with my no-knead bread after playing out in the snow!

I made this soup with some crumbled sausage, but feel free to make a vegetarian version. It is a good healthy soup: hearty and filling but not loaded with cream or fats (yes, I know it has pasta: but we need starch and pasta does not have to be the enemy)! Get off the computer (or maybe look at some other recipes first if this one doesn’t seem ‘perfect’ for you), get in the kitchen and enjoy this tasty soup (reminds me of an even tasty version of that popular Italian restaurant) today


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 or 2 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 1/2 pound sausage
  • ½ bag baby carrots or 2 regular carrot
  • 2 stalks celery
  • SPICES: 1 teaspoon rosemary, 1 teaspoon thyme, 2 teaspoons oregano, 2 teaspoons parsley, 2 bay leaves
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 cans beans (today I did a mix of  small red kidney beans and cannellini beans)
  • 1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 quart chicken stock (and add water if its too thick)
  • 1 ½ cups pasta (tubetti, mini shells, etc)
  • [fresh] parmesan cheese


Heat oil over medium heat in large pot. Add onion and garlic and cook until softened. Add sausage and cooked until browned, stirring often. Add carrot, celery, spices, beans, tomatoes, water, and stock. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Simmer with lid off for at least 45 min. Remove bay leaves (if used). In a separate pot cook pasta to ‘just less than’ al dente stage. Drain pasta and toss with a very small amount of olive oil to prevent sticking [OR just throw in soup right away]. When serving: [add pasta and] top with a shaving of parmesan.
~          *          ~          *          ~          *          ~
I leave you with a Mark Twain quote: “Work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions.” – so: take a lazy, cold day to play and have fun with something you might normally think of as work!
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