Tortellini Spinach Bake…

A quick and easy baked pasta dish with cheese tortellini, fresh spinach, and yellow peppers tossed in a creamy, tangy tomato sauce. Perfect for busy weeknights!

Tortellini Spinach Bake

Cassidy is currently pushing through 4 teeth at once. Her incisors, to be exact. She usually teethes pretty hard (congestion, runny nose, rashes, fever, etc), but this time seems to be much worse. She hasn’t been acting like herself in days, not to mention, her little nose has been like a leaky faucet non-stop. Have you ever gotten ‘eskimo kisses’ from a toddler with a snotty nose? Not the most pleasant, but I’ll be darned if I deny my sweet baby girl her eskimo kisses!

Anyway, with Cassidy feeling under the weather, I haven’t had much time to cook. It’s times like these that I love baked pastas. I can pull out a bag of frozen tortellini and toss it with whatever I have in my fridge or pantry and dinner’s DONE! That leaves me plenty of extra time for cuddles! :)

Tortellini Spinach Bake 2

Tortellini Spinach Bake

1 lb. cheese tortellini
2 large handfuls fresh spinach leaves, washed
1 red or yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 26-oz. jar marinara sauce
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13 inch pan with cooking spray. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the tortellini for about 6 minutes (you don’t want to completely cook them). Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the marinara sauce, then stir in the bell peppers, spinach, and cream cheese.

Add the cooked tortellini and toss to coat. Spread the mixture in the prepared pan and top with the shredded mozzarella. Cover with foil and bake for about 20 minutes, until bubbly. Serves 6.

Recipe source: Sing For Your Supper original

Tortellini Spinach Bake 2

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Oven-Baked Meatballs…

Spaghetti and Meatballs

I don’t know how you do yours, but when I used to make meatballs, I made them in a frying pan. They sputtered like crazy, I had to turn them 4 or 5 times, then I would still worry about them being done on the inside. And when I was finished cooking all those meatballs (in batches, mind you), I had grease all over my kitchen. Not ideal. And honestly, my meatballs weren’t ever that great. They were usually pretty tough from over-cooking. Finally, I got wise! I watched Nigella Lawson bake her meatballs in the oven and the lightbulb went off! Thanks Nigella! For years now, I’ve been doing them this way. SOOOOO much better!

Oven-Baked Meatballs

1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1 egg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, using your hands, mix all ingredients until combined. Roll into 1 1/2 inch balls and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, until outsides are nicely browned. Serve with spaghetti, noodles, sandwiches, pizzas, soups, and more!

Recipe source: Sing For Your Supper original

**Amy’s tip: make a bunch of these and freeze them! They freeze beautifully and it’s so easy to grab a few from the freezer on a busy weeknight! Try rolling them into different sizes (mini-size for soups and pizzas and jumbo-size for spaghetti and meatball subs)!

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Portobello Mushroom Parmesan…

We’re all familiar with chicken parmesan- a breaded chicken cutlet topped with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. A lot of people’s favorite “Italian” dish. I’ve never been much of a fan, for whatever reason. This recipe, however, I’m a HUGE fan of! It’s basically just a vegetarian version of chicken parm; and it’s soooo much better, in my opinion. I love mushrooms any way I can get them and when they’re topped with marinara sauce and fresh mozzarella cheese??? Sign me up! The best part about this recipe? It’s ready for the table in about 30 minutes. You can’t beat that!

Portobello Mushroom Parmesan

4 portobello mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed
salt
pepper
1 cup marinara sauce (homemade or store-bought)
fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced in 1/4 thick slices (shredded is fine too)
grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Season mushrooms with salt and pepper. Spread 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce on the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Place the mushrooms top-down on top of the marinara sauce and top with the remaining marinara sauce. Sprinkle with the parmesan cheese and bake about 15 minutes. Top with fresh mozzarella and return to oven for another 10-15 minutes until cheese is nicely melted. Serves 4.

Recipe source: heavily adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

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Rotini Lasagna…

Everybody loves lasagna but they don’t always have the time to put one together. Let’s be frank- it’s a slight pain in the butt. Not hard. Just a little time-consuming. I ran across this problem last week while trying to think up a quick dinner; lasagna sounded SO delicious, but I just didn’t have the time to whip one up. That’s where this pasta comes in. It’s totally quick and easy (we’re talking under 30 minutes to make!) and has all the delicious components of lasagna…without any of the trouble! The most time-consuming part is browning the beef and boiling the pasta – easy peasy! This is another extremely weeknight-friendly dish, and I think we could all use a few more of those! Try this next time you’ve got a craving for lasagna but don’t have the time! It won’t disappoint!

Rotini Lasagna

1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound (16 ounces) rotini pasta (any short pasta you have will work)
1 28-ounce jar spaghetti sauce (of course homemade is great too)
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown and drain beef in a large skillet. Stir in spaghetti sauce, water, salt, ricotta cheese and parsley.

Cook the pasta according to package directions and drain. Stir into beef mixture. Pour into a greased 9×13 baking dish and top with the mozzarella cheese. Bake for 15 minutes. Top with additional parsley, if desired and serve.

Recipe source: inspired by a recipe seen on The Pioneer Woman via Tasty Kitchen

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Nana’s Lasagna…

Ok, say you want really delicious, hearty lasagna for dinner but you don’t have hours and hours to spend on it – this one’s for you!  This is my Nana’s recipe for lasagna and it’s been a family favorite throughout the years. It’s just perfect for busy moms and hard-working people who don’t have the luxury of spending lots and lots of time in the kitchen for dinner. Since you don’t have to cook the noodles beforehand, you can whip it up in practically no time and put a really delicious meal on the table for your kids or your hard-working man (I know my hard-working man really appreciates this- he loves a good lasagna!)! This was perfect for us because I was able to make it for dinner one night, then hubby could have the leftovers for his dinner on the nights I was gone for opera rehearsals (it makes a big ‘ol pan full!). If you don’t like the thought of using store-bought tomato sauce, by all means, use homemade. This is a perfect meal because it’s really comforting, simple and hearty- a real comfort meal in half the time! Give it a try!

Nana’s Lasagna

1 lb. lean ground beef
32 oz. spaghetti sauce (I used one 16-oz. jar Prego Traditional and one 16-oz. jar Prego Basil and Garlic)
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups (16 oz.) ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (plus more for the top)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 8-oz. pkg. lasagna noodles- uncooked

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown meat and drain off fat. Add spaghetti sauce and water. Simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside. Combine ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, eggs, parsley, salt, pepper and garlic and set aside.  In a greased 9×13 pan, pour approx. 1/2 cup meat sauce; cover with a layer of lasagna noodles. Cover with approx. 1 1/2 cups meat sauce; spread half of cheese mixture over the sauce (don’t worry if the layers mix a tiny bit). Repeat layers. Top with the remaining meat sauce. Cover with foil and bake for 55-60 minutes. Remove foil and top with remaining mozzarella cheese; bake for an addition 5-10 minutes. Let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.

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Spaghetti and Meatballs…

Believe it or not, I’m not a huge fan of meatballs in my spaghetti.  Something about them bothers me, but I can’t really explain what it is.  After a few weeks of wanting to try Ina Garten’s marinara recipe, I decided to make some for dinner. Then I thought I might as well throw some meatballs in the mix too, just to see if I could come up with a recipe I liked.  Of course (no surprise whatsoever) Ina’s marinara was totally delicious – I love that she uses red wine! It’s a little tangy and really hearty and thick.  I decided to just wing it on the meatballs – I mixed ground beef with fresh bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, an egg and salt and pepper.  Very simple and straight forward.  And since I hate standing over a skillet turning splattering meatballs every 2 minutes, I just threw them in the oven for about 25 minutes and they came out perfectly!

meatballs1

Hubby and I really enjoyed our spaghetti and meatballs!  Since the sauce is so robust and full of flavor, I didn’t spice the meatballs up too much – I just let the sauce take care of it.  I’ll most definitely be using this marinara recipe again and again…it’ll most likely be my stand-by marinara in the future!  This was a really (really!) yummy dinner – I’m glad I finally found a meatball that I’d actually want to put in my spaghetti!

Meatballs

1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (3 slices white bread ground up in the food processor)
1 egg
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients until combined. Roll meat into 1 1/2-2 inch balls and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes until browned and cooked throughout.

Marinara Sauce
-Ina Garten

1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup good red wine, such as Chianti
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large (12-inch) skillet. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper. Cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 15 minutes.

*I also added about a tablespoon of brown sugar to add a little sweetness

meatballs2


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Lasagna….My First!

I know, I know – this is a terrible picture! But it was late, there was limited natural light left in my dining room, and we were hungry, dangit! I was in a hurry! So anyway, this is the Pioneer Woman’s recipe for lasagna. I’ve actually never (I know…its sad) made a homemade lasagna before and this one looked pretty good -I’m a big fan of all of her recipes, so I thought I’d give it a go. My sister made it for her family, too (she’s also a big fan of P-Dub). So here it was – my first time to ever make lasagna! I personally didn’t really like it. Probably for a number of reasons that would be completely my fault. First, I used 2 pounds of ground turkey instead of the 1 pound sausage and 1 pound beef that she calls for; secondly I dumped in a ton of dried oregano before realizing she didn’t actually call for oregano, but dried basil…oops (I really don’t care for oregano that much); thirdly, I didn’t let it set long enough after cooking before serving, so when I tried to serve it, it ran all over the place (good thing it was just me and hubby!). So there you have it – 3 mistakes that could’ve easily led to my disliking this recipe; then again, it could just be that I’m really picky about lasagna (my mom has the best!) and set my standards too high. My sister didn’t love it either, but she said her hubby thought it was the best lasagna he’s ever eaten. I guess its just a matter of opinion! At least I can say I’ve made my own lasagna before!

And there’s my crappy picture of the lasagna running all over the place…its terrible, I know. Don’t judge! Anyhow, if you’d like the recipe, click here.

And now I leave you with a random picture of my husband (cute, isn’t he?) eating watermelon….don’t ask why – I just thought it was cute!

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Missing Italy…Tuscan Chicken

Ok, ok, so I didn’t go to Tuscany. I’ve never actually been to that part of Italy. But I guess the point is that I have been to Italy; last summer – I was fortunate enough to visit a tiny little coastal town called Vietri sul Mare on the Amalfi Coast. Bliss. Sheer bliss. Ok, not all of it. In fact, most of it was grueling, un-air conditioned, who-schedules-voice-lessons-at-eight-AM-after-a-midnight-performance-the-night-before WORK. I was there doing a summer opera program and between voice lessons, staging, and rehearsals we barely had time to sleep, let alone do all the sight-seeing, gelato eating, picture taking and shopping I had had in mind. Silly me. However, it was gorgeous and as busy as I made it out to be, there was time for plenty of gelato eating! (And another added plus – being a blonde, in a small southern town where blondes aren’t commonly seen does wonders for a girl’s self confidence! I’ve never been whooped and hollered at like that!) One of the things I miss most about Italy (obviously) is the food. I’ve never in my life had better pizza. Everything was so fresh and light. I ate like a big fat pig the entire time! But that’s neither here, nor there.

I’ve really been missing my little southern Italian town this summer. Its been exactly a year since I was there and I’m dying to go back. Since a trip to Italy isn’t really within our budget right now, I decided to do the next best thing and just make some yummy Italian food. I saw this recipe in Chelle’s blog – Brown Eyed Baker, formerly known as Sugar and Spice and knew it was just what I was looking for!

Tuscan Chicken

-Sugar and Spice blog

1 lb boneless chicken cutlets
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
1 bag fresh baby spinach leaves (5–6 oz)
1 cup fresh pre-sliced mushrooms (rinsed)…I left the mushrooms out
1 (14.5-ounce) can Italian-style diced tomatoes (undrained)-I used fresh grape tomatoes cut in half
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese

Preheat large sauté pan on medium-high 2–3 minutes. Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper.
Place oil in pan; swirl to coat. Arrange chicken in pan and  cook 3–4 minutes on one side or until lightly browned.
Turn chicken and add remaining ingredients to pan (except cheese). Cover and cook 4–5 minutes or until internal temperature of chickenreaches 165°F. Use a meat thermometer to accurately ensure doneness. Meanwhile, slice mozzarella thinly.
Remove pan from heat. Top chicken with cheese slices; cover and let stand 2–3 minutes or until cheese melts. Serve.

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