Dinner Menu: Baked Gnocchi in Fire Roasted Tomato-Basil Sauce

This is an elegant dinner that looks like it took you all day to prepare.  From start to finish I cooked the asparagus and gnocchi in 1/2 hour.  The strawberry bread takes an hour to cook, but it’s a breeze to put together.  So if you feel the need for something special, but still easy, this one could be for you.

On the board tonight:

  1. Baked Ricotta Gnocchi
  2. Broiled Asparagus
  3. Loaf of good crusty bread
  4. Strawberry Bread

Years ago, Christmas Eve is spent eating good food at friends’ Mark and Larissa’s house. Mark’s mom is from Italy and Larissa’s mom is from Japan, and luckily for me, the subject always turns to food from both countries. This year we talked about ravioli, gnocchi and fish in salt domes. I have to confess I’m not a fan of gnocchi. Should be good, right? – potato goodness, covered in sauce. What’s not to love? It just isn’t a favorite of mine. Maybe because I’ve never had it fresh I am missing out. But after we discussed how to make it fresh, well, I don’t think I’d be making it anytime soon. Then I saw a recipe for Ricotta Gnocchi and it sounded good and best of all, easy.  So I’d thought I’d try it. This is what I came up with and it quickly became a favorite of my guests.

Baked Ricotta Gnocchi in Fire Roasted Tomato and Basil Sauce

Sauce:

  • 28 oz fire roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano (or 1 tbsp fresh chopped)

Add ingredients in saucepan, bring to a low boil, reduce to low and let simmer while preparing gnocchi. Continue reading

Dinner Menu: Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

As I noted in November, I lost my mom. I find myself looking to favorite childhood recipes to remember here. This one we had at least once a week when I was a kid.

Quick, easy and freezes well, I usually make double so I have some on hand for quick dinners.  Trust me, you will never find any jar sauce in my house.  Ever.  If you’d like to have meatballs instead, recipe is here.

On the board tonight: Continue reading

Random Wildlife

It turned off chilly this morning, too cold for this bee to be active. It doesn’t look all that comfy. There are other sorts of insects out this morning. My eye was drawn to this wheel bug on my sweet basil:

It was moving, albeit very slowly. I think that may be due to it’s natural hunting technique. It places one leg at a time, stalking through the foliage. Note the “fang” folded under it’s head. It uses that to stab unwary prey and suck their innards out

September Grilling: Cantanzaro Chicken and Tuscan Panzanella Salad

Tonight’s menu features the Cantanzaro spice mix. Cantanzaro is a city in Italy.  So there are a lot of herbs this Italian girl recognizes: marjoram, basil, thyme, rosemary and oregano. And garlic, lots of garlic. But the kicker is the lemon and lemon peel.

It’s all very fresh for late summer/early fall harvest and great for grilling. Then I’ve added a fresh take on how to use the last of those fresh tomatoes. And just because I’m feeling ambitious, I included Gelato recipes.

On the board tonight:

  1. Grilled Cantanzaro Herbed Chicken Breasts
  2. Grilled Potatoes and Peppers (recipe here)
  3. Tuscan Panzanella Salad (recipe here)*
  4. Gelato (recipes here)

*the recipe calls for bread bowls, but with this meal, I served it over a bed of bibb lettuce.

Continue reading

Summer Salads: Caprese Pasta Salad

This week is all about pasta salads…just not your typical pasta salads. Although, since tomatoes are ripening, most will probably have tomatoes in them. LOL

This one is a regular at the dinner table. Visiting local farmer’s markets offered me the chance to change this dish up with flavored fettuccini pasta a couple of times.

Pasta Caprese

  • 9 oz linguine or fettuccine
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 4 oz cubed mozzarella
  • salt & pepper to taste

saucepan and large serving dish Continue reading

Farmer’s Market Dinner Menu: Garden Fresh Pasta

It’s my favorite time of the year for cooking when I can choose fresh ingredients from my garden or the farmer’s market. It so easy to toss pasta with fresh produce and have a quick, light dinner.

On the board:

  1. Garden Fresh Pasta
  2. Steamed Zucchini
  3. Crusty loaf
  4. Sliced Peaches (add a touch of sugar to bring out the juices)

Garden Fresh Pasta Sauce

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1-2 teaspoons crushed garlic (start with one, add more as desired)
  • 4-6 medium to large tomatoes, rough chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves – more as desired
  • 2 tbsp fresh oregano leaves (I like a cute little leaf called ‘pizza oregano’) – more as desired
  • 1 carrot, finely shredded
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes if you desire some heat

saucepan & pasta serving bowl Continue reading

Chef Michael Symon’s Grilled Eggplant Parmesan

Photo Credit: Food Network/Michael Symon

Photo Credit: Food Network/Michael Symon

Chef Michael Symon* has a new show on Food Network called Symon’s Dinners Cooking Out. It’s a fun half-hour with Symon grilling all his recipes with the help of his wife.

I wanted to share this recipe as soon as I saw the episode. Such a perfectly simple way to prepare eggplant and fresh tomatoes. As we wind up garden season, this is a perfect late summer grilling recipe.

Check out all the recipes from the show, most are simple and unique takes on popular favorites. 

Grilled Eggplant Parmesan

Level: Easy
Total: 30 min
Active: 30 min
Yield: 4 servings

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 4 beefsteak tomatoes, sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving
  • Torn fresh basil leaves, for serving

Continue reading

Mmm… Bacon and Tomato Pasta Salad

The store deli had an interesting pasta salad that we brought home for a quick side.  They called it a bacon and tomato pasta salad and I found it delicious.  This is an attempt at a copycat recipe.  I went to Google for some ideas and this came up.  It seemed incomplete as the Kroger salad had some dried herb flakes that I decided must be basil.  I added a lot of basil, maybe 2 tablespoons or so to my small test batch.A lot of the recipes I turned up in the search included ranch dressing, and I think that may be the way to go in the future.  After sitting overnight in the fridge the pasta shells I used had absorbed most all of the liquid and were looking dry.  I added more mayo cut with half and half and chopped another tomato to fold in.  It’s an interesting dish, and fun to experiment with.  The Kroger deli used rotini but just about any bite size pasta will work.