Spinach Lasagna Rolls


So, there’s this girl I know. Well, not a girl, a young lady really. But when I was her age … and yes, I was her age once, I wasn’t born THIS OLD, ya know … being called a young lady made be visibly blanch. She’s becoming very dear to me. In my family, cooking for and feeding people is a way to show (some) love.

There’s a little glitch in showing this Italian, kitchen-esque type of love to this otherwise lovely girl. She’s a vegetarian. Nothing with a face. Nothing with a soul. Hmmm … tricky. Never gave much thought to strictly vegetarian dishes, and fortunately, she’s not vegan, but tricky going for me just the same.

Oh! We need to add another level of cooking angst here … her sister is NOT a vegetarian (but that’s a whole ‘nuther magilla which we will get to in recipes and days to come) and, of course, there’s the carnivore. How do you feed all these different needs with one dish and keeping your hair on your head and not clenched between your fingers having just been torn from your head?

Must be yummy. Must have no faces or soul. Must be hearty. I can do this. I know I can.

I came across this Giada de Laurentiis recipe from Everyday Italian for Spinach Lasagna Rolls. The original recipe calls for prosciutto (oh, you don’t know what you’re missing) and a bechamel sauce. I opted to leave out the prosciutto and swap the bechamel for tomato sauce. Salad. Garlic bread. Dinner is ready.

And while it has no faces, this dish certainly has soul!

  • 1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
  • 1 C plus 2 T grated Parmesan
  • 1 C shredded mozzarella (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 3/4 t salt, plus more for salting water
  • 1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 T olive oil
  • 12 uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 2 C marinara sauce

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Whisk the ricotta, spinach, 1 cup Parmesan, mozzarella, egg, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl to blend.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and add a tablespoon of oil.

NOTE: I normally don’t add oil when I’m cooking pasta, but with the lasagna noodles it seems to help keep them from sticking together and becoming a massive clump.

Cook the pasta until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Arrange the pasta in a single layer on a baking sheet to prevent them from sticking.

Butter or spray with cook spray a 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass baking dish. Pour about 1 cup of the marinara sauce over the bottom of the prepared dish and spread to cover. Lay out 4 lasagna noodles on a work surface, then spread a large spoonful (about 3 tablespoons worth) of ricotta mixture evenly over each noodle.

Starting at 1 end, roll each noodle like a jelly roll.

Lay the lasagna rolls seam side down, on top of the marinara sauce in the dish. Repeat with the remaining noodles and ricotta mixture. Spoon the remaining 1 cup of marinara sauce over the lasagna rolls.

Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan over the lasagna rolls. Cover with foil. Bake until heated through and the sauce bubbles, about 20 minutes.

NOTE: You can gild the lily a bit here and add a cup of shredded mozzarella on top of the marinara. If you choose to do this, after 20 minutes, uncover and bake until the cheese on top becomes golden, about 15 minutes longer. Let stand for 10 minutes.



Baked Mashed Potatoes with Parmesan Cheese &Bread Crumbs

It’s that time of month again – Secret Recipe Club time! I have to tell you, I am amazed at how much fun this is and how much I look forward to being paired with amazing food bloggers!

This month I was assigned to a wonderful blog called SteakNPotatoesKindaGurl. Desi has so many wonderful recipes over there that it was really difficult for me to choose just one! And then I came across it! Giada de Laurentiis’  Mashed Potatoes with Parmigiano and Bread Crumbs from Giada’s Family Dinners.

Mashed potatoes are one of those dishes that you serve and everyone feels like they’re home.

My darling had been away all summer working. I keep asking what he’d like to have for dinner. “Food. Food you’ve cooked, Mom. Other than that, I don’t care.”

Sigh. Just once I would like to say – “Hey, what would you like for dinner?” and actually get a response. Well, a response besides “I don’t know.” I don’t have a recipe for “I don’t know” and since they seem to request it so often, I am afraid of repeating myself too often by making it!

My son’s favorite cold any weather comfort food is meatloaf, mashed potatoes and string beans.

So we have a trifecta – the Secret Recipe Club, the triumphant return of the half-starved prodigal son, AND cold, stinky, rainy, summer-is-over, weather!

This recipe is really very simple and delicious. My guys are mashed potato purists, but that didn’t stop them from gobbling this up!

  • 1 T butter
  • 2 lbs russet potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 C milk, room temperature
  • 1/4 C (1/2 stick) butter, melted AND 1 T butter
  • 3/4 C grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 T plain bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 400°. Coat a 13×9 inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of butter.

Cook the potatoes in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain potatoes and return potatoes to the same pot. Mash well.

Mix in the milk and melted butter. Mix in the mozzarella and 3/4 of the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Transfer the potato mixture to the prepared baking dish.

Stir the bread crumbs and remaining Parmesan in a small bowl to blend. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the mashed potatoes. Bake, uncovered, until the topping is golden brown, about 20 minutes.

NOTE: This recipe can be prepared up to 6 hours ahead of time, up to the point right before you bake it. Cover and chill. This recipe is also easily halved!

Desi, thank you for sharing your wonderful recipes with me! I hope I did this one justice!

There’s still time to stop by my wonderful Giveaway ~ $100 American Express gift card! So simple – follow this link and leave a comment! Winner will be picked September 29th!

Edible Containers – Daring Cooks

Really intriguing thought, don’t ya think? That’s what I thought when I saw this as a challenge over at Daring Cooks. Such a good idea that it’s a joint Daring Cooks/Daring Bakers challenge.

Perhaps it’s the thought of not washing a dish that intrigues me. But, wait, that can’t be so. The edible container still has to sit on something, doesn’t it?

So goes that theory.

The question became … sweet … savory … sweet … savory?

I thought perhaps a spun sugar bowl with beautiful strawberries … (stop laughing) … okay, I am laughing too. Who am I kidding?

Savory? Looking through the mountainous recipes next to my bed I came across frico – crispy discs of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese – which can be molded into shapes. I found my solution.

I used Giada’s frico cup method –

1 1/2 cups of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

I didn’t use the smallest holes on my box grater. I didn’t use the largest. I used the ones in between. If I had any sense I would have taken a photos of the grater to show you, sense wasn’t something I was necessarily born with!

Sadly, I wasn’t really holding out hope for this working.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Definitely use a silpat or parchment paper. Use 1/4 cup for each cup, flattening it out to a diameter of 4 1/2 to 5 inches.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes.

NOTE: My second batch I baked for less time, about 6 1/2 minutes, and had a better result.

Working quickly and using a thin spatula, transfer the frico to a muffin tin and put a glass inside to shape.

NOTE: ARE YOU FREAKIN’ KIDDING ME HERE OR WHAT? Totally didn’t work. I tried using the bottom of the muffin tin, but the muffin cups were not deep enough. I tried a juice glass. NOPE. The bottom of my cordial glasses were the perfect size.

If you don’t have the frico molded before they start to stiffen, pop them back into the oven for 20 seconds or so – they become pliable again.

Now that I had the edible container part sorted out, what to put in them?

I was roasting a cut up chicken (surprise, surprise) for dinner with Mediterranean spices and thought I would serve a tomato, cucumber and parsley salad to go along. Usually I toasted pita bread and break it into shards to sprinkle over the top, but the penny dropped and I thought what a great way to use the salad AND my beautiful frico cups.

I removed the seeds and pulp and then diced a couple of tomatoes. Then I peeled, removed the seeds from and diced a cucumber.  Chopped some parsley. A simple dressing of olive oil, red wine vinegar and oregano and we were all set!

The frico are terrific. A little bite of crispy cheese, some yummy salad. A lot of oooohing and aaahing and a lotta gone! Isn’t that the end result we all want?

Tackling something I found a little intimidating is so empowering!

Torta de Pasta

One of my favorite dishes from Everyday Italian is Torta de Pasta. It’s quick and easy. It can change with your moods. You can use pasta just cooked or leftovers from last night’s dinner. I am not sure about your house, but we never have leftover pasta here!

This is adapted from Giada’s original recipe, though I added her original recipe here in case you’d like to try it. Mine, on the other hand, never comes out the same way twice. It always depends on what’s in the fridge!

  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 3/4 cup grated fontina
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Drain. Toss with the sun-dried tomatoes. Set aside to cool completely otherwise the hot pasta could curdle the eggs when you add them later on.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, salt, and pepper, Parmesan, and fontina to blend. Add the cooled spaghetti mixture; toss to coat.

Preheat the broiler. Melt the butter and oil in a 9 1/2-inch-diameter nonstick skillet over medium heat. Transfer the spaghetti mixture to the skillet, pressing to form an even layer. Cook until the bottom is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the broiler. Broil until the top is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Cool in the skillet to room temperature.

Invert the torta onto a platter. Cut into wedges and serve at room temperature.

That was Giada’s. This was mine:

I used a pound of Barilla Whole Grain Spaghetti.  I like a thick torta.

While the pasta cooks, saute diced pancetta in a cast iron pan. I use this same pan to cook the torta in. I always keep 4 oz packets of Citterio diced pancetta in the freezer. Always good for a quick meal. Remove pancetta from pan and drain on paper towels. 

The pasta was cooked until al dente. Once cooked I put the pasta into a large bowl.  Add the pancetta. Add frozen peas. You want the torta to be studded with the peas. Add as many or few as you like.

Lightly beat 4 eggs and stir in about 1 cup of Parmigiano. Add salt and pepper. Add this to the pasta.  Mix well.

Melt 1 T of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the cast iron skillet. Add the pasta mixture and press down into one even layer. I put another skillet on top and put a large can of tomatoes on top to weigh it down.  Cook for about 8 minutes.

Slide a spatula under and lift up the torta a little. If the bottom is golden brown, gently flip the torta over. I put the skillet in a 350 oven for 15 to 20 minutes to makes sure it is cooked through.

Cut into wedges and serve with a green salad.

This doesn’t last long in my house. When it does, it’s good at room temperature for lunch the next day.

I do find myself waking up during the night and cutting a little wedge for myself … very Nigella…

Roasted Chicken with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Brrrracccckkkkkkk brrrrracccckkkkk brack cluck cluck…… oops, wait … cough, sputter, ahem… start again …

So we need to find new chicken dishes to try and I came across this Giada recipe in Everyday Italian. I love anything I can start in the morning and forget about until I’m ready to stick it in the oven. Even better when you get to stick it in the oven and ignore it until it’s done. Simple, easy, and good. What more can you ask for?

Still, I need to find a great Mediterranean Diet cookbook to get me started! Any suggestions would be welcome!

  • 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 T. dijon mustard
  • 2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 chicken cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/2 c. chicken broth
  • parsley
  • lemon zest

NOTE: I used all thighs.

Whisk the vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper in small bowl to blend. Combine the vinaigrette and chicken pieces in a large resealable plastic bag; seal the bag and toss to coat. Refrigerate, turning the chicken pieces occasionally, for at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

NOTE: Always put the plastic bag in a bowl before you leave it in the fridge. I have had a bag leak – it isn’t pretty!

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Remove chicken from the bag and arrange the chicken pieces on a large baking dish.Roast until the chicken is just cooked through, about 1 hour. If your chicken browns too quickly, cover it with foil for the remaining cooking time. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter.

NOTE: I lined the roasting pan with Reynold’s non-stick foil.

Place the baking dish on a burner over medium-low heat. Whisk the chicken broth into the pan drippings, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the baking sheet with a wooden spoon and mixing them into the broth and pan drippings. Drizzle the pan drippings over the chicken. Sprinkle the lemon zest and parsley over the chicken, and serve.

Turkey Meatballs

First mistake – taking Tom to the supermarket with me. Now, he picks up every box and bag, reads the label, makes a ‘pfffft’ sound and puts it back.

I take something from the shelf, he says, ‘I can’t eat that!’  FGS, the doctor did not say NO SALT the doctor said lower and moderate your salt intake. His salt intake had to have been cut by more than half just by stopping the tortilla chip and salsa binging! I now make fresh salsa and bake tortilla chips for him.

So we walk across the meat department and I am quickly trying to think about what to make for dinner every night this week. Red meat once a week is fine, but he’s trying to avoid it at all costs. Seriously, how much chicken and turkey can eat before you start to cluck?

I made the mistake of asking what he’s like for dinner. “Pasta and meatballs.’ Okay, I can do that. As I reach for the meatball mix my grocer makes, he says, ‘Oh, no, do you have to use red meat?’ Sigh.

So Turkey Meatballs, here we come. I have had them before and they were terrible. Dry. Flavorless. Yucky.  I turned to Giada for help and guidance. If any one could come up with a great turkey meatball she would be the one to do just that.

I looked at three different turkey meatball recipes of Giada’s and tweaked it a bit and came up with this. This recipe is mostly from the Mini Turkey Meatballs recipe found on Food Network.

  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 pound ground dark turkey meat 

NOTE: I bought a turkey mix of light and dark, 85/15%. All light would be way too dry. KETCHUP? Really? It wasn’t alot, so how bad could it be?

Preheat oven to 350.

Add the turkey, onion, garlic, egg, bread crumbs, ketchup, parsley, Parmesan, Pecorino, salt and pepper to a large bowl and blend.

Shape the turkey mixture into meatballs. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and place meatballs on baking sheet. I baked them for about 30 minutes, turning them once.

While the meatballs were cooking a made a quick marinara sauce for them. A clove of minced garlic, a little olive oil, allspice (thanks, mom) and toasting the dried herbs first (only good thing Nonna ever taught me), crushed tomatoes. Simmer while the meatballs are baking.

Once the meatballs were done, I let them sit for a moment or two before their plunge into the sauce.

After the meatballs went into the sauce, and pasta was cooked, I poured the Penne into the sauce and tossed it together. A sprinkle of parsley and a little Parmigiano Reggiano and we were ready to go!

NOTE: Barilla makes a great pasta called Barilla Pasta Plus. Same great Barilla taste, just multi-grain and high in protein, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. 

Parisian Steak and Cheese Croissant Sandwiches

Okay, so this is another better late than never recipe! Thank goodness the folks over at IHCC like me enough to not be bothered by my lateness. Right now we’re cooking and baking through Giada de Laurentiis‘ books and recipes.  

The challenge – Out of Italy. A Giada recipe that is not Italian. There were plenty to choose from. Surprised? I was. I chose a recipe for Parisian Steak and Cheese Croissant Sandwiches.

  • 4 (4-ounce) beef steaks
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 croissants
  • 6 ounces Brie cheese, cut into 1/2-inch slices, at room temperature
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1 cup (about 4 ounces) jarred roasted red bell peppers, thinly sliced

NOTE: Okay. I cheated. I made only one. I made a filet roast over the weekend and put aside a steak sized slice to make this for myself for lunch during the week.

Season the steaks with salt and pepper. In a medium skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Cook the steaks for about 5 minutes each side for medium-rare. Set aside for 5 minutes before slicing. Slice the steak, across the grain, into 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick slices.

Heat a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Using a serrated knife, slice the croissants in half lengthwise. In 2 batches, place the croissant halves, cut side down in the skillet and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute until lightly toasted. Lay the Brie slices over the toasted croissant halves.

Place about 1/4 cup of the arugula on the bottom halves of the croissants. Add the sliced steak. Arrange the sliced roasted pepper on top of the steak. Top with the remaining arugula and add the top of the croissant. Serve immediately.

NOTE: Very tasty. Very easy. Definitely a do-again recipe!