Dinner, Pasta

Italian Sausage and Shells Dinner

Quick Dinner idea! Do you have pasta, sausage and diced tomatoes on hand? Heavy cream as well? Then this would be a great weeknight dinner that comes together really quickly. This made a really great meal paired with a salad for Eric, Emily and I last week when she was here for dinner between calls.. Emily was going to take the leftovers home for her boyfriend’s dinner but forgot! So lucky me – great lunch today!

  • 8 ounces uncooked medium shells
  • 1 lb. Italian sausages (spicy or mild) crumbled
  • 1/2 medium onion chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 (14 fluid ounce) can diced tomatoes with juices
  • 1 (14 fluid ounce) can finely chopped or crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup heavy/whipping cream
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Fresh basil, torn to taste (optional)
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese to taste
  1. Boil a salted pot of water for the pasta. Cook the shells al dente according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, chop the onion and take the sausages out of their casings and crumble it into a skillet. Sauté the onion and sausage over medium-high heat for 7 minutes, stirring it occasionally.
  3. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Drain the fat from the pan.
  5. Add the canned tomatoes to the pan. Simmer the sauce for 10 minutes.
  6. Stir in the cream, basil, and season the sauce with salt & pepper as needed. Cook for another minute or two and then toss with the drained pasta.


Chicken Riggies

Want something locally inspired and hot and spicy?  Hubby wanted to give Chicken Riggies a try on Saturday night and we found a recipe to work with.  Once we put this idea together we invited our Foodie Friends over for a little wine and dinner.  This might be a little late for Valentine’s Day dinner, but why not give this a try this weekend?  Everyday is Valentines;’s Day when you share it with someone you love!


1 (16 ounce) package rigatoni pasta 
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut in bite-sized pieces
salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 onion, diced 
2 Cubanelle peppers, seeded and thinly sliced 
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
3 roasted red peppers, drained and chopped 
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced (or 2 hot cherry peppers)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh basil, for topping


Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add rigatoni pasta and cook until tender yet firm to the bite, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and keep warm.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and cook in the hot oil until lightly browned on all sides, and no longer pink in the center, about 7 minutes. Remove the chicken from the skillet and keep warm.
Stir onion, Cubanelle peppers, and garlic into the skillet. Cook and stir until onion softens, about 4 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and hot cherry peppers. Bring to a simmer. Stir in cooked chicken and heavy cream; simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in cooked pasta.
Serve garnished with Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.


Crockpot Pizza

Spring has been very busy with late baseball practices or games, and when you get home after 7:30 or so you really don’t want to cook. Takeout or fast food for us is not really on our menu.  And we like to sit down as a family and enjoy a meal together.  So crock pot meals are our go too.  Especially ones that don’t take too long to cook.  this recipe has been around for a few years and we have tweaked it lately with using Italian Sausage and adding green pepper.  This is adapted from Taste of Home Slow Cooker Meals.


1 package (16 ounces) wide egg noodles
1-1/2 pounds ground sausage or ground beef
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1 jar (26 ounces) spaghetti sauce
1 jar (4-1/2 ounces) sliced mushrooms, drained
1-1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 package (3-1/2 ounces) sliced pepperoni, halved
3 cups (12 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
3 cups (12 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese


Cook noodles according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook beef, pepper and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in the spaghetti sauce, mushrooms and Italian seasoning. Drain noodles. 

In a 5-qt. slow cooker coated with cooking spray, spread a third of the meat sauce. Cover with a third of the noodles and pepperoni. Sprinkle with a third of the cheese. Repeat layers twice. Press down to compact.
Cover and cook on low for 2-3 hours or until heated through and cheese is melted. Yield: 6-8 servings.


    Pepperoni Lasanga

     We were at the grocery store this afternoon and I saw a large display of mozzarella, lasagna sheets, ricotta cheese in the dairy case on an end cap.  At first I thought it might be the Italian foods festival , but then I realized that Easter is a week away and Lasagna is a staple dish in many houses for Easter dinner.  So why not share my recent Lasagna creation we made a couple of weeks ago.  This one feature pepperoni that is either fried or baked to a crisp.  Adds a unique flavor, plus you can’t help sampling the pepperoni after you have heated it up!  This makes a ton of Lasagna, so plan on a few meals for the upcoming week.



    Ready for the oven

    1 pound lasagna sheets
    8 ounces sliced pepperoni (about 2 cups)
    4 cups Tomato Sauce
    1 pound ricotta
    1 pound shredded mozzarella
    2 pounds bulk Italian sausage, cooked
    3/4 cup grated Parmesan



    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.        
    Boil 6 quarts of water, add a pinch of salt and cook the pasta to almost done, about 7 minutes. Remove from the water and shock in an ice bath. 
    In a medium saucepan, add the pepperoni and sauté over medium heat until crispy, about 10 minutes ( or you can place the pepperoni in a single layer on a backing sheet covered with parchment paper and bake about 5 minutes to crisp up.Remove from the heat and drain on a paper towel. 
    In a 10- by 14- by 3-inch baking pan or dish, pour 1 cup of the Tomato Sauce in the bottom and around the sides. Layer lasagna sheets on the bottom of the pan, overlapping by 1/2 inch. Add one-third of the ricotta and one-quarter of the mozzarella, sausage, pepperoni and Parmesan. Spoon 1 cup of tomato sauce over the top. Repeat this two more times. 
    On the top sheet, finish with the remaining cup of tomato sauce, mozzarella, sausage and pepperoni and dust with Parmesan. Bake until the cheese bubbles around the edges and the top is melted and light golden brown, about 45 minutes. If baking the dish from the freezer, add 15 to 20 minutes to the cook time, or until it’s bubbly. Cover loosely with foil if it’s browning too quickly. Remove from the oven; let sit for 15 minutes. Cut and serve immediately with more sauce, if desired.   


    Dueling Gnocchi

    A couple of weeks ago we made this dish with some homemade sausage from a class we took at a local Italian market .  This was requested  by our son following his ACL surgery.  The recipe is from a few years ago, but always a favorite. How can you not take request for dinner when some has just had surgery, and knows he has a long road to recovery. His basketball season was cut short and there will be no spring baseball.

    Butter and Sage Sauce (or Thyme)

    1 16 oz package of Gnocchi
    1/2 cup butter
    9 fresh sage leaves, torn into pieces or 2 Tbsp. dried
    4 Tbsp Parmesan Cheese

    Heat butter and sage in saucepan over low heat 5 to 7 minutes.  Prepare Gnocchi and add to butter sauce, coating well. (We heated the Gnocchi up in frying pan with olive oil, but you can cook to package directions)  Sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese and enjoy immediately.

    *  Note that this is called dueling gnocchi because we made two batches of sauce – one with Sage and one with Thyme leaves.  Our son loves them both!


    Creamy Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms

    Chicken Thighs have become more of a staple in our freezer and on our dinner plate. While boneless chicken breast are the preferred cut, thigh meat is very flavorful and is relatively inexpensive.  You can always find it on sale.  We have also found some great recipes that are specific to using thighs rather than chicken breast.  
    This recipe is no exception.  The sauce was wonderful and was great over the rice that accompanied our dinner.  


    4 to 6 chicken thighs -skin on and bone in
    2-3 teaspoons garlic powder
    Salt and pepper

    For the Sauce:
    1 tablespoon minced garlic
    14 oz cups sliced Portobello mushrooms (1½ cups)
    1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs
    2 teaspoons fresh chopped parsley
    1½ cups 2% milk – (We used a mixture of skim and heavy cream)
    Salt and pepper, to taste
    1 tablespoon cornstarch (cornflour) mixed with 2 tablespoons of extra milk mixture
    ¾ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese, divided
    ¼ cup fresh chopped parsley – to serve


    Preheat oven to 400°F.  Season chicken with garlic powder, salt and pepper.

    Heat cooking oil spray in a large, non stick and oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Sear chicken thighs until golden and crispy on each side (about 3-4 minutes each side). Transfer to a warm plate.

    Drain some of the excess fat from the pan, reserving 2 tablespoons for added flavor. Return pan to medium-high heat; sauté the garlic in the pan juices until fragrant (about 1 minute). Add the mushrooms, herbs and 2 teaspoons of parsley; fry until they just begin to soften.

    Reduce heat to low-medium heat, add the milk and bring to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to your taste.

    Add the milk/cornstarch mixture to the center of the pan, and continue to simmer while quickly stirring the mixture through until the sauce thickens.

    Add ½ cup of Parmesan cheese; allow sauce to simmer for a further minute until cheese melts through the sauce. Add the chicken back into the pan; transfer to the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the chicken is completely cooked through.

    Sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup of parsley and ¼ cup Parmesan cheese.

    Serve with steamed rice or pasta.


    Now that’s a spicy meatball!

    Last summer I found a recipe from the Meatball Shop for the best tasting meatball I have ever had.  They were easy and packed with flavor.   I had made them for our dinner club pasta night and then for my niece’s bridal shower.   I think I even impressed our Italian neighbors and friends given that my hubby and I have no Italian blood in our crazy family tree when I served these.

    Well now I found another of the Meatball Shops specialties – Spicy Pork Meatballs.  I made a batch this past Sunday with homemade marinara sauce and served them over Pappardelle.  In the pictures attached, the pasta is under all these spicy meatballs.  Hubby and I were having a fasting blood draw this past Saturday morning for our insurance and I  saw this recipe in the latest People Magazine that I was browsing in the office waiting room.  Don’t tell anyone, but I ripped the recipe out of the magazine and then went to our favorite little grocery store to grab the ingredients I needed.  I will definitely make these again!

    Can’t really read it, but here is the recipe we found!

    Spicy Pork Meatballs

    • 2 pounds ground pork
    • 4 slices white bread, minced in a food processor (about 3 1/2 cups)
    • 3 eggs
    • 4 pickled hot cherry peppers, minced
    • 1/4 cup hot cherry pepper pickling liquid
    • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    To make the meatballs, preheat the oven to 450ºF. 

Put the ground pork, minced bread, eggs, cherry peppers, pepper liquid, and salt in a large bowl. Mix by hand until thoroughly combined.

Drizzle the olive oil into a large 9 x 13-inch baking dish, coating the entire surface evenly. Roll the meat mixture into 24 golf ball–sized meatballs, packing the meat firmly. Arrange the meatballs into even and snug rows in the oiled baking dish. Roast until firm, about 14 minutes. Allow the meatballs to cool for 5 minutes before removing from the dish.

    Basic Marinana Sauce

    2 tablespoons olive oil
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1 28 oz. can of tomato puree
    1 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground
    1 tsp. red pepper flakes
    1/2 tsp. kosher salt
    1 small pinch of sugar
    1 tsp. dried basil
    dash of Penzey’s pasta sprinkle or Italian seasoning 
    Place olive oil and garlic in a 2 quart saucepan over medium heat.  Swirl pan to coat garlic and heat, but do not brown garlic.  Add red pepper flakes and salt.  Next add tomatoes, pepper, salt, basil, pasta sprinkle and sugar.  Stir to combine, bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer 20  to 25 minutes.