Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Sauces


Most Italian Americans, I know, grew up on spaghetti and meatballs. However, meatballs can sometimes be difficult to make because it is tough to get the texture and the seasonings just  right. Often, they come out spongy or dry or dense.

Here are some of my tips for making good meatballs.

Some recipes call for beef and others call for pork. Some call for a mixture of beef and pork. Others call for beef, pork and veal. Then, there are the decisions about how much cheese, breadcrumbs and herbs to add or whether the meatballs should be cooked in the sauce or separately.

Meatballs need seasoning.  As a rule, about 1 teaspoon of salt per pound will make for perfectly seasoned meat. Herbs are also important. Without them, your meatballs will end up tasting like a burger. Change the flavor a bit with herbs like mint, oregano and marjoram.

When using all beef to make meatballs, the meat should not be too lean. You need some fat for flavor, so buy ground beef that is labeled 75% lean. Another way to add flavor is to use part ground beef and part ground pork in the meatball mixture.

Eggs are not used for moisture. They are in the meatball mix to bind the meat, breadcrumbs, cheese and herbs together. For one to two pounds of meat, you won’t need more than one egg.

Be sure not to add too many bread crumbs–about a half cup per pound of meat will be enough.

Put all the ingredients into a bowl at once and use your hands to mix them. The light touch of your hands incorporates all of the ingredients without crushing the meat.

Depending on how you’ll serve the meatballs, you should roll them to the size appropriate for the dish. In soup, for instance, you’ll want small, bite-sized meatballs. If they’re on top of spaghetti, make them medium. If they are the main course, make them 2 inches in diameter.

If you roll meatballs with dry hands, the meat mixture will stick to your skin. To remedy this, wet your hands with water.

I never fry meatballs to keep them healthy. Baking or broiling work just fine.


Here is my basic formula for meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground meat (pork, beef, veal, chicken, turkey or a combination)
  • 1/2 cup plain dried bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 finely minced garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil

Preheat the broiler or heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a rimmed cookie sheet.

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. With wet hands form into 12 equal sized meatballs. (Use an ice cream scoop to make them uniform in size.)

Place the meatballs on the prepared pan and broil 5 minutes each side or until completely brown. Or bake the meatballs in the oven for about 25 minutes.

If I am making the meatballs to go with spaghetti, then I simmer them in the sauce for the last hour of cooking.


Meatball Soup



  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 leeks, white and pale green parts, chopped
  • 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups pearl barley
  • 8 cups chicken broth


  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed fennel seed
  • 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley, plus 1/2 cup chopped parsley for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


To make the soup:

In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the leeks and garlic and saute until very soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and wine, stir to combine and cook for 4 minutes.  Add the barley and the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the barley is tender, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Oil a rimmed cookie sheet.

To make the meatballs:

In a mixing bowl, combine the chicken, Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, the 2 tablespoons parsley and tomato paste.  Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and mix with your hands. The mixture will be very sticky.

To form the meatballs:

Use two small spoons or a small ice cream/melon scoop to form small (1 inch) meatballs. Place on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake until the meatballs are cooked through and no longer pink in the center, about 10-12 minutes.

Add the meatballs to the soup and stir in gently. Serve the soup garnished with the 1/2 cup parsley.


Italian Meatball Stew

My mother made this often when I was growing up and I made it for my children when they were young. This dish is popular with kids if you find the right combination of vegetables that appeal to them.


  • Basic Meatball recipe above, cooked
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Large baking potato, peeled and diced
  • 4 ounces green beans, trimmed, cut into 1-inch-long pieces or the equivalent frozen
  • 26-28 oz. container crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Heat the oil in a large saucepan and saute the onion, carrot and garlic until softened. Add the potato, green beans, tomatoes and seasonings.

Bring to a low boil, reduce heat and cook mixture until the potatoes and beans are tender.

Gently stir in meatballs and heat until the meatballs are hot and the mixture has thickened slightly.


Meatballs Stuffed With Mozzarella Cheese

This makes a great entrée with a salad and Italian bread. If you make them smaller, they are very good as an appetizer.


  • Double batch of the Basic Meatball recipe, above
  • 1/2 lb fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes or mini fresh mozzarella cheese balls called pearls
  • 3 cups store-bought marinara sauce or homemade spaghetti sauce


Heat the oven to 450°F. Line a 15 x 10 inch baking pan with parchment paper; set aside.

Form meatball mixture into 2″ balls.

Press a cheese cube or ball in the middle and seal the meat around it.

Bake 12-15 minutes or until lightly brown all over. Place in a large serving bowl.

Heat marinara sauce and pour over the meatballs in the serving bowl.


Italian-American Meatball Lasagna

This is another favorite from my childhood days that my children and husband are also crazy about.


  • One recipe of basic meatballs from above
  • 12 traditional lasagna noodles
  • 4 cups homemade or store-bought marinara sauce
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • Two 15 ounce containers ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 lb  mozzarella cheese, sliced thin


Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a rimmed cookie sheet.

In a large bowl, combine the meatball mixture. With wet hands, shape into mini meatballs, using 2 teaspoons of mixture for each. Place the meatballs on the prepared cookie sheet and bake until brown all over, about 15 minutes.

To make the lasagna:

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boiling. Add noodles to the boiling water one at a time and cook for 10 minutes. Drain and place the noodles on kitchen towels.

Stir the chopped basil into the marinara sauce. Reserve 1 cup of the sauce for the top layer.

In a medium bowl, blend ricotta, egg, parsley and ¼ cup of the Parmesan cheese.

To assemble the lasagna:

Spread 1 cup marinara sauce in the bottom of a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish. Top with 4 noodles, overlapping. Layer half of the mozzarella slices on top of the noodles, followed by half the ricotta cheese. Spread the ricotta with a spatula. Scatter half the meatballs over the noodles. Pour half 1 cup of the marinara sauce over the meatballs.

Top with 4 more noodles and layer with the remaining mozzarella and ricotta cheese. Scatter remaining meatballs over the cheese. Pour 1 cup marinara sauce over meatballs.

Top with the final 4 lasagna noodles. Spread with the reserved 1 cup of sauce. Top with the remaining Parmesan. Cover the dish with foil.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake for 15 minutes until bubbly and slightly browned. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.


Flatbreads are breads made with flour, water and salt that are rolled into a flattened dough and baked. Many flatbreads are unleavened—made without yeast—although some are slightly leavened, such as pita bread. Flatbread became known in Ancient Egypt and Sumer in ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq), when the Sumerians discovered that edible grains could be mashed into a paste and then baked/hardened into a flatbread. Unleavened breads (such as matzoh which is not prepared with leavening) are usually flatbreads that hold special religious significance in Judaism and Christianity.


Flatbreads may contain such ingredients as curry powder, diced jalapenos, chili powder or black pepper. Olive oil or sesame oil may be added, as well, and flatbreads are usually thin. Cheese and  tomato sauce are not usually added to flatbread.


Pizza, on the other hand, is usually made from dough containing yeast that is topped with cheese, tomato sauce, meats and vegetables. The crust is usually thin and most of the surface is covered with the toppings.


Focaccia is popular in Italy and is usually seasoned with olive oil, salt, sometimes herbs and may at times be topped with onion, Focaccia can be used as the bread to accompany a meal. The primary difference between conventional pizza and focaccia is that pizza dough uses very little leavening (baker’s yeast), resulting in a very thin, flat and flexible crust, while focaccia dough uses more leavening, causing the dough to rise significantly higher. The added leavening firms the crust and gives focaccia the capacity to absorb large amounts of olive oil.

Easy Flatbread


Makes two 12-inch breads

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra as needed
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons plus 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing the parchment paper
  • 1/3 cup cool water, plus extra as needed


Mix the flour and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt in a medium bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Mix well. Pour in the water and mix until the ingredients come together to form a dough. Add a little more water if the dough is dry and a little more flour if the dough is sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a counter and knead for 5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Place the dough on a lightly floured counter, dust with flour and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest 30 minutes at room temperature.

To shape the dough:

Cut 2 sheets of parchment paper into 14-inch lengths. Lightly brush the parchment paper with olive oil. Cut the dough into 2 pieces.

Place a piece of dough on each piece of parchment paper. Brush the top of each piece of dough with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Using your hands, flatten and stretch the dough until it thins out to about 10 inches. If it shrinks back, just wait 10 minutes for the gluten  to relax.

Turn the dough over and brush the top of each with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Turn again and stretch into a 12-inch circle, or until the dough is very thin but not yet transparent, about 1/8-inch thick and even in thickness if possible. Season each dough circle with the remaining salt.

Heat a large nonstick 12-inch skillet over medium high heat for 2 minutes and carefully transfer one dough circle to the skillet and cook 3 minutes, or until browned lightly on the bottom. Turn and cook the second side until it also begins to brown in spots, about 2 minutes. Remove to a plate and repeat with the second dough circle.

Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature with salami,  cheese, peppery extra-virgin olive oil and ripe tomatoes.

Neapolitan Pizza

For 1 pizza


  • 1/2 of the recipe for All-Purpose Dough, recipe below
  • 1/2 of the recipe for All-Purpose Pizza Sauce, recipe below
  • 1 cup sliced or shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Olive Oil


Prepare pizza dough as directed in the recipe below. About 2 hours before baking, remove chilled dough from refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature to proof.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

Oil a 14-16 inch pizza pan.

Place one ball of dough in the pan and stretch the dough to fit the pan. Top the dough with All-Purpose Pizza Sauce, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese and several basil leaves brushed with olive oil.

Place the pizza on the bottom rack of the oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until toppings are bubbly, cheese is turning golden, and edges of pizza are golden brown.

All-Purpose Pizza Dough


  • 5 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or honey
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt or 2 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fast-rising active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ¾ cups plus 1 tablespoon water, at room temperature
  • Olive oil cooking spray


In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook or in a large bowl using a large spoon, combine all ingredients except olive oil cooking spray. Mix on low or by hand about 3 minutes, until ingredients are combined and all the flour is moistened. Dough will be soft.

If using an electric mixer, increase speed to medium; mix 2 minutes longer. If working by hand, continue mixing with the spoon; or turn dough out onto a counter and knead.

Mix long enough to form a smooth, supple dough, about 3 minutes. If dough seems very stiff, incorporate more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, as you mix. If dough is wet and sticky, sprinkle in more flour as you mix. Dough should be tacky but not sticky.

Lightly coat an 8-quart bowl with cooking spray or oil. Form dough in a smooth ball and place in the bowl, turning once to coat surface with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, without letting wrap touch surface of dough. Let dough stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Then refrigerate dough overnight or up to 3 days. (Dough will continue to rise in the bowl until nearly doubled, then will go dormant from the cold.)

Two hours before assembling the pizzas, remove chilled dough from refrigerator. Mist a large baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray or lightly rub with olive oil. Cut dough in three portions. Form each portion in a smooth round ball.

Place each ball of dough on prepared baking sheet. Lightly mist with cooking spray, then lightly cover with plastic wrap. Let dough stand to come to room temperature.

All-Purpose Pizza Sauce


  • One 28 ounce crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


In a medium bowl whisk together all ingredients. Taste and adjust the salt, if needed.

Onion Focaccia

onion foccacia bread bites


  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon salt , divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 pounds sweet yellow onions , cut into eighths and thickly sliced


In a large bowl, mix 1/2 cup warm (105 to 115°F) water with honey. Sprinkle with yeast and set aside to let stand for 5 minutes, or until foamy.

Stir in flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt, 1/4 cup of the oil and 1 cup warm water, then transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic.

Transfer dough to a lightly oiled large bowl, turning the dough to coat. Cover and let stand in a warm draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add onions and remaining 1 teaspoon salt and reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring frequently, for 1 hour or until onions are very soft and golden brown. Set aside to let cool.

Punch down dough, then transfer to a lightly oiled 15-inch x 11-inch jelly roll pan or large baking sheet and pat dough out to the edges of the pan. Cover and let stand 45 minutes, or until puffed and well risen. Spread onions over the dough, then cover and let rise again for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Uncover dough and bake on the lowest oven rack for 25 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and crisp. Cut into pieces and serve.


It just doesn’t feel like football season without chicken wings, nachos, burgers and high-calorie favorites. Sure, these fatty foods might taste good at the time, but they put you at risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure and weight gain. Plus, greasy, fatty foods mindlessly munched (with beer) while you watch the game, can leave you bloated.

The best seat in the house is not in front of a table filled with food. Stake out a seat near the game but away from the food. When you want something to eat, get up and put a portion on your plate.

Watch the game. Talk to your friends. Cheer for your team. The more involved you are in the real action, the less likely you’ll be to absentmindedly eat too much.

Beer will be flowing. Slow it down and ward off a hangover by drinking a tall glass of water between each beer.

Enjoy watching the games with healthier finger foods and savory snacks and they will be just as tasty and enjoyable as the not-so-healthy versions.


Blue Cheese Walnut Balls

This easy-to-make appetizer will be a big hit at your next get-together. Use a cookie scoop to shape the cheese balls.

Makes: 8 servings


  • 6 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
  • 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (1 ounce)
  • 12 dried apricots, finely chopped
  • 5 tablespoons finely chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely snipped fresh rosemary
  • Triscuit crackers (whole wheat crackers)


In a small bowl combine cream cheese and blue cheese. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Stir in apricots, 3 tablespoons of the walnuts and salt.

Shape mixture into 16 balls. In a small bowl mix 2 tablespoons of the walnuts and the rosemary. Roll balls to lightly cover with nut mixture. Serve with crackers.


Pizza Lettuce Wraps

8 servings


  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 cups canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 ½ cups shredded reduced-fat mozzarella cheese (6 ounces)
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced, cooked turkey pepperoni, cut into thin strips (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup snipped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh oregano
  • 16 large Bibb lettuce leaves


In a medium bowl combine tomatoes, beans, cheese, pepperoni, basil and oregano.

Divide tomato mixture among lettuce leaves. Roll up or leave open as cups.


Spiced Nuts

6-8 servings


  • 3 cups peanuts
  • 3 cups almonds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, combine nuts and oil; stir to coat nuts evenly.

In a small bowl, stir together chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, celery salt and cinnamon. Sprinkle over nut mixture; toss to coat nuts evenly.

Spread nuts in a single layer in a 15 x 10 inch baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring twice; cool.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.


Spinach-Parmesan Dip

8 servings


  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • Two 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • One 14 ounce can quartered artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Toasted Pita Chips
  • Sliced red bell peppers


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Coat a an 8 inch baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.

Squeeze spinach dry and mix with the artichokes, onion, mustard, garlic, oregano and pepper in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake for 30 minutes.

Serve warm with pita chips and sliced red bell peppers.


Chicken Fingers with Honey Mustard Sauce

8 servings



  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 4 teaspoons rice wine vinegar

Chicken Fingers

Olive oil cooking spray

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 lbs. chicken breast tenders, skinless
  • 2 cups Panko bread crumbs (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
  • 1 cup finely chopped sliced almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


Combine honey, mustard and vinegar in a serving bowl; mix well. Chill.

Preheat oven to 425° F.

Line several baking sheets with foil; lightly coat with spray.

Combine eggs and water in a large bowl; whisk to blend.

Soak chicken in the egg mixture for 30 minutes, turning once; set aside.

Combine bread crumbs, almonds, salt and pepper in a large resealable plastic bag; shake to combine.

Working with a few pieces at a time, lift chicken from the egg mixture, letting excess drip back into bowl, and drop into bag containing the bread crumb mixture. Seal bag and shake to coat; repeat with remaining chicken.

Place chicken on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 20 minutes, turning after 10 minutes, until no longer pink in the middle and golden brown.

Serve with the honey mustard sauce.


Oatmeal-Toffee Cookies

Makes 4 dozen


  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked regular oats
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 (10-ounce) package toffee bits


Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer 2 to 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add sugar, beating well. Add eggs and vanilla, beating until blended.

Combine oats and next 3 ingredients; add to butter mixture, beating just until blended. Stir in chopped pecans and toffee bits.

Drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto lightly greased baking sheets.

Bake at 375° for 10 minutes. Cool on wire racks.


Folklore states that cooks aboard Neapolitan ships invented marinara sauce in the mid-16th century after the Spaniards introduced the tomato from America to Europe. The original recipe was resistant to spoilage due to the high acid content of the tomatoes. This made it ideal for lengthy sea voyages hundreds of years before refrigeration methods were invented. Historically, the first Italian cookbook to include tomato sauce was Lo Scalco alla Moderna (The Modern Steward), written by Italian chef, Antonio Latini, and was published in two volumes in 1692 and 1694. This early tomato sauce was more like a modern tomato salsa.

Today, the sauce is usually made with tomatoes, garlic, herbs and onions. Its many variations can include the addition of capers, olives and spices and it is occasionally sweetened with a dash of red wine. This sauce is widely used in Italian-American cuisine, which has greatly diverged from its Old World origins.

Keep your freezer or pantry stocked and you’ll always be minutes away from a great, easy meal. Visit this link for my homemade marinara recipe or use your favorite brand.

For Breakfast or Lunch:


Marinara Baked Eggs

4 servings


  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 4 eggs
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese, optional


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Warm marinara sauce; pour 1/4 cup into each of four lightly greased 6-ounce ramekins.

Top each with 1 egg. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until the egg white is set and the yolk is thickened.

To serve:

Sprinkle with shaved Parmesan cheese. Serve crusty bread on the side.


Italian Stew

4 servings


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered or sliced
  • 3/4 cup chopped green bell pepper (1 medium)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion (1 small)
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 ¼ pounds uncooked ground turkey breast
  • Four ½ inch slices of Italian bread, toasted (optional)
  • 1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (2 ounces)


In a 3 1/2 to 4-quart saucepan, heat oil and add ground turkey. Cook until brown.

Add mushrooms, bell pepper, onion, Italian seasoning, salt and black pepper. Cook until vegetables are tender.

Pour marinara sauce over all. Cover and cook on low-heat for 1 hour.

To serve:

Heat the broiler

Pour stew into 4 individual ovenproof bowls. Top with a slice of bread and sprinkle each with mozzarella cheese. Place under the broiler until the cheese begins to melt. Serve immediately.

You can also skip the bread and just top the hot stew with mozzarella cheese.


Pizza Stuffed Potatoes

4 servings


  • 4 medium russet potatoes
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup pre-cooked additions, such as chopped bell pepper, chopped mushrooms, crumbled Italian sausage or chopped ham
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano or Italian seasoning
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 8 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Sliced olives, optional


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Scrub  potatoes thoroughly with a brush; pat dry. Prick potatoes with a fork and rub with olive oil. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes or until tender.

Split each potato in half lengthwise. Carefully scoop out the flesh of each potato, leaving a 1/4-inch-thick shell. Place in a baking dish sprayed with olive oil cooking spray.

In a bowl mash scooped-out potato flesh; add 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, 1 cup desired fillings and 2 teaspoon dried oregano or Italian seasoning.

Spoon 1/4 cup marinara sauce into the bottom of each shell; divide the potato mixture evenly among the shells. Sprinkle each potato half with 1 teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake about 15 minutes or until heated through. Garnish with sliced olives, if desired.

For Dinner:


Italian Style Pot Roast

4 servings


  • One 3 pound boneless beef chuck pot roast
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed, toasted and crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed, cored and cut into thin wedges
  • 3 medium carrots, cut in 2-inch lengths (1-1/2 cups)
  • 1 large onion, cut into thin wedges (1 cup)
  • 3 1/2 cups marinara sauce
  • 2 cups hot cooked penne pasta
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • Grated Parmesan cheese


Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees F.

Trim fat from the meat.

In a small bowl, combine garlic salt, fennel seed and pepper; rub into the roast on all sides.

In a 5-quart Dutch Oven heat oil and brown the roast on all sides. Remove to a plate.

Place the fennel, carrot and onion in the bottom of the pot and and place the roast on top.

Pour the marinara sauce over the roast  Bring liquid to simmer over medium heat, then place a large piece of foil over the pot and cover tightly with the lid; transfer the pot to the oven.

Cook, turning the roast every 30 minutes until fully tender and a meat fork or sharp knife easily slips in and out of the meat, about 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

Toss the cooked pasta with parsley and place on a serving platter. Slice the roast. Place the sliced pot roast slices and vegetables on the plate with the pasta.

Pour the sauce over all and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve.


Marinara Poached Chicken

Serve this dish with cooked pasta, mashed potatoes or couscous.

4 servings


  • 3 cups marinara sauce
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Grated Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh basil for garnish


Pour marinara sauce into a large, deep skillet with a cover; warm over medium heat.

Sprinkle skinless, boneless chicken breast halves with salt and ground black pepper. Add to the skillet and turn to coat in the sauce.

Heat just until beginning to boil; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 10 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink in the center and a meat thermometer reaches 165 degrees F.

Top with grated Parmesan cheese and basil before serving.


For really delicious, melt in your mouth lasagna, you need fresh lasagna noodles. You can make them yourself or purchase the fresh noodles ready-made. For me, dried lasagna noodles, especially with the edged ridges, are not delicate enough for a really good lasagna. Of course, having these noodles in the pantry is expedient.

Fresh lasagna noodles do not need to be boiled before baking. Fresh noodles also freeze well, so make extra for a future recipe. Place a layer of wax paper between each noodle and place them in a freezer container. You do not even need to defrost the noodles before using them in a lasagna.

I never make lasagna with a meat sauce because I think it weighs it down and takes away from the creaminess of the cheese. Meat can be served on the side. I also like my lasagna to have lots of ricotta cheese and sauce between the layers, so that it is not dry.

To make my lasagna, you will need the following:


Lasagna Sauce


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 of a sweet onion, finely minced
  • 1 small carrot, finely minced
  • 1 celery stalk, minced 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 4-26 to 28 oz. contains Italian chopped tomatoes
  • 2-6 oz. cans of tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper
  • 6 basil leaves, minced
  • 1 sprig of fresh oregano, leaves minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley



To make mincing the vegetables easier, I put them in the food processor and process until finely chopped.


Place the minced vegetables and the olive oil in a large saucepan and cook on low until softened. Do not let the vegetables brown. Add the tomato paste and cook for two minutes. Fill the empty tomato paste cans with water and add them to the saucepan. Stir until the paste is dissolved.



Add the chopped tomatoes, salt, black and chili peppers and herbs. Bring to a low boil, reduce heat to very low and simmer sauce until very thick, about 3 hours. Taste to see if more salt is needed.


Fresh Pasta Noodles


  • 2 1/4 – 2 1/2 cups Italian 00 flour or  unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling the pasta
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Making the pasta in a food processor:

To protect the dough from overheating, use the eggs cold – right from the refrigerator.

Place the eggs and oil in the bowl of the processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse for a few seconds to combine. Add about 2 1/4  cups of the flour and pulse until the dough just comes together.

If the dough is very sticky, add the remaining ¼ cup flour. The dough should be smooth and slightly sticky. If the dough seems dry add a tablespoon or two of water.

Pulse a few times and then scrape the dough onto a lightly floured board.

Cut the dough into quarters. Roll out one-quarter at a time, keeping the rest of the dough wrapped in plastic. Shape the dough into a flat rectangle.

Set the rollers of a hand-cranked or electric pasta machine at their widest opening. Run the dough once through the machine. Remove and lightly dust with flour. Fold the dough in thirds, like a book, pressing down with your fingers, and run through the machine again. Repeat this step at least two more times, dusting lightly with flour if needed, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Now change the rollers of the pasta machine to the next decreasing setting and roll out the dough once without folding. Keep rolling the sheet through the machine on decreasing settings until you have rolled it through the last (thinnest) setting. Repeat with the remaining dough. Keep the rolled out pasta sheets covered with kitchen towels.

For lasagna noodles, cut the pasta strips into 4 x 8-inch pieces.


Lasagna Cheese Filling


  • 32 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 16 oz. mozzarella cheese, sliced thin


Mix all the ingredients, except the mozzarella cheese, together until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to assemble the lasagna.


Completing the Lasagna:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Oil a 13 x 9 inch glass baking dish

Spread about 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of the dish and place a layer of noodles on top.


Spread one-third of the sliced mozzarella cheese on top of the pasta and then one-third of the ricotta cheese mixture over the mozzarella; top with another 1 cup of sauce. Repeat the layers twice, then top with a layer of noodles. Spread 1 cup of sauce over the top layer of pasta.


Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes longer.  Let stand 15 minutes before cutting. Makes at least 12 servings.



IMG_0189In 2007 Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, authored, “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking” and it does just that!


You simply mix the recipe ingredients in a large bucket, cover and let the dough rise at room temperature for about 2 hours; then refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. You will have enough dough to make 3-4 loaves of bread or 3-4 pizzas with very little work. Once I discovered the Artisan Bread method, I have been making most of my breads following their process.

If you would like to know more about this method visit their website:  The authors have recently written a book on how to make gluten-free bread with this method.

I like to use Italian “00” flour for making pizza. Italian “00” flour is lower in protein and makes a supple, smooth and easy dough to shape.The “00” refers to the grind of the flour and this flour is fine-textured. The resulting baked goods are light, airy and have a crisp snap to the crust. It’s ideal for pizza, flatbread, focaccia and crackers.

I purchase the flour from King Arthur. Of course, you can use other types of flour but the ingredient amounts will vary slightly.

Homemade Pizza with Oven Dried Tomatoes and Pesto

No Knead Pizza Dough

I use the method and recipe for the dough from “Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. The bucket should not be airtight, so leave the lid ajar or, do what I did, drill a tiny hole in the top center of the lid.


Ingredients for the dough

  • 3 cups warm water (about 100 degrees F)
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 7 ½  cups 00 Italian Style flour

Ingredients for Oven Dried Tomatoes:

  • 2 pints grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

Ingredients for the topping:

  • 1 lb sliced mozzarella cheese
  • 1 recipe oven dried tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup homemade or store-bought basil pesto
  • Crushed black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions for making the oven dried tomatoes:

Heat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Pour the oil into a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle the minced garlic over the oil in the pan. Place the tomatoes in an even layer on the baking pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper.


Bake for about 90 minutes until the juices have stopped running, the tomato edges are shriveled and the tomato pieces have shrunken slightly. Make ahead and store in the refrigerator.


Directions for making the pizza dough:

Pour the water into a 5 quart bowl or lidded food container. Add yeast and salt to the water.

Measure the flour with the “scoop and sweep” method. (Dip cup into flour and scoop it up. Level the cup with the back of a knife.)

Add all the flour and mix with a wooden spoon. You only need to mix it until all ingredients are combined. No kneading is necessary. (The dough will be very moist and will actually conform to the shape of the container you put it in.)


How the dough looks after it is mixed.

Cover, but don’t seal the lid tightly, and let the dough rise at room temperature until it begins to flatten on the top (about 2 hours).


DO NOT PUNCH DOWN THE DOUGH! This method is designed to retain as much gas in the dough as possible. After rising, refrigerate the dough in the container and use the dough over the next 14 days. Once it’s refrigerated the dough will collapse and it will not rise again in the container — that’s normal. Extra dough may also be frozen with equally excellent results.

Directions for making the pizza:

Pull up and cut off a 1 1/3 pound piece of dough from the container of refrigerated pizza dough. My pizza pans are large, so I usually get 3 pizzas from a batch of dough.

Hold the dough in your hands and dust your hands with flour, as needed, to keep the dough from sticking to your fingers. Form a ball, by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides and rotating the dough a quarter-turn as you go.


Place the ball in an oiled pizza pan and press and stretch the dough to the edges of the pan. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

After the dough has rested, add the toppings.


Place the sliced mozzarella on top of the dough. Spread the pesto sauce over the cheese layer.

Distribute the tomatoes evenly over the pizza and grind some fresh black pepper over the top.


Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.

Place the pizza on the bottom rack in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before cutting.

This will be one of the best pizzas you have ever had.





Like burgers and hot dogs or a rack of ribs, grilled chicken is a regular during the summer months. Whether skewered, flattened, brined, spiced or upended on a beer can, there are lots and lots of ways to cook it. However, just putting a breast or leg on the grill and serving it with a couple of sides can get pretty boring. Having a few recipes for how to make that grilled chicken look like a special dish are good to have in your file. When it is hot or you are busy, you don’t want to have to do a lot of preparation, either. You can even grill extra chicken on the weekend and use it up in a number of different recipes during the week – and it won’t even look like the same grilled chicken.


Panzanella Salad with Grilled Chicken

Serves 4


  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, divided
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • One quarter of an Italian loaf of bread, cut in 1’2 inch slices
  • 2 medium red peppers, sliced
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced
  • 1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 2 lb. plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup small fresh basil leaves


Prepare outdoor gas or charcoal grill for covered, direct grilling on medium. Oil the grill grates.

Prepare vinaigrette:

In a large serving bowl, whisk together wine vinegar, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper and 2 tablespoons olive oil until blended; set aside.

Place bread slices, sliced peppers and sliced onions on a baking pan, brush bread slices, red pepper and onion slices with 2 tablespoons olive oil to lightly coat both sides; sprinkle vegetables with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper.

Brush chicken breasts with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper.

With tongs, place bread slices, red peppers, onion slices and chicken on the hot grill. Cover grill and cook bread about 3 minutes or until lightly toasted, turning over once. Cook peppers and onion about 8 minutes or until lightly browned and tender, turning over once. Cook chicken about 12 minutes or until chicken loses its pink color throughout, turning them over once. As the bread, vegetables and chicken finish cooking, transfer them to a cutting board. Cut bread slices, chicken, peppers, and onions into 1/2-inch pieces.

Add the diced tomatoes, basil, bread, peppers, onion and chicken to the bowl with the vinaigrette; toss to combine. Let rest about 10-15 minutes to allow flavors to blend and serve.


Chicken, Sausage and Pepper Skewers

Serves 6


  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 sprig of rosemary, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 2” pieces
  • 2 bell peppers (red and green), cut into 1 1/2″-wide strips
  • 1 1/2 lbs. fresh Italian sausage cut into 2” pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Heat an outdoor grill to medium and oil the grates.

On low heat in a small saucepan, heat oil and the chopped rosemary leaves. Once oil and rosemary start to sizzle, remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. This can be done in advance.

Whisk together 1/4 cup of the rosemary oil and the vinegar; add the chicken pieces and marinate for 30 minutes. Reserve balance of oil for grilling.

Remove chicken pieces from the marinade and lightly season with salt and pepper. Alternate the chicken, peppers and sausage on the skewers. Discard the marinade.

Reduce grill temperature to low and cook the skewers over low heat, turning frequently to avoid burning, about 5 minutes on each side.  Brush with the remaining rosemary oil during cooking.


Pizza with Grilled Chicken, Kalamata Olives and Fresh Mozzarella


  • 1 portion pizza dough
  • 1/2 cup quick tomato basil sauce (recipe follows)
  • 1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives , thinly sliced
  • 2 ounces leftover grilled chicken breast, cut in julienne strips
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced

Quick Tomato Sauce

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh garlic minced
  • 8 Roma (plum) tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons basil , chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar


Press pizza dough out in a pizza pan. Lightly spread some of the tomato sauce over the dough. Arrange mozzarella slices, olives and chicken on top.

Bake at 450°F for 15 – 20  minutes or until the dough is crispy.

Quick Tomato Basil Sauce

(Makes about 3 cups)

Heat a medium saucepan and the oil over medium-high heat and sauté onion with garlic until the onion is golden, 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Carefully ladle tomato mixture in a blender or use a hand blender and process until smooth. Season sauce with basil, salt, pepper and sugar.

Store any remaining sauce in an airtight container for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or freeze for about 1 month.


Pasta with Grilled Chicken and Spinach

Serves 4


  • 1 lb. chicken breasts, skin removed
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 8 ounces uncooked linguine
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for grilling
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh garlic
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 3/4 cup)
  • 4 cups fresh baby (small) spinach leaves


Prepare an outdoor grill for medium-high heat. Oil the grill grates.

Brush the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place the chicken on the grill and cook for 8 minutes on each side or until done. Let stand 10 minutes and thinly slice.

Cook the pasta al dente. Drain well; keep warm.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan; swirl to coat. Add flour and garlic; cook until garlic is browned (about 2 minutes), stirring constantly.

Slowly, add milk and broth, stirring with a whisk; bring to a simmer, and cook 2 minutes or until thickened. Add cheese, stirring until cheese melts.

Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper and spinach; stir until spinach is barely wilted. Add pasta and chicken; toss to combine. Serve immediately.


Warm Chicken Salad

Serves 4


  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped dill
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 8 cups salad greens
  • 4 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and quartered


Prepare an outdoor gas or charcoal grill for covered, direct grilling on medium. Oil the grill grates.

In a serving bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, salt and black pepper. Remove 2 tablespoons of the dressing and set aside.

Break off the woody ends of the asparagus but leave the rest of the stalk whole for grilling.

Brush the chicken and asparagus with the reserved 2 tablespoons of dressing.

Grill the chicken about 12 minutes and the asparagus for 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and the asparagus are tender.

Cut the chicken into ½ inch slices. cut the asparagus into thirds.

Add dill and honey to the remaining lemon dressing in the serving bowl..Add the tomatoes, sliced chicken and asparagus. Mix well.

To serve:

Line each plate with 2 cups of salad greens. Equally divide the chicken mixture over the greens. Top with quartered hard-cooked eggs and serve.

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