Italian Mac and Cheese

image

Growing up we would always have some type of homemade pasta dish on Sundays as an Italian tradition. We had everything from Spaghetti and Meatballs to Raviolis…you name it we had it. It was my favorite meal of the week! This recipe just sounded so good on this rainy day and it was. I actually got this recipe from one of my favorite Food Network stars, Rachael Ray and added my own twist to it! I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Yield: 10

Ingredients:
1 pound ziti rigate, penne rigate or cavatappi (ribbed, hollow corkscrews)
1 pound Italian sweet sausage; casings removed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups crimini mushrooms, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup milk (I used low-fat)
2 1/2 cups, shredded Italian 4 cheese blend (Trader Joe’s has a great one!)
1 cup marinara sauce
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Steps:
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt water and cook pasta until al dente (still chewy), about 10-11 minutes.

2. In a non-stick frying pan or skillet, brown the sausage for about 5-7 minutes or until it is no longer pink. Drain cooked sausage and set aside. In the same pan add olive oil, butter, garlic and sliced mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and sauté for 4-5 minutes or until mushrooms look golden.
image
image

3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add flour to mushrooms and stir, cooking 2 minutes. Whisk in stock, then stir in milk. When sauce comes to a boil stir in 4 cheese blend. When cheese has melted into sauce, add marinara sauce. When sauce comes to a bubble, remove from heat.
image

4. Combine cheese sauce with sausage and pasta, transfer to baking dish. Add one layer of pasta and then sprinkles more cheese in the middle. Add second layer and top with remaining cheese and parmesan. Bake for 20 minutes and enjoy!
image
image

imageimage

Italian Pasta Salad

imageThis is the easiest way to make a pasta salad if you are short on time and need to make a quick side dish or appetizer for a party or event. I would make this super easy pasta dish when I was in college because it was cheap, delicious, and everybody loves pasta salad! Especially with salami and cheese in it how can you go wrong!? Mix up the ingredients to what you like and you can’t mess up this recipe 🙂

Yield: 10

Ingredients:
1 lb multi colored rotini pasta
1/4 cup Wish Bone light Italian dressing
8 ounces mozzarella cheese; cubed
1 cup salami; chopped
1 can black olives; sliced
1 cup fresh spinach; chopped
1/2 cup fresh cherry tomatoes; cut in half
1 small jar of roasted peppers; sliced
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
image

Steps:
1. Bring a large bowl of water to a boil and cook pasta for 10-12 minutes or until al dente (cooked but has a bite to it). Once cooked drain and let cool.
image
image
image
image

2. Once pasta is cooled place in a large bowl, add salad dressing, mozzarella cheese, salami, olives, spinach, tomatoes,red peppers, and seasonings. Toss with two large spoons until evenly coated. This dish is best when its served chilled. This is so easy and simple anybody can do it!
image

Baked Parmesan Chicken Strips

image

I like chicken but I don’t love it..I just never have unless its cooked in some amazing way. I had some leftover chicken breasts in my fridge and to be honest they are my least favorite part of the chicken because it is the driest. I’ve never been the one to eat chicken strips or order them in restaurants as a kid so I decided to come up with a “grown-up” version, which is much more tastier and delicious than any other chicken strips I’ve ever had. Try dunking these crispy strips in marinara or pesto sauce, I even combined the two!

Yield: 6

Ingredients:
3 chicken breasts; sliced into 1/2 inch strips
1 cup Italian Seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 whole egg; beaten
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Steps:
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut chicken breast into 1/2 inch strips. Place breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese in a bowl and set aside. Place beaten egg and flour into 2 separate bowls.

2. Dip chicken strips on both sides into flour, then dip into the egg mixture, then dip in the parmesan breadcrumb mixture.
image
image
image
3. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 15 minutes on one side, then with tongs flip and bake on other side for another 10 minutes. Enjoy this with some marinara sauce and pesto, the combination is delicious!
image

image

Smoked Salmon, Avocado, & Spinach Panini

image

After my workout this morning I was craving my favorite bagel, a lox bagel! I try to stay away from bagels as much as possible and almost never buy them just because of all the carbs..but that doesn’t stop me from creating a healthier version of my favorite breakfast/lunch. This panini sandwich can almost be eaten for any meal of the day….not to mention it is healthy for you and it is a great way to end 2013! Happy New Years Eve!

Yield: 1 or 2 (depending on how hungry you are!)

Ingredients:
2 slices of whole wheat bread
1 laughing cow cheese wedge (I used French Onion flavor)
3 ounces smoked salmoin
1/2 avocado; sliced and seasoned with salt and pepper
1/4 cup spinach; about 8-10 leaves
1 tsp olive oil

Steps:
1. Heat a skillet with olive oil. Spread 1/2 cheese wedge on each slice of bread. Add avocado, smoked salmon, and spinach and grill on skillet on each side for about 2 minutes (or until grill marks are made). I used the bottom of a frying pan to press on the sandwich while grilling to get good looking grill ridges! Flip sandwich and repeat for 2 more minutes. Slice in half and enjoy!

Panettone French Toast

image

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas and didn’t eat too much like I did! In my families household during the holidays we usually always have at least 1 Panettone in the house. It has been a tradition since I was little to usually make waffles for breakfast on Christmas Day but this year we thought it would be a good idea to try something a little different. So, because was had so much panettone bread…my Nana made Panettone French Toast and topped it with peaches but you can use what ever kind you have around your house! This is definitely something you have to try and it’s a great way to use up the bread. Because of its richness in butter and little pieces of chewy sweetened candied fruit it makes the perfect French toast!

Yield: 6

Ingredients:
1/2 Panettone
2 eggs
1 cup whole milk
Dash of salt
1 Tbsp of vanilla
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp butter
2 tsp cinnamon
Warm maple syrup
Fresh fruit (your choice!)
Powdered sugar

Steps:
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. In a medium sized bowl, beat eggs, vanilla, milk, salt, sugar, and cinnamon. Whisk until combined. Cut Panettone into 6 slices with a 1 inch thickness.

2. With a fork, poke 3 times to make holes in bread (to absorb the egg batter). Dip each piece of Panettone in egg mixture on both sides and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place about 1/2 tsp of butter on each piece of bread. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Drizzle with warm maple syrup, sprinkle with powdered sugar, and top with fresh fruit! Delicious!

image