Italian Mac and Cheese

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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.
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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.
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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!
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Baked Parmesan Chicken Strips

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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.
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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!
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