Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

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Well here we are, almost another year has gone by…we have been celebrating all the holidays and have eaten countless calories. We have eaten to our hearts content, and then some. This time of year many of us enjoy roasted meats like turkey, ham, beef, lamb and so on. We also tend to eat heavy side dishes and appetizers too. I don’t know about you, but at this point I want something different. So on this “Meatless Monday” I am sharing a very easy, roasted vegetable lasagna with some nice little short cuts for those of us who are very busy with work and life in general. Speaking of which, I have to apologize for the long stretch since my last blog post. A new job and a new home have kept me very busy. I am happy to finally be able to share another recipe with you. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you have the most wonderful New Year!!!

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To start, gather all of your ingredients together. For this recipe, I am using no boil noodles to save time, a good jarred marinara sauce, and a little bottled Italian dressing for the quick vegetable marinade. You can certainly make your own sauce, dressing, and boil regular lasagna noodles. You can also grill your vegetables if you prefer. I’ve done it that way too and it’s great, but this time we are  taking a little help where we can get it😊. You can also add any vegetable that you like, eggplant, asparagus, spinach, there are so many combinations. Have at it! Make it your own!

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Slice up all your vegetables and place them in a large zip lock bag.

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Pour the dressing over the vegetables, close the zip lock bag and rub the marinade all over the vegetables to cover them.

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Lay the vegetables out in a single layer onto sheet pans, and place them into a preheated 400 degree oven to roast for about 15 minutes until nicely caramelized and slight char is achieved.

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While the vegetables are roasting, melt the butter and olive oil together in a large sauté pan.

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Add the sliced onions and a little salt and pepper to the melted butter and oil mixture, and slowly sauté them until they are soft, sweet and light golden brown. Also add the chopped garlic to the onions and cook until fragrant.

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Next mix the pesto into the ricotta cheese.

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In a greased baking dish, cover the bottom with about 1 c of the tomato sauce.

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Place the lasagna noodles on top of the sauce..

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Layer 1/3 of the ricotta mixture, the roasted vegetables, the onions, and mozzarella cheese and more sauce, on top of the lasagna noodles. Repeat this 2 more times, finishing the last layer with sauce and cheese.

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Spray some foil with cooking spray(so it won’t stick to the melted cheese) and cover the lasagna. Place it in a 375 degree oven and bake for 50 minutes. Uncover and cook about 10 more minutes until the cheese melts and lasagna is hot and bubbly.

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Enjoy with a nice garden salad!

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna (Yields: 8-10 Servings)

Ingredients:

2 TBS Olive Oil

1 TBS Butter

1c Italian Dressing

1/2c Prepared Basil Pesto

15 oz Ricotta Cheese

1 28oz Jar Marinara Sauce

1 Box No Boil Oven Ready Lasagna Noodles

2-3 Small Zucchini, sliced

1 Red Bell Pepper, seeded

1 Green Bell Pepper, seeded

1 Yellow Bell Pepper, seeded

2 Medium Onions, sliced

3 Garlic Cloves, minced

2c Shredded Mozzerella Cheese

Procedure:

  1. Place sliced zucchini and seeded peppers in a zip lock bag, pour dressing over them. Close the bag, and rub the dressing all over the vegetables. Place the seasoned vegetables on a baking sheet in a single layer, and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.
  2. Saute the onions and garlic, with a little salt and pepper, in a large sauté pan with melted butter and oil until soft and golden.
  3. Combine the pesto and ricotta cheese together in a small bowl.
  4. Spread 1c of marinara sauce on the bottom of a greased 13 x 9 inch baking dish.
  5. Layer 1/3 of the lasagna noodles, the ricotta mixture, the roasted vegetables, the onions, the mozzerella cheese, and the marinara sauce, in that order. Repeat this 2 more times ending with the sauce and mozzerella cheese.
  6. Cover the lasagna with oiled  aluminum foil, and place in a 375 degree oven for 50 minutes. Remove the foil and return to the oven for 10 more minutes.
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Spaghetti with Asparagus, Kalamata Olives and Peas

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This is one of those dishes that was a result of opening up the refrigerator, seeing what was available to cook, and going with the flow. It may seam kind of odd to combine these ingredients together, but honestly, it works. It is a very quick and easy dish that gives you a clean earthy flavor from the asparagus, sweetness from the peas and a bright briny bite (say that 3 times fast!) from the kalamata olives. Of course like most of my pasta dishes, it all starts with some garlic and onion, a splash of white wine and finished with a little parmesan cheese. This dish is a hit at my house, and I make it quite often. If you aren’t a fan of asparagus (I can’t imagine why) you can add whatever vegetables you like. I love this because it is a nice change from a red sauce based or heavier creamy pasta. It is always good to lighten things up a bit. Just open up the refrigerator and cupboards and get creative! What are some of your pasta ideas? I’d love to hear them too!

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Start off by slicing the onion and kalamata olives, mincing the garlic, and cutting the asparagus into manageable bite sized pieces.

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In a large saute pan over medium high heat, heat the olive oil and soften the onions and garlic.

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Once the onions and garlic are softened, add the cut asparagus. Meanwhile, add the spaghetti to a pot of boiling, salted water and cook to al dente. Save about a cup of the pasta cooking water for a little later.

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Next add the frozen peas and saute for a couple of minutes to warm them. Now you can add a little white wine and reduce it down for a about 5 minutes.

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Add the sliced kalamata olives, and toss in the cooked spaghetti and parmesan cheese. If you need to loosen up the sauce a bit, add a little of the pasta cooking water, a little at a time until you reach your desired consistency. Season well with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!!

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Spaghetti with Asparagus, Kalamata Olives and Peas ( Yields: 2 Servings )

Ingredients:

8 oz Spaghetti

1-2 Tbs Olive Oil

2 Cloves Garlic, minced

1/2 Medium Onion, sliced

3/4 lb Fresh Asparagus, large dice

1/2 c Frozen Peas

1/8 c White Wine

1/2 c Kalamata Olives, pitted and sliced

1/4 c Parmesan Cheese, grated

Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste

Procedure:

1. In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil and saute the onions and garlic until soft.

2. Add the cut asparagus and cook for 2 minutes. Add the frozen peas and white wine, and saute together for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Reserve a cup of pasta cooking water before draining the pasta.

3. Toss the cooked pasta water with the sauce, add the kalamata olives,  parmesan cheese, and if needed, a little of the pasta cooking water to loosen the sauce and coat the pasta. Cook all together for one more minute to blend all the flavors. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

 

Chicken Piccata

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The word piccata is an Italian word which describes a cooking method. When making piccata, whether it is with chicken or veal, the meat is a thin cutlet shape. Sometimes the cutlet is pounded even thinner, which not only makes the portion appear larger but also tenderizes it. The meat is then coated, usually by dredging it in flour, then browned in olive oil, butter, or in this recipe both. After browning meat, the pan is deglazed with white wine, lemon juice and chicken stock. It is reduced and”mounted” with butter for a silky, creamy, flavorful sauce and finished with bright, briny capers for a nice, slightly salty bite. The meat is then added back into the sauce to take a luxurious, flavorful bath, and finishes it’s last moments of cooking throughly here.

I like to serve it over buttery parsley pasta, egg noodles, rice, or as you see here, orzo. The finished dish is tender, bright, flavorful and light. Try it. It is a quick and easy dish you can whip up easily on a week night for dinner.

 

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The first thing you want to do is cut your chicken breast’s thickness in half.

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At this point, if you would like, you can place the cutlets between 2 pieces of plastic or in a plastic bag and pound them thinner. I’m not doing that today, but this is the point in the recipe that you would do it if you choose.

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Next, season the cutlets with salt and pepper.

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Put the flour in a container and also season it with a little salt and pepper.

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Lightly dredge the cutlets in the flour, shaking any excess off. Set them aside as you finish all of them.

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When all the chicken is coated with the flour, heat some olive oil and butter together in a saute pan. When it is good and hot, but not smoking, place your dredged cutlets in the pan and cook until they are golden brown underneath.

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Flip the cutlets over to brown on the other side. This won’t take long, and you don’t need to cook them through yet because they will finish cooking later in the sauce. You do not want to over cook them.

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Set the browned cutlets aside in a dish, while you prepare the sauce.

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Now you want to deglaze the pan. This means you add a liquid, in this case white wine….

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And scrape up all the brown bits of cooked flour and chicken that are left on the pan. These have lots of flavor and you want to use them!

imageNext you continue to deglaze, and add the chicken stock and fresh lemon juice to help make the sauce.

imageLet this all simmer and reduce down and thicken slightly. Add in your capers here too. They will add in even more flavor.

imageWhen the sauce has reduced down a bit and thickens slightly, add in a little more cold butter for a flavorful, silky, glossy finished sauce. We call this “Monte au Beurre” or “lifted with butter” in the culinary world. 🙂

imageAdd the chicken back in the sauce for the last few minutes to finish cooking and to allow it to bathe luxuriously in this yummy sauce.

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Make a nice little bed with your orzo, rice, or noodles of choice..

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And place your chicken, with a nice spoonful of delicious sauce and capers over top. Enjoy!!

 

Chicken Piccata (Yields: 4 Servings) 

Ingredients:

2 Chicken Breasts, boneless, skinless

1/2 c Flour, seasoned with salt and pepper

3 TBS Olive Oil

4 TBS Cold Butter, divided

1/4 c Dry White Wine

1/4 c Chicken Stock

1 Lemon, juiced

3 TBS Capers, brined

 

Procedure:

1. Slice the thickness of the chicken breasts in half, and season with salt and pepper.

2. Dredge the chicken cutlets in the seasoned flour, and shake of any excess. Set them aside.

3. In a large saute or frying pan, heat the olive oil and 2 TBS butter together until the butter is melted and starts to sizzle. Add the chicken cutlets to the hot oil, and brown on each side, for about 2-3 minutes or so per side.

4. Set the browned cutlets aside in a separate dish while you make the sauce.

5. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, chicken stock, and lemon juice scraping up the brown bits left in the pan.

6. Simmer the sauce and reduce until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. Add the capers and remaining cold butter and whisk it together to finish the sauce. Check for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

7. Return the browned chicken to the pan and spoon the sauce over it while it finishes cooking all the way through. About 3-5 minutes more.

8. Serve the Chicken Piccata over buttered parsley orzo, noodles, or rice, with a spoonful of the lemon caper wine sauce over the top. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Ragu alla Bolognese

imageSo let’s start out this recipe with a clarification. Ragu alla Bolognese is an intensely flavored, rich tasting, wonderful sauce that is either traditionally served tossed with tagliatelle pasta or layered in lasagna Bolognese. It originated in Bologna Italy in the late 18th century, and although it has evolved over the years with slight variations, it is in no way like a typical meat sauce of ground beef and marinara. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with meat sauce, and I certainly have made my fair share of that too, but Ragu alla Bolognese has a much more complex flavor. It is a labor of love which requires time and patience, and a lot of steps but is well worth the wait. So next time you have a few hours to spare, well more like 3-4 hours, pour yourself a glass of wine or two( save some for the sauce), pop in your favorite Andrea Bocelli cd, and get to cooking this delicious Ragu. You won’t be sorry!

The full recipe is at the end of this post.
image Gather all of your ingredients so you stay nice and organized, or as we say in the culinary world, mise en place.
imageDice your onion, carrots, garlic, celery and bacon. You can dice them as small as you like but I like a little texture to the sauce so I do a medium dice. Honestly they cook for so long in the sauce that they break down quite a bit. In a large pot, over medium heat, melt some butter in a little olive oil and add your diced vegetables. Cook them until they are soft but not browned.image
Next add your bacon, ground pork and ground beef.image Cook the meat and stir well while doing this to make sure you break it up. Cook until most of the moisture has cooked off. Add salt and pepper. You will season again later so not too much.image image Next add the wine and deglaze all the yummy brown bits from the bottom of your pot. I told you not to drink it all. I know, you got caught up in the moment didn’t you! 🙂

Cook, stirring well, until most of the wine is absorbed.image Next add some chicken stock. You don’t have to do this but it adds another layer of flavor that I love. You’ve already committed to this now so just do it. Trust me.image Continue to cook and stir occasionally until most of the stock is absorbed. image Next add the milk. I know it seems strange to add this but it makes the sauce rich and delicious. Again, cook and stir occasionally until most of the milk is absorbed.image Ok, now after you put your whole tomatoes through a food processor to puree them, add those to the pot. You can use crushed tomatoes instead but I like crushing them myself. 🙂image Continue to simmer and cook the sauce down until most of the liquid from the tomatoes is absorbed into this thick, rich, gorgeousness.image Add some freshly chopped basil, preferably chiffonade(ribbons) to make it pretty. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste to finish the Ragu.image I can’t explain how yummy your house is going to smell, and how delicious this is, you just have to experience it for yourself. You can serve your Ragu alla Bolognese tossed with tagliatelli or another wide noodle, or pasta of choice. I wouldn’t use anything too thin, you want a pasta that will stand up to this sauce. Also you can layer it with bechamel and parmesan cheese in a lasagna for another delicious classic, Lasagna alla Bolognese.

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Ragu alla Bolognese (Yield 8-10 servings)

1 Tbs Butter

1 Tbs Olive Oil

3 Carrots, peeled and diced

3 Celery Stalks, diced

2-3 Onions, peeled and diced

4 Garlic Cloves, peeled and diced

1 pound Ground Beef Chuck

1 pound Ground Pork

5 Slices Bacon or Pancetta, diced

Kosher salt and Ground Pepper

1 1/2 c Dry White Wine

2 c Whole Milk

1 28 oz Can Whole Plum Tomatoes

3 c Low Sodium Chicken Broth

1/2 c Fresh Basil, chiffonade

1. Gather all of your ingredients so you stay nice and organized, or as we say in the culinary world, mise en place.

2. Dice your onion, carrots, garlic, celery and bacon. You can dice them as small as you like but I like a little texture to the sauce so I do a medium dice. Honestly they cook for so long in the sauce that they break down quite a bit. In a large pot, over medium heat, melt some butter in a little olive oil and add your diced vegetables. Cook them until they are soft but not browned.

3. Add your bacon, ground pork and ground beef. Cook the meat and stir well while doing this to make sure you break it up. Cook until most of the moisture has cooked off. Add salt and pepper. You will season again later so not too much.

4. Next add the wine and deglaze all the yummy brown bits from the bottom of your pot. I told you not to drink it all. I know, you got caught up in the moment didn’t you! 🙂 Cook, stirring well, until most of the wine is absorbed.

5. Add the chicken stock. You don’t have to do this but it adds another layer of flavor that I love. You’ve already committed to this now so just do it. Continue to cook and stir occasionally until most of the stock is absorbed.

6. Next add the milk. I know it seems strange to add this but it makes the sauce rich and delicious. Again, cook and stir occasionally until most of the milk is absorbed.

7. Ok, now after you put your whole tomatoes through a food processor to puree them, add those to the pot. You can use crushed tomatoes instead but I like crushing them myself. 🙂 Continue to cook the sauce down until most of the liquid from the tomatoes is absorbed into this thick, rich, gorgeousness.

8. Last but never least, add the freshly chopped basil, preferably chiffonade(ribbons) to make it pretty. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste to finish the Ragu.