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

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.

Topping:

  • 4 oz shredded mozzarella
  • 1 oz grated parmesan or Romano cheese

Gnocchi:

  • 15 oz Ricotta (whole or low-fat)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 oz fresh parmesan or Romano cheese, grated
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1 cup unbleached flour

large stock pot, mixing bowl, mixer, glass baking dish- lightly oiled

While preparing gnocchi, bring water to boil in large sauce pan or stock pot. In a mixing bowl, mix together Ricotta and eggs. Add parmesan, salt, pepper and flour, stir in by hand until combined, do not over mix.  Bring water up to a low boil, you’ll want a low boil to keep the dough from falling apart as it hits the water.  Form dough into cookie dough sized balls (I use a cookie scoop, you can use two tablespoons) and drop into boiling water. Do not crowd, cook in several batches as needed (I managed 12-13 per batch of 1″ balls). Cook for 7 minutes, remove with slotted spoon, draining well,  to baking dish. When all the gnocchi are cooked, cover with sauce, and top with cheeses. Bake for 10 minutes in a 400 degree oven, until cheese is bubbling.

This week I actually made this a day ahead, keeping the gnocchi, sauce and topping separate, so I could bribe the guys at work to attend a lunch meeting.  I put it together and baked just before serving and it turned out very well.  I baked it for 20 minutes until it was heated through.

Broiled Asparagus

  • 1 lb Asparagus
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

baking sheet

Cut woody stems off of asparagus and toss lightly with olive oil. Spread onto baking sheet in one layer. Broil until lightly brown and tender, turning as each side browns, about 8-12 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Strawberry Bread

  • 1 ½ cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup butter
  • 12 oz frozen strawberries, thawed & chopped*
  • ½ cup chopped pecans

loaf pan, greased

Combine dry ingredients. Add eggs, oil, strawberries and pecans. Stir just until all ingredients are moistened. Spoon batter into loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes then run knife around edges & remove to cool on wire rack.

*I pureed mine, works fine, needs additional 5 minutes cooking time

Shopping List:

  • 28 oz fire roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • Fresh basil
  • 4 oz shredded mozzarella
  • 3 oz grated parmesan or Romano
  • 15 oz Ricotta (Whole or low-fat)
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 lb asparagus
  • 1 loaf nice crusty bread
  • 12 oz frozen strawberries
  • 1 stick butter
  • 4 oz chopped pecans

Also: garlic, dried oregano (or fresh), salt, pepper, flour, baking soda, salt, pepper, olive oil, cinnamon, sugar

Originally Posted January 2010

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Dinner Menu: Quick and Easy Chicken Parmesan

DSC_6482 [1600x1200]

Photo by JeffreyW

Heading out of town, but wanted to leave you with one of my favorite recipes.  I’m off to Boston…hoping for good weather and good food. Good company is a given.  When I get back I think I want to tackle some fun Halloween ideas.

This is a fairly simple Chicken Parmesan and the Mushroom Confetti is a light and tasty side. Enjoy.

On the board tonight:

  1. Chicken Parmesan
  2. Garlic Bread*
  3. Italian Mushroom Confetti
  4. Sherbet or (my favorite) Gelato

Chicken Parmesan

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 bonelss chicken breasts, cut into fillets or 1 lb chicken breast fillets
  • 2 cups Italian Bread Crumbs
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste**
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp rosemary
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 4 oz sliced mozzarella cheese
  • 1 green pepper, sliced into rings
  • 4 oz grated parmesan cheese

large skillet and 9×13 baking dish, lightly oiled

Wash and lightly dry breasts, then coat in bread crumbs. Heat oil in skillet, reduce heat to medium and brown chicken on both sides, remove, set aside. Add onion, sauce, paste & spices and bring to a low boil, reduce heat, simmer 5 minutes. Place a ladle of sauce in the bottom of the baking dish, place chicken on top and then spread remaining sauce over the top of the chicken. Add cheese slices on each fillet. Sprinkle evenly with parmesan, top with green pepper rings. Bake at 375, 20 -25 minutes until cheese is melted and golden brown.

**Extra tomato paste can be frozen in ice cube trays and stored in a plastic zip bag. 1 cube = 1 tbsp of paste

Italian Mushroom Confetti

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large Portobello mushroom caps (or 6 to 8 button mushrooms)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green pepper
  • ½ onion
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 1 large tomato or 14 oz diced tomatoes, drained
  • ½ cup vegetable or chicken broth
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • ½ tsp basil

skillet

Cut mushrooms, peppers, zucchini & tomato into uniform pieces. Heat oil in skillet, add vegetables, including corn, sauté 2 minutes, add stock & spices. Stir over medium heat until vegetables are tender.

*Quick and easy garlic bread: slice loaf lengthwise, melt butter, add garlic and brush on cut side of each half of bread.  Top with a little parmesan and broil until golden.  Slice and serve.

Shopping List:

  • 4 boneless chicken breasts or 1 lb chicken breast fillets
  • 2 cups Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 onion
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 4 oz sliced mozzarella cheese
  • 1 green pepper
  • 4 oz grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 Portobello mushrooms,
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 sm. Zucchini,
  • 1 large tomato or 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 4 oz vegetable, chicken broth or equivalent
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 loaf French or Italian bread
  • 1 pint Gelato or Sherbet

Also: basil, oregano, garlic, rosemary, olive oil, butter

Originally published October 2009

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Thursday Recipe Exchange: Quick Pasta Meals

Shrimp and Pasta by JeffreyW

I started this blog as a complement to my business of 10 years – I provided weeknight menus and recipes for busy families. It was a lot of fun. I’ve moved on to other things and the blog has evolved from just my simple recipes and flavor palate to guest bloggers, co-bloggers and lots of guest recipes. It’s been a pleasant surprise.

But as the holidays approach and life gets busier, I wanted to come back to those simple recipes and highlight them several times a week. These are quick, fresh recipes that take about 30 minutes. And I swear to you, if you’re not confident in the kitchen, these are foolproof. A way, I hope, to help alleviate some of the stress around this time of year. So tonight’s recipes are in that vein.

First up: the photo above is from JeffreyW, it’s a nice, quick Shrimp and Pasta dish that he liked well enough to make again. (recipe here).  Next up is my quick Skillet Lasagna, recipe below.

What are some of your go-to recipes for those nights when there is no time to cook but everyone needs to eat? Do you have family favorites that everyone wants at least once a week? When I was a kid, I would beg my mom to make her rice crispy baked chicken.

Tonight’s featured recipe is one of my favorites because it has a nice blend of flavors for a quick, skillet dish. I use dry spices because they are always in my pantry – make sure to crush them well to bring out the flavor in a dish that doesn’t have the advantage of a long simmer. Use good quality mozzarella and ricotta to take it up a notch. Skip the ground beef for a vegetarian meal (I’d add some nice mushrooms instead) or spice it up with 1/2 Italian sausage and 1/2 ground beef.  In other words, don’t be afraid to change it up to fit your needs. For a side, try green beans or zucchini and you’ve got a nice, quick dinner.

Skillet Lasagna

  • 8 oz  bowtie pasta
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • ½ green pepper chopped
  • 1 tsp basil, crushed
  • 1 tsp oregano, crushed
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 4 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves, chopped
  • 4 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 2 oz grated parmesan

skillet, saucepan

In saucepan, cook pasta according to package directions, cooking to al dente (slightly chewy), drain well. Do Not Rinse (it inhibits the sauce from being absorbed by the pasta). Meanwhile, in skillet brown beef, onion & pepper. Add spices, garlic, carrot and sauté for 1 minute. Add sauce, paste, stirring well into meat mixture. Let simmer 10 minutes. Add pasta, stirring gently to mix. Mix together ricotta and spinach, spoon evenly onto mixture (do not stir in, you want to create little cheese balls), top with mozzarella, cover and let simmer on low until mozzarella is completely melted. Serve with parmesan.  Serves 6 generously.

Skillet Pizza

Feeling the pressure to post pictures to keep up with JeffW - don't get used to it!

 

One of the things I love about cooking is how much it relaxes me.  If I didn’t cook, I swear I’d weigh 300 lbs.  But cooking gives me what I need, moments to myself to decompress after a stressful day. So instead of turning to chocolate or chips, I cook.  And then when it comes time to eat, I’m relaxed and happy and less likely to eat out of stress or frustration.  So I think you now have an idea of  how my day was, how was yours? 

The pizza was a breeze to make.   First I started with Todd’s Pizza Crust Recipe.  I made 1/4 of the recipe because I was only going to make one pizza.  I rolled the dough out very thin.  I like a thin crust and wanted to make sure it cooked through in the skillet.  I liberally oiled the skillet, but I didn’t preheat it, because I didn’t know how I’d shape the dough in a hot pan. I didn’t have any corn meal to spread on the bottom, so instead used a tablespoon of sesame seeds, which worked really well.  (Is the fact that my well stocked pantry doesn’t  have corn meal ironic or just annoying?) 

I made a simple sauce of  1 can tomato sauce, and 1/2 teaspoon (or a bit more) of garlic, basil, and oregano.  I put two ladles on the dough, spread it around well, topped it with some cooked Italian sausage, peperoncini peppers, mozzarella and some parmesan.  I baked it at 450 degrees for 15 minutes and let it sit for 5 minutes after I removed it from the oven.   Despite trying for a thin crust, the structure of the pan seems to create a very nice, crispy, thicker crust.  Not quite deep dish because I didn’t use that much dough.  So that was it, start to finish,  less than 30 minutes.

Thursday Night 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

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.

Topping:

  • 4 oz shredded mozzarella
  • 1 oz grated parmesan or Romano cheese

Gnocchi:

  • 15 oz Ricotta (whole or low-fat)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 oz fresh parmesan or Romano cheese, grated
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1 cup unbleached flour

large stock pot, mixing bowl, mixer, glass baking dish- lightly oiled

While preparing gnocchi, bring water to boil in large sauce pan or stock pot. In a mixing bowl, mix together Ricotta and eggs. Add parmesan, salt, pepper and flour, stir in by hand until combined, do not over mix.  Bring water up to a low boil, you’ll want a low boil to keep the dough from falling apart as it hits the water.  Form dough into cookie dough sized balls (I use a cookie scoop, you can use two tablespoons) and drop into boiling water. Do not crowd, cook in several batches as needed (I managed 12-13 per batch of 1″ balls). Cook for 7 minutes, remove with slotted spoon, draining well,  to baking dish. When all the gnocchi are cooked, cover with sauce, and top with cheeses. Bake for 10 minutes in a 400 degree oven, until cheese is bubbling.

This week I actually made this a day ahead, keeping the gnocchi, sauce and topping separate, so I could bribe the guys at work to attend a lunch meeting.  I put it together and baked just before serving and it turned out very well.  I baked it for 20 minutes until it was heated through.

Broiled Asparagus

  • 1 lb Asparagus
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

baking sheet

Cut woody stems off of asparagus and toss lightly with olive oil. Spread onto baking sheet in one layer. Broil until lightly brown and tender, turning as each side browns, about 8-12 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Strawberry Bread

  • 1 ½ cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup butter
  • 12 oz frozen strawberries, thawed & chopped*
  • ½ cup chopped pecans

loaf pan, greased

Combine dry ingredients. Add eggs, oil, strawberries and pecans. Stir just until all ingredients are moistened. Spoon batter into loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes then run knife around edges & remove to cool on wire rack.

*I pureed mine, works fine, needs additional 5 minutes cooking time

Shopping List:

  • 28 oz fire roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • Fresh basil
  • 4 oz shredded mozzarella
  • 3 oz grated parmesan or Romano
  • 15 oz Ricotta (Whole or low-fat)
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 lb asparagus
  • 1 loaf nice crusty bread
  • 12 oz frozen strawberries
  • 1 stick butter
  • 4 oz chopped pecans

Also: garlic, dried oregano (or fresh), salt, pepper, flour, baking soda, salt, pepper, olive oil, cinnamon, sugar

Quick & Easy: Sun-Dried Tomatoes w/Penne Pasta

This one is not only simple, but by changing up the meat portion you can make it several times and it will be a completely different meal.  Use chicken, ground beef or even spicy sausage to change things up.  Or go meatless and add some mozzarella chunks to the tomato mixture and let it set 5 minutes before serving to let the cheese marinate.  What makes this a step above is the sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil.  Serve with a nice salad or steamed green beans and you have a complete meal.

Sun Dried Tomatoes w/Penne Pasta & Chicken

  • 12 ounces penne pasta
  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 oz jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh parmesan, grated

large saucepan, skillet, serving bowl, blender

Begin to boil water for pasta. Heat 1 tbsp oil in skillet; add chicken and brown for 15 minutes. Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package directions. Drain and reserve 1 cup of water, keep it hot. Place pasta in serving bowl; mix with a bit of oil & Parmesan. In a blender, add tomatoes, basil, garlic, salt, pepper and ½ cup water. Blend until things are chopped & mixed well.  Add remaining water and stir (don’t blend unless you want a smooth mixture) add to pasta, add chicken or beef and toss.  Serves 4

Thursday Night Menu: Checkered Tablecloth Edition

It officially feels like fall today. The frigid temperatures of the last week have given way to seasonable 70s with a light breeze. Nice night for a long walk. This is a fairly simple Chicken Parmesan and the Mushroom Confetti is a light and tasty side. Enjoy.

On the board tonight:

  1. Chicken Parmesan
  2. Garlic Bread*
  3. Italian Mushroom Confetti
  4. Sherbet or (my favorite) Gelato

Chicken Parmesan

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 chicken breasts, cut into fillets or 1 lb chicken breast fillets
  • 2 cups Italian Bread Crumbs
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste**
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp rosemary
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 4 oz sliced mozzarella cheese
  • 1 green pepper, sliced into rings
  • 4 oz grated parmesan cheese

large skillet and 9×13 baking dish, lightly oiled

Wash and lightly dry breasts, then coat in bread crumbs. Heat oil in skillet, reduce heat to medium and brown chicken on both sides, remove, set aside. Add onion, sauce, paste & spices and bring to a low boil, reduce heat, simmer 5 minutes. Place a ladle of sauce in the bottom of the baking dish, place chicken on top and then spread remaining sauce over the top of the chicken. Add cheese slices on each fillet. Sprinkle evenly with parmesan, top with green pepper rings. Bake at 375, 20 -25 minutes until cheese is melted and golden brown.

**Extra tomato paste can be frozen in ice cube trays and stored in a plastic zip bag. 1 cube = 1 tbsp of paste

Italian Mushroom Confetti

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large Portobello mushroom caps (or 6 to 8 button mushrooms)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green pepper
  • ½ onion
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 1 large tomato or 14 oz diced tomatoes, drained
  • ½ cup vegetable or chicken broth
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • ½ tsp basil

skillet

Cut mushrooms, peppers, zucchini & tomato into uniform pieces. Heat oil in skillet, add vegetables, including corn, sauté 2 minutes, add stock & spices. Stir over medium heat until vegetables are tender.

*Quick and easy garlic bread: slice loaf lengthwise, melt butter, add garlic and brush on cut side of each half of bread.  Top with a little parmesan and broil until golden.  Slice and serve.

Shopping List:

  • 4 chicken breasts or 1 lb chicken breast fillets
  • 2 cups Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 onion
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 4 oz sliced mozzarella cheese
  • 1 green pepper
  • 4 oz grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 Portobello mushrooms,
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 sm. Zucchini,
  • 1 large tomato or 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 4 oz vegetable, chicken broth or equivalent
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 loaf French or Italian bread
  • 1 pint Gelato or Sherbet

Also: basil, oregano, garlic, rosemary, olive oil, butter