Another Weeknight Pasta

I know, I can hear everyone now, “Another weeknight pasta?!  How many weeknight pastas does one needs?  Aren’t they really all the same??”  Like Sugar Skulls, I can never have to many weeknight pasta recipes.  Somehow, there is always a little twist.  And quite frankly, everyone has those, “Oh man, I don’t want to make dinner, nor do I know what to make for dinner” moments.  Weeknight pasta is the perfect solution and it’s simple!  I don’t like simple – said no one ever.

Ingredients:

8 oz uncooked pasta (any small shape that you’d like, I used a mix of what I had on hand)
1 Tbs olive oil (such as my new fave, garlic extra virgin olive oil by Sciabica’s)
1 lb lean ground beef (I use 90%, but 80% is great, too.  Or sub with chicken)
1/2 onion, minced
2 tsp dried oregano (if you haven’t tried LiteHouse freeze-dried herbs, I urge you to.  Run, don’t walk, to your local market and check out all of the options they have)
1 tsp minced garlic (as always, pre-minced, such as Spice Island)
28 oz crushed tomatoes (I love Cento)
2 cups beef broth (helps boost that meaty flavor)
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste (yes, you finally get to use the WHOLE can!!)
1 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
Parmesan cheese for topping.

Preparation:

Cook pasta according to package directions.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil to medium high.  Add beef, onion, and garlic.  Cook until onions are translucent.  Add crushed tomatoes, broth, tomato paste, oregano, salt, and sugar.  Stir well.  Reduce heat; simmer, covered, for 20 – 25 minutes.  Drain pasta and add back to the pot.  When sauce is done, slowly add sauce to pasta, stirring to mix thoroughly.  Top with pasta and serve with warm, crusty bread.

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Barbera
Malbec
Pinot Noir
Sangiovese

Total time:  About 40 minutes

Serves 6

Another Weeknight Pasta

Another Weeknight Pasta

*Original Serves-4 Recipe

On Top of Old Smokey Meatballs

All covered with cheese, I lost my poor meatball, when somebody sneezed.  But it’s ok because I made tons!  These meatballs were so easy to make and quick.  Such wonderful flavor!  And one of things that attracts me to a recipe is the ability to really make it your own.  Change it up some. Use spicy Italian sausage for a kick. Or, add your favorite hot sauce to regular Italian sausage. Instead of Italian seasoning, how about the Mexican Blend I always use with some fresh cilantro?  Add ginger and teriyaki sauce, served over steamed rice, for an Asian flavor.  Oh, how about subbing the bread crumbs with finely ground potato chips, shredded cheddar cheese and BBQ sauce.  Tailgate anyone?  So, let everyone sneeze as much as they want, you’ve got meatballs covered!

Ingredients (Meatballs Only):

16 oz pkg premium pork Italian sausage
1/3 cup plain dry bread crumbs
¼ cup finely chopped onion
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 375°. Mix ingredients until blended (the best way is to don some gloves and dive right in).

Shape meat mixture into 2″ meatballs and place on a baking sheet.  Either spray with nonstick spray, or as I did, line with parchment paper.

Bake meatballs 15 minutes or until done (when they reach 160°).  Serve with your favorite pasta sauce (such as my  Busy Mom’s Spaghetti and Meatball – but ignore those meatballs, just this once, and go back another time to try those!)

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Barbera
Grenache
Malbec
Pinot Noir
Sangiovese

Serves 6 (with pasta & sauce)
Prep time: 15 minute; Cook time: 15 minutes

On Top of Old Smoky Meatballs

On Top of Old Smoky Meatballs

*Derived from Jimmy Dean

Baked Ziti

I have an almost irrational obsession with baked ziti.  And I can pinpoint exactly where it comes from.  It was, I’d say, wow, about 10 years ago.  My wonderful Hubs (who was not my  Hubs yet) invited a coworker to go to dinner with us.  We went to Pasta Pomodoro in Rockridge (amazing outside seating with equally amazing heaters).  I very clearly remember ordering the very rich and creamy baked ziti.  When the waiter brought our food and said, “baked ziti?” I watched in dumb-founded amazement as Hector said, “Yes, right here.”  Right here?!??  “No, RIGHT HERE!!!” I silently screamed.  I don’t even remember the non-baked ziti dish I ended up with that night.  How could I?  It wasn’t baked ziti.  Ever since that fateful evening I have been on a baked ziti quest.  Each variation of a recipe that I try gets put in the “never again” pile, the “hmm, give it one more try” pile, or THIS could be the ONE” pile.  I made this ahead for our Tahoe trip.  My dad loved it, which is a whole other story, but got it added to the THIS could be the ONE pile.  🙂 

Ingredients:

16 oz dry ziti pasta
1 small / medium onion chopped (depends on preference)
1 lb extra lean ground beef (can sub turkey or chicken)
2 (26 oz) jars pasta sauce (such as Classico Tomato & Basil)
6 oz sliced provolone cheese
1 1/2 cups sour cream
6 oz mozzarella, shredded
2 Tbs grated Parmesan

Preparation:

Add ziti to slightly salted boiling water.  You want to cook to al dente because this dish will go in the oven.

Over medium – high heat, in a large skillet, sweat onions until soft, add ground beef.  Once browned, add pasta sauce and simmer 15 minutes.

While simmering sauce, preheat oven to 350°.  Spray a 9×13″ baking pan with nonstick spray.  Layer 1/2 of the ziti, provolone cheese, sour cream, 1/2 sauce mixture, remaining ziti, mozzarella cheese and remaining sauce mixture.  Top with grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake 30 minutes, or until cheeses are melted

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Barbera
Chianti
Malbec
Pinot Noir
Sangiovese

Serves 10
Total time: 1 hour

Baked Ziti

Not a great picture, we got busy in Tahoe and I forgot to take another when cutting into it!

*Derived from AllRecipes.com

Tortellini with Creamy Mushroom Sauce

My kids love, love, love cheese ravioli.  Every time we go to Mary’s Pizza Shack that’s what they both order.  Well, Daniela being Daniela has to add, “No sauce.  And not a dot of cheese on top!”  At least my girl know what she likes!  This is like that, but so different.  It totally satisfies their craving for cheese rav, but gives the adults a better meal than feeling like they are eating just buttered pasta.  And I must be doing something right because D did not once say to me, “And NOT a dot of cheese!”  

Ingredients:

1 lb sliced cremini mushrooms (if you are not buying the pre-sliced already, start now!)
1 Tbs olive oil
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 (15 oz) jar Alfredo sauce (such as Classico)
12 oz dried cheese tortellini (I used Barilla and loved it)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbs minced fresh basil

Preparation:

Cook tortellini according to package directions.

Add olive oil to large skillet heated to medium.  When heated, add mushrooms and cooked until reduced by about half.  When mushrooms reduced by half, add broth, Alfredo sauce, salt and pepper.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until heated through.

Drain pasta.  If your pan is large enough, add the pasta in batches, stirring to combine between each batch.  If not, once drained, return pasta to pot and add sauce in batches, stirring to combine in between.

Serve with your favorite  veggie, maybe broccoli.  Don’t forget the garlic bread!

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

White Burgundy
Chardonnay
White Bordeaux
Alboriño

Serves: 4
Total time: 40 minutes

 

Tortellini with Creamy Mushroom Sauce

Tortellini with Creamy Mushroom Sauce

*Derived from America’s Test Kitchen – Slow Cooker Revolution

Ravioli Lasagna

Who does not like ravioli? And who doesn’t like lasagna? Also, though, who doesn’t like or have all the time it takes to make lasagna? I’m a total cheater when it comes to the rav, so I won’t even go there. That being said, I love ravioli, little pillows puffed with ricotta and maybe a meat, or even just the ricotta and some spices. They are, really, a blank canvas. You can  add a sauce making them as rich and decadent as you’d like. Or, you can add a sauce bursting with fresh flavor from the garden. Filling you up, but not leaving you heavy. Pretty much the same idea goes for lasagna. There are so many amazing, and completely opposite ends of the spectrum options. But, what if you took ravioli and made it into a kind of quasi lasagna? Oh my, now you’re talking!

*For this dish, the recipe called for a 26-28 oz jar of tomato pasta sauce. Being typical of a cook that wants to use what is available to me, I used the 1/2 jar of 24 oz Barilla Organic Olive Oil, Basil, and Garlic pasta sauce and 1/2 of the jar of the 15 oz Barilla Alfredo Sauce already opened in the refrigerator both from a past lazy night of wanting something especially quick. With both of these leftover jars I’d say I used 28 oz., total.

I also loved this recipe for all of the options. While I used just cheese ravioli, I could have easily used chicken or sausage rav. I could have also added sliced, fresh mushrooms; I could have even added frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed to drain. Or, how about pepperoni. Maybe some Italian sausage crumbles? So many options! Oh, Oh, Oh! You could also go with a Tex Mex theme. Simply sub the pasta sauce for a jarred salsa (such as Old El Paso), add corn and change the cheese to cheddar or a Mexican blend. Serve with a dollop of sour cream. Hmmm, it JUST got interesting!

There is also the most wonderful make-ahead option. Simply layer the ingredients in the baking dish, cover tightly with foil and refrigerate for up to 24 ours. Then bake as directed. So this dish COULD be made on a week night! I LOVE that option.

Ingredients (as I made it):

1 1/2 cups pasta sauce (any variety)
1 1/2 cups Alfredo sauce
1 pkg (25 – 28 oz) cheese filled ravioli
3 cups shredded mozzarella (low moisture used)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation:

Heat oven to 350°.  Spray 13×9 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Spread ¾ cup pasta sauce in the bottom of the baking dish.  Arrange the ravioli in a single layer over sauce; top with mozzarella cheese.  Next layer, spread ¾ cup Alfredo sauce over ravioli, top with mozzarella cheese.  Repeat layers.  On the final layer, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes (if using frozen ravioli, bake 40 minutes).  Remove foil; bake uncovered 15 – 20 minutes, or until bubbly and hot.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with warm bread and Daniela’s Caesar salad.

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Barbera
Cabernet Franc
Malbec
Pinot Noir
Sangiovese

Serves 8
Total time: 1:10

Ravioli Lasagna

Ravioli Lasagna

*Derived from Betty Crocker

Sausage “Alfredo”

For some reason I’m drawn to the dishes that are a play or rip-off of other dishes.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe I feel like this play-on-another-dish is an underdog and I kind of feel like Robin Hood, giving that dish a chance.  Or I could feel a little like Peter Pan, with the dishes that never want to grow up and be the big, bold dish it could have been.  No, stay, play, have fun!  Or, maybe it’s just that these dishes are easier than the actual dish.  Ya, I have to go with that last one.  As much as I’d like to be Robin Hood or Peter Pan, I just don’t look good in tights.  

Ingredients:

1 Pkg Hillshire Farm smoked sausage
12 oz cooked pasta, drained
2 cups heavy cream
1 Tbs Italian seasoning
1 Tsp garlic salt
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pt cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups frozen peas

Preparation:

Prepare pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside.

While preparing pasta, cut sausage in ½” – 1″ thick slices.  Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium – high heat.  Sauté sausage for about 5 minutes, until crispy.  Drain any grease.  Add cream, Italian seasoning, and garlic salt.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer.  Add tomatoes and peas. Simmer 4-5 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken.

Stir in Parmesan and add to pasta.

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Chardonnay
Semillon
White Burgundy

Serves 6 – 8

Total time: 30 minutes

Sausage "Alfredo"

Sausage “Alfredo”

*Derived from: Hillshire Farms

One-Pan Chicken

Sometimes you just need dinner on the table fast, I’m talking lickety split fast. There are so many recipes out there (Hello, Rachel Ray) that insist they can be done in 30 minutes.  Maybe, if you have someone put all of the needed items in convenient, easy to reach locations.  And that’s a huge pet peeve for me because when I’m planning the menu for the week, the amount of time it takes to put dinner on the table is definitely something I look at, and count on being accurate.  Well, my friends, this is lickety split fast, and that you can count on!

Ingredients:

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced (Time saver alert!  Buy pre-minced)
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms (Time saver alert!  Buy pre-sliced)
1/2 Tbs Italian seasoning
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste.  To a large nonstick pan add olive oil and swirl to coat.  Heat pan to medium.  When hot, add chicken and cook 5-10 minutes until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear.

Remove chicken to a plate and cover to keep warm.  Add garlic to pain and cook 2-3 minutes or until garlic is fragrant.  Add tomatoes, mushrooms, and Italian seasoning.  Cook for about 3 minutes, or until liquid is reduced by half.  Put chicken back in pan and cover with sauce.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese just before serving.

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Barbera
Chianti
Grenache
Pinot Noir
Sangiovese

Serves 4

Total time: 35 minutes

One-Pan Chicken

One-Pan Chicken

*Original Serves-4 Recipe

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