Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Dinner


This past weekend, I had friends visiting us from Switzerland. I wanted to make a special Italian dinner for them. One that was not a typical Italian-American dinner but a dinner with dishes that are particular to Tuscany; one of their favorite places to visit. Dinner was big hit.

First Course


Italian Red Onion Soup with Parmesan Crisps

Serves 6


  • Parmesan crisps, recipe below
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 8 cups vegetable broth


Melt the butter in a soup kettle and cook the onions, covered, for 10 minutes.

Stir in the flour and cook for a minute. Add the salt, pepper, honey and wine and heat until the wine reduces a bit.

Add the broth, bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 2 hours. Serve in individual bowls garnished with the crisps.


Parmesan Crisps

Makes 6 crisps


  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


Preheat oven to 350 °F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (Do not use cooking spray.)

Mound 3 level tablespoonfuls of cheese in 5 inch long strips about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.

Bake until the cheese is melted, soft and a very light golden color, about 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven and place the baking pan on a cooling rack. Do not disturb the crisps until completely cooled and firm to the touch, about 20 minutes.

Using a thin spatula or knife, lift the crackers from the baking sheet.

Make Ahead Tip: Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.


Sourdough Cheese Rolls


  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sourdough starter (at room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup grated Italian cheese (half grated parmesan and half shredded mozzarella)
  • 2 teaspoons salt


Combine 2 cups of all-purpose flour, yeast, sourdough starter, sugar, butter, egg and salt in an electric mixer bowl. Beat 3 to 4 minutes.

Add baking soda to the whole wheat flour and blend into the flour-yeast mixture. Add cheese and remaining flour to  make a soft dough.

Switch to the dough hook and knead until smooth (5 to 8 minutes).

Place in a greased bowl; turn once. Cover; let rise until double (1 ½ to 2 hours). Punch the dough down. Cover; let rest 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil 2 baking sheets.

Divide the dough into 24 pieces and shape into balls. Place on the oiled baking sheets. Cover; let rise until double (25 to 30 minutes).

Bake at 375 degrees F about 20 minutes.

Second Course


Grilled Italian Sausage with Grapes


  • 2 pounds sweet Italian sausage grilled and cut into 2 inch serving pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound seedless red grapes, halved lengthwise
  • 4 shallots sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 teaspoons excellent quality balsamic vinegar


Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the grapes, shallots and broth and heat.

Stir pepper and salt into the grape-onion mixture and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the grapes are soft but still retain their shape, 3 to 5 minutes longer.

Reduce heat to medium, stir in the grilled sausages, wine and oregano and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until the wine is reduced and the sausages are hot.

Arrange the sausages on a serving platter and spoon the grape mixture over the top. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and serve.

Quick Creamy Polenta


  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, if using water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup quick cooking polenta
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Bring the broth and cream to a boil. Add salt and butter, then while stirring, slowly pour in the polenta.

Stir until there are no lumps, then turn the heat down to a bare simmer. After 5 minutes, stir in the Parmesan and turn off the heat. Cover the pan until ready to serve.


Italian Style Peas


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 16 ounces frozen green peas
  • 1 tablespoon chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion and garlic; cook about 5 minutes. Add frozen peas, and stir in stock. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover, cook until the peas are tender, about 5 minutes and serve.

Dessert Course


Ricotta Cheesecake with Cherry Sauce


  • Soft butter for the pan
  • ½ cup crushed Amaretti cookies
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 pounds ricotta cheese, drained
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 6 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cherry Sauce

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur 
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen dark sweet cherries, pitted


For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Set an oven rack in the middle of the oven.

Butter a 9 inch springform pan. Sprinkle the pan with amaretti cookie crumbles to cover the bottom and sides of the pan.

Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the ricotta, orange zest and sugar. Mix to combine. Beat in the flour.

Add eggs, 1 at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the amaretto liqueur and salt.

Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the center of the oven for about 75 minutes, until a light golden color.

Make sure the center is firm and the point of a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator until chilled, overnight or at least for 2 hours.

Remove the sides of the pan and serve with fruit sauce.

For the sauce:

Combine the water, lemon juice, amaretto, sugar, salt and cornstarch in a small pot. Whisk until smooth.

Add the cherries and stir. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool.

If you want to serve it warm, you may do so; simply let it cool until it is warm, not hot or cover and refrigerate to store.



Summer Cooler Dolan Zolan’'s painting 2011

Summer Cooler – Dolan Zolan’s painting 2011

Getting together with friends doesn’t need to be something that’s planned for days. Keep it simple and enjoy the evening. You also want to cook easy, but delicious food with a minimum of fuss. I try to make up menus that do most of the cooking on the grill and much of the preparation in advance. That way I can spend time with my guests. Make dessert easy by serving fresh fruit. It is much more refreshing than a heavy dessert and add a little frozen yogurt, if desired.

Menu One

Serve this dinner with a tray of vegetables and a creamy dip.

Pesto Flounder Packets


This recipe is easy to adapt to seasonal ingredients. When basil is not available, use a spinach or red pepper pesto. Baking in parchment during cold weather is quite successful, but use the grilling method when the weather cooperates.

4 servings


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 (6-ounce) flounder fillets or any white fish fillets available in your area
  • 1/4 cup prepared pesto
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Lime slices


Prepare  an outdoor grill.

Cut aluminum foil into 4 pieces large enough to enclose the fillets. Drizzle 1/2 tablespoon olive oil on each piece of foil. Place fish on top of the oil.


Lightly spread 1 tablespoon pesto over each fillet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with tomato and lime slices.

Seal foil packets and place on the grill. Grill 8-10 minutes or until fish are cooked.

Summer Vegetable Gratin


This casserole can be prepared in advance and cooked when the guests arrive or cooked in advance and reheated. Tastes just fine reheated.

Serves 6


  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium yellow squash, diced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 3 cups fresh corn kernels, divided
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 small handful of fresh parsley, washed, dried and coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil a 2-quart gratin or baking dish.

Set aside 1 cup of the corn kernels.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over low heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until it begins to soften, about three minutes.

Add the bell pepper, squash and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender, about five minutes.

Add the garlic and 2 cups corn kernels, stir together and add another generous pinch of salt and some pepper.

Stir together for a minute or two and remove the pan from the heat.

Place the remaining 1 cup corn kernels in a blender and add the eggs, milk and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Blend until smooth. Combine with the vegetables in the skillet.

Add the parsley and the cheese, and stir together. Pour into the prepared gratin dish.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is browned and the gratin is firm to the touch. Serve hot or warm.

Menu Two

Add some crusty bread to this dinner and you are all set.

Zucchini Pasta with Ricotta Cheese


4 servings

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sweet onion, finely diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced,
  • 8 oz rigatoni or other dry pasta
  • 8 ounces ricotta, about 1 cup
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup sliced basil leaves


Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta.

In the same pan heat the olive oil and saute the onion and garlic. Reduce the heat as necessary to keep the onions from browning.

Add zucchini, season generously with salt and pepper and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until tender, about 5 minutes.

IMG_0027 (1)

Add the lemon zest, juice and crushed red pepper. Stir. Add the cooked pasta and the pasta cooking water. Add the grated cheese and mix thoroughly.

Turn into a serving bowl and place tablespoons of ricotta cheese on top and scatter the basil over all. Serve immediately

Garden Salad



  • 1/4 of a red onion, sliced
  • 2 small tomatoes, diced
  • Half a cucumber, diced
  • Sliced radishes and black olives to taste
  • 4 cups torn garden lettuce
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Italian Vinaigrette, recipe below


Combine all the ingredients in a salad bowl. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Drizzle some of the dressing over the salad and mix well. Taste and add a little more dressing, if necessary.

Italian Vinaigrette

Yields: ¾ cup

  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian mixed herbs
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil


Whisk the first seven ingredients together. Whisk in the olive oil, a little at a time, until it is all incorporated.

Menu Three


Add a Tomato Salad to complete this menu.

Grilled Italian Sausage

Grill the sausage over indirect heat and the potato packets over direct heat. Saves lots of cleaning up in the kitchen.


  • 1 ½ lbs Italian Sausage
  • Olive oil


Heat the grill for both direct and indirect cooking. Brush the sausage lightly with olive oil. Place the sausage on the indirect side of the grill and close the cover.

Cook for 15 minutes and turn the sausage over. Cook for 15 more minutes. Slice and serve with the potato mixture

Potatoes, Bell Peppers and Onions

5-6 servings


  • 4 medium red potatoes, cut into wedges, boiled until barely tender
  • 1 medium green pepper, cut into chunks
  • 1 medium onion, cut into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper


In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients. Place the mixture on a piece of heavy-duty foil (about 18 inches square). Fold foil around the potato mixture and crimp the edges to seal.

Grill directly over high heat, rotating the packet several times, until the vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes


Pining for a great steak dinner or celebrating a special occasion? A trip to s premium steakhouse will cost you the following:

Morton’s 3 course steak dinner for one is $150-160.

Ruth’s Chris price for just the cowboy rib eye is $50.

Gibson’s Steakhouse in Chicago – premium steaks average $40 to $60 per steak.

Dinner at less prestigious steak restaurants will be at least $90 per person.

If you make this special dinner at home, and I did, this is what it cost me:

Cost of a quality steakhouse dinner at home for 2 is less than $30 plus whatever your wine cost. These are prices for my area and the vegetables are in season and often on sale here

1 1/2 lb organic, grass fed French cut rib eye steak cost $22.50

Prices at the market this week:

$1.99 per lb for asparagus = $2.98 for 1 ½ lbs

5 lb bag of red potatoes on sale for $3.49 = $1.40 for 2 lbs needed for the recipe.

1 lb mushrooms were $2.49


Grilled French Cut Rib Eye Steak

This steak has several names, such as cowboy or tomahawk. The steak can be grilled over indirect heat or it can be baked in the oven,

It is a large steak and we will only eat part of it. However, I like having leftovers that I can use for a salad or a quesadilla later in the week.


  • One 22 – 24 oz French Cut Rib Eye Steak
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted


One hour before grilling, remove the steak from the refrigerator. Season it liberally with the salt and pepper. Let it rest at room temperature until it is time to grill.

Set the grill up for direct and indirect heat.

Put the steak on the grill over indirect heat. Close the lid, and cook the steak, turning a few times during cooking. The steak is ready for searing when it reaches 115°F  in the thickest part of the steak, about 25 – 30 minutes.

Brush the steak with some of the melted butter, then slide it to the direct heat side of the grill. Sear the steak until a brown crust forms on the steak. This should take about two minutes on each side, at which point the steak should reach 125°F for medium rare.

Remove the steak to a platter and baste i,t one last time, with the butter. Let the steak rest for 10 minutes, then slice and serve.

Oven Baked Method

Melt 2 tablespoons butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large heavy ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and add the steak to the skillet. Cook until seared and golden brown, 2 minutes per side. Transfer the skillet to the oven..

Roast steak in the oven, turning halfway through cooking and basting frequently with the butter in the pan, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into steak registers 125° for medium-rare, about 15 minutes, or to your desired temperature.

Transfer the steak to a cutting board and and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.


Balsamic Sautéed Mushrooms


  • 1 tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • Pinch Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Combine the vinegar and the brown sugar in a small cup and set aside.

Heat the oil and butter in a medium skillet and saute the mushrooms until all the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the garlic, thyme, salt and black pepper.

Turn the heat to low and add the vinegar mixture. Cook, stirring, until the liquid reduces to a glaze consistency that coats the mushrooms, 15 to 20 seconds.


Grilled Asparagus


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1 1/2 pounds asparagus spears, ends trimmed
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Heavy duty foil


Lay the asparagus on a large sheet of heavy duty foil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and then with the garlic and lemon zest. Pour the melted butter over the asparagus.

Enclose the asparagus in the foil and seal the edges tightly. Place the package on the direct heat side of the grill while the steak is cooking.

Cook the asparagus for 8 minutes, turn the package over and cook another 8 minutes. Be careful opening the package because the steam will be very hot.


Warm Potato Salad


  • 2 pounds red potatoes, ppelled and quartered
  • 1/2 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 medium red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • Salt to taste


Place potatoes in a medium-sized saucepan covered 2 inches by salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain.

In the same saucepan, combine the olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, capers, vinegar and red onion. Bring to a simmer and remove from the heat.

Add the drained potatoes and toss with the warm dressing, celery and parsley. Salt to taste and serve warm.

I belong to a community group that meets once a month. We have a potluck dinner prior to each meeting and everyone brings a “covered” dish.  Until I discovered the Reynolds Pan Carriers, I struggled with how to transport my dish to the meeting. The Reynolds’ pans make the whole process so much easier. You can reheat the food in the aluminum pan, cover it, place in the carrier and then into the car. So much easier to carry it into the meeting also because the pan has handles.

Carriers are available in Lasagna and 13 x 9 inch Cake Pan sizes. These carriers are made with the same sturdy paper board used to carry 6-packs of beverages. Plus, the colorful design on the disposable carrier makes it attractive to place on the table.

Below is a video from the Reynolds Company on how these disposable pans and carriers work. A bonus  recipe is included.

Below are some of the recipes that I have made for the potluck dinners and I have been asked to make again and again. Hope you like them.


Orecchiette Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe


  • One bunch broccoli rabe, washed and trimmed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage, cut into one inch slices
  • 1 lb orecchiette pasta
  • Salt


Cut the broccoli rabe into one inch pieces and place in a large Dutch oven. Fill the pot with cold water and add salt to taste. Bring to a boil and cook the broccoli rabe for about 5 minutes or until just tender. Remove the broccoli rabe with a slotted spoon or spider to a bowl. Return the water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook the pasta al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the garlic and olive oil in a large deep skillet Add the sausage and cook until completely brown. Add the cooked broccoli rabe and red pepper. Heat thoroughly. Add the pasta cooking water and the cooked pasta. Stir and heat for a few minutes before serving.


Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs


  • 15 mini fresh mozzarella balls
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup Italian bread crumbs
  • ½ onion minced
  • Small garlic clove minced
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1/3 cup shredded fresh Parmesan cheese
  • Marinara Sauce


Place cheese balls in a plastic freezer container in a single layer and freeze at least 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 375°F. Line 15 x 10 x 1 inch pan with foil; spray foil with cooking spray.

In large bowl, mix bread crumbs and 3 tablespoons of pasta sauce. Stir in beef, onion, salt, oregano and egg. Shape mixture into 15 (2-inch) balls.

Press 1 cheese cube into the center of each ball, sealing it inside. Gently place on the prepared pan. Bake 10 minutes. Do not turn off the oven.

Place browned meatballs in an ovenproof casserole dish with a cover and pour the marinara sauce over the meatballs. Place the covered dish in the oven and heat the meatballs in the sauce, about 20 minutes.


Oven Baked Italian Chicken Casserole


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • One 3 lb chicken, cut into 10 pieces
  • 1 pound package Italian pork or chicken sausage each link diagonally cut into fourths
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Juice from 2 lemons (about 4 tablespoons)
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 4 medium baking potatoes, cut in fourths
  • 2 green and 2 red bell peppers, cut into one inch strips
  • 1 large sweet onion, cut into eighths


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Coat the bottom of a roasting pan with the olive oil. Place chicken in the pan, skin side down. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken pieces and scatter the sausage pieces around the chicken.

Bake 15 minutes; turn chicken pieces over and bake 15 minutes.

Squeeze lemon over the chicken, place the lemon skins in the roasting dish with the chicken and sprinkle the chicken with the minced garlic and oregano.

Add the sliced potatoes, onions and peppers to the pan and sprinkle with salt.

Lower the oven temperature to 400 degrees F.

Cover the pan with foil and bake 1 hour, turning the ingredients after 30 minutes.


Italian Pot Roast


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 lb chuck roast
  • All-purpose flour
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 container crushed tomatoes (26-28 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sage leaves, chopped


Trim most of the fat from the meat and pat dry with paper towels. Season the roast generously with the salt and pepper and lightly rub with all-purpose flour.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot,  but not smoking, add the roast and brown on all sides, 10-12 minutes.

Transfer the meat to a platter.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the carrots, celery, mushrooms and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, 10-12 minutes. Add the garlic and tomato paste and stir about 1 minute.

Add the wine and stir to incorporate the vegetables. Add the beef stock, the tomatoes, half the parsley, the sage, the bay leaf and the roast with any juices accumulated on the plate. Bring to a boil.

Cover the pot, reduce the heat and simmer on very low, turning and basting the meat every half hour or so, until the meat is very tender, about 4 hours.

(You can also put the pot into a 300°F oven and turn the roast every hour.)

Remove the meat from the pot and place it on a cutting board, covered loosely with aluminum foil to rest for 10 minutes.

Taste and adjust the sauce for seasoning, remove the bay leaf and stir in the remaining chopped parsley.

Cut the meat into thick slices and place in a deep serving dish. Spoon the hot sauce over the meat to serve.




Cheese Filling:

  • 32 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese


  • 16 oz mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
  • 4 cups spaghetti sauce
  • 16 lasagna noodles, parboiled


For the filling:

Mix all the filling ingredients 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 parboiled 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 with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes longer. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting.


Believe it or not, it is possible to eat and cook healthy with pasta. When prepared appropriately, pasta has many positive benefits in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and it can satisfy numerous dietary needs. Pasta is a great vehicle for enjoying other healthy foods that improve your diet as well, such as healthy proteins and vegetables.

The most important thing to remember about pasta is that when you prepare it at home, you have complete control over making sure it was cooked in a healthy manner.

Some tips on how to keep your pasta recipes healthy:

Pay Attention to Portions

First, we nearly always cook too much pasta. The USDA recommends 2 ounces of dry pasta per person, which works out to about 1 cup of cooked pasta per person.

Add Healthy Ingredients

Add sautéed  broccoli, peppers, spinach or sweet onions to your plain cooked pasta and mix in a tablespoon of olive oil for a delicious side dish with your meal. Add garlic, herbs and grated Parmesan cheese for flavor.

Always Use Olive Oil

Avoid saturating the pasta in rich, thick and high-calories fats. This is obvious for Italians, but always try to use olive oil, an unsaturated fat, which assists with the absorption of vitamins.

Choose Lean Proteins

Add drained and rinsed beans, such as cannellini beans or chickpeas, along with the sauce. Other healthy protein options include lean pork loin, grass-fed beef, fish, ground turkey and chicken or lean turkey sausage.


Spicy Puttanesca

6-8 servings


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 3 ounces green olives, such as Castelvetrano (Italian green olives), pitted and chopped (1/2 cup) plus extra for garnishing
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon drained capers, chopped
  • One 2-ounce can anchovy fillets in oil, drained and chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup canned crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup torn basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice


In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the olives, capers, anchovies, jalapeno and garlic and cook over moderately high heat until sizzling. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, crushed tomatoes and the almonds and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, about 7 minutes.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta for 5 minutes. Drain, reserving 3 cups of the pasta cooking water.

Add the spaghetti and the reserved cooking water to the sauce in the skillet and cook until the pasta is al dente. Stir in the parsley, basil, lemon zest and lemon juice and serve in bowls with a drizzle of olive oil. Garnish with additional olives, if desired.


Linguine with Scallops

6 servings


  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 3/4 pound linguine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds sea scallops
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red-pepper (chili) flakes


Toast the pine nuts in a large dry skillet until golden brown. Remove from the skillet and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in the same skillet over moderately high heat until very hot. Season the scallops with 1/4 teaspoon salt and put them in the skillet.

Sear until brown on the bottom, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn and sear until brown on the other side, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Remove the scallops to a bowl and cut them into quarters.

In the same pan, heat the remaining oil over moderate heat. Add the tomatoes, garlic, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, the red-pepper flakes and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the scallops and the pine nuts.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the linguine until al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain the pasta.

Add the pasta to the skillet with the remaining 4 tablespoons of parsley. Toss well and serve.


Rigatoni with Red Peppers and Spinach

6 servings


  • 12 oz rigatoni pasta
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, seeded and sliced into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 oz fresh spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil


Cook rigatoni according to package directions for al dente. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Return pasta to the pot to keep warm.

While the pasta cooks, heat the oil in a skillet over high heat. Stir in onion, peppers and tomatoes. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Sauté, stirring occasionally.

After 5 minutes, add spinach and continue to sauté until the vegetables are tender and the spinach is wilted, about 5 more minutes.

Add vegetables, reserved pasta water and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese to the cooked pasta and gently toss to combine.

Place in a serving bowl and top with basil and remaining Parmesan cheese.


Spaghetti with Cauliflower and Capers

6-8 servings


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup soft bread crumbs
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed, plus extra for garnish
  • One 1 1/2 pound head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets (5 to 6 cups)
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 pound spaghetti


Bring a 5- to 6-quart pot of salted water to boiling. Cook spaghetti according to package directions, except cook for 2 minutes less than the time given on the package for al dente. Drain spaghetti and return to the large pot.

In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-low heat. Add breadcrumbs to the hot oil; cook about 3 minutes or until crumbs are crisp and golden brown, stirring frequently. Stir in 1 clove of the minced garlic; cook and stir until garlic is tender. Transfer mixture to a small bowl. Stir in 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and the lemon peel and set aside.

In the same large skillet heat the remaining the oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and salt; cook about 3 minutes or until the onion is tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1 teaspoon thyme and the remaining 2 cloves minced garlic; cook and stir for 30 seconds. Add cauliflower, broth and capers; cover and cook about 10 minutes or until cauliflower is tender. Stir in lemon juice and pepper.

Add cauliflower mixture to the cooked spaghetti. Cook about 5 minutes more or until spaghetti is al dente. Divide spaghetti mixture among six shallow serving bowls. Sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture and the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Garnish with additional snipped fresh thyme.


Chicken, Green Beans and Pesto Pasta

6-8 servings


  • 4 chicken breasts
  • Flour for dredging
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 pound of penne pasta
  • 8 oz thin green beans, ends trimmed
  • 1/2 cup of homemade or good quality prepared pesto
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Grated Parmesan cheese


Trim fat from the chicken breasts. If very thick, slice in half lengthwise to create two thin cutlets. Season with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken in the flour.

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat until melted.  Add in the chicken and sauté until browned on each side and almost cooked through – about 3 minutes per side. Place chicken on a cutting board and slice into one inch pieces and set aside.

Add the white wine to the pan and simmer for a few minutes to deglaze. Lower the heat. Add in the stock and simmer for a few minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Return the chicken and any juices to the pan and allow to simmer until cooked through.

Bring salted water to a boil in a large pasta pot. Add pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Add the green beans to the pasta pan for the final 6 minutes of cooking time.

Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain pasta and green beans.

Add pasta and green beans to the skillet with the chicken. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pesto and add the remaining to the pasta. Stir to incorporate. If dry, add in as much pasta water as needed.

Arrange the pasta on a warmed serving plate and dot with the reserved pesto. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.


Lean meats are packed with nutrients like B vitamins (niacin, thiamin, riboflavin and B6), which help the body’s metabolism, aid in red blood cell formation and play a vital role in our nervous system; iron, found particularly in red meat, helps maintain energy and carry oxygen through the bloodstream (and is especially important for teenage girls and women in their child-bearing years); magnesium, which is vital for building bones; and zinc, which is essential for our immune system.

Eating lean beef, lamb, pork, and poultry can be part of a reasonable weight management program that also includes generous amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables.

While skinless chicken breasts and turkey cutlets may qualify as your best bets,  red meat can be healthy if kept lean, eaten in small portions and in moderation. For the leanest ground beef, look for ground round, followed by ground sirloin, ground chuck and then regular ground beef (but aim for at least 90 to 95 percent lean, which contains about 5 grams of total fat per serving). Other lean options include:

  • Beef cuts with “loin” or “round” in the name (top round, round tip, top sirloin, bottom round, top loin and tenderloin)
  • Pork products with “loin” or “leg” in the name (tenderloin, top loin roast, top loin chop, center loin chop, sirloin roast and loin rib chop)
  • Lamb cuts with loin chop, arm chop and fore shanks in the name.


Parmesan Chicken

4 servings


  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoned Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 4 (1/4 lb) boneless skinless chicken breast
  • Olive oil for brushing chicken


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Pound chicken lightly between sheets of plastic wrap to an even thickness.

With a pastry brush, lightly brush chicken with olive oil.

In resealable plastic bag, combine cheese, crumbs and all seasonings; shake well.

Transfer mixture to plate; dip each chicken breast in cheese mixture, turning to coat all sides.

Arrange on a nonstick baking sheet coated with olive oil cooking spray.

Bake until chicken is cooked through, 20-25 minutes.


Balsamic Pork Tenderloin

4 servings


  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves, crushed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


  • 1 (1 lb) pork tenderloin, trimmed
  • Cooking Spray
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper to taste


Combine all marinade ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk.

Place the pork in a large zip-top plastic bag, add 1/3 cup of the marinade and seal. Refrigerate remaining marinade for later use. Toss bag gently to coat. Refrigerate overnight or at least 8 hours, turning occasionally.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F

Remove pork from marinade; discard the marinade in the bag. Tie kitchen string around the pork tenderloin in 3 places. Put the pork in a small roasting pan coated with cooking spray.

Roast the pork for 15 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into thickest part of meat reaches 145 degrees. Remove the pork from the oven and let rest 5 minutes. Sprinkle pork with 1/8 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Cut into slices and serve.


Flank Steak with Gorgonzola Butter

6 servings


  • 1 1/2 lb flank steak
  • 1 tablespoon olive Oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh cracked pepper, to taste
  • Cooking Spray

Gorgonzola butter

  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons crumbled Gorgonzola cheese


Make the Gorgonzola butter by mixing together the butter and cheese. Set aside in a serving ramekin.

Rub the olive oil and crushed garlic over the meat, season with salt and pepper and set aside for 10 minutes.

Heat an indoor grill pan on high heat and spray with cooking Spray. Or heat the broiler and spray the broiler pan with cooking spray

Cook the steak 6 to 8 minutes on each side or until cooked to the desired degree. Let the meat stand five minutes before slicing.

Cut beef into thin slices across the grain and serve with Gorgonzola butter.


Lamb Chops with Parsley Garlic Sauce

Serves 6


  • 6 thick lamb loin chops or 12 thin lamb loin chops
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/2 cup unseasoned Japanese Panko crumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, divided


Preheat oven to 425°F. Season lamb chops all over with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and arrange on a rimmed baking sheet. Set aside.

Make the sauce by combining the Panko breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic, remaining salt and pepper in a medium bowl.

Spread the surface of each lamb chop with about 1/2 teaspoon of the mustard.

Press the breadcrumb mixture lightly onto the lamb chops on top of the mustard. Bake lamb chops until cooked to desired doneness, about 20 minutes for medium rare. Thick chops will take longer than thinner ones so adjust timing accordingly.

Remove chops from the oven and let rest on baking sheet for about 5 minutes before serving.


Apple, Sage and Turkey Meatloaf

Serves 8


  • 2 apples, cored, peeled and grated
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2/3 cup Italian-style (seasoned) bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk
  • 2 pounds ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup no-sugar-added barbecue sauce


Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine apples, onion, bread crumbs and milk in a large bowl and let stand 5 minutes to soften bread crumbs. Add turkey, sage, egg, salt and pepper and mix until combined.

Turn the mixture onto the baking sheet. With water-moistened hands, shape the mixture into a loaf about 10 inches long and 5 inches wide.

Spread the top of the loaf with the barbecue sauce and bake until the meatloaf is lightly browned and cooked through (an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should register 165°F), 50 to 60 minutes.

Let meatloaf rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Ring in the New Year in Style


Pan-Seared Salmon with Linguine


Makes 4 servings


  • Four 5 ounce pieces of fresh or frozen skinless salmon fillets, thawed and dried
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • ½ cup oil-packed dried tomatoes, drained and finely chopped
  • ½ cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • ¼ cup finely chopped, pitted green olives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Pepperoncini peppers
  • Cooked Linguine


Sprinkle salmon with salt. In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add salmon. Cook for 4 to 6 minutes per 1/2-inch thickness of fish or until fish just flakes when tested with a fork, turning once. Transfer to a serving platter. Cover; keep warm.

For the pesto:

Add remaining oil to the skillet. Add onion and dried tomatoes; cook and stir for 3 to 4 minutes or until tender. Stir in cherry tomatoes, olives, basil, and crushed red pepper. Stir to heat through. Season to taste with salt.

Spoon tomato mixture over salmon. Top with additional fresh basil and serve with cooked pasta and pepperoncini peppers.

Roast Duck with Blackberry Sauce


Makes: 4 servings


  • 4 pound domestic duck
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 small orange, quartered
  • 1 stalk celery, cut up
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 tablespoon finely shredded orange peel
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup orange liqueur
  • ¼ cup mild-flavor molasses
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 2 cups blackberries

Adjust oven rack to lower third of the oven. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Rinse duck body cavity; pat dry. Rub cavity with the 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Place orange, celery, onion, and thyme in cavity. Skewer neck skin to back; tie legs to tail. Twist wing tips under back. Brush duck with the 2 tablespoons orange liqueur.

Place duck, breast side down, on rack in a shallow roasting pan. Add the hot water to the roasting pan. Place in lower third of oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Roast, uncovered, for 45 minutes.

Carefully remove roasting pan from oven; drain fat.* Turn duck, breast side up. Roast for 45 to 60 minutes more or until drumsticks move easily in their sockets (165 degrees F). Juices may still appear pink.

Meanwhile, for sauce, in a small saucepan whisk together orange peel, orange juice, brown sugar, the 1/4 cup orange liqueur, the molasses, ginger, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 to 12 minutes or until thickened and syrupy. Stir in 2 cups blackberries. Use a potato masher or fork to coarsely mash berries. Cover and set aside.

Transfer duck to a cutting board; let stand for 15 minutes. Discard stuffing mixture. Using kitchen shears, cut duck in half lengthwise. Cut each half between the breast and the thigh into 2 pieces. Drain fat from roasting pan. Arrange duck quarters in pan. Pour blackberry sauce over the duck. Return to oven. Roast in the 350 degrees F oven for 30 minutes.

Transfer duck pieces to a serving platter. Pour any juices in the roasting pan over the duck pieces.

Chicken Roll-Ups


Makes: 6 servings


  • 3 medium skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, halved horizontally (about 1 1/2 pounds total)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Garlic-herb cheese, see recipe below
  • 1 ounce baby arugula or baby spinach (about 1 cup packed)
  • ¾ cup jarred roasted red sweet peppers, drained well and chopped
  • 1 green onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup purchased or homemade pesto


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place chicken breast halves between pieces of plastic wrap. Using the flat side of a meat mallet, pound each to 1/4-inch thickness.

Season one side of each chicken breast with salt and pepper. Spread each breast with the herb cheese to the edges. Top with arugula, peppers, and green onion.

Press down on toppings, then roll up tightly, starting from a short end; secure with toothpicks. Brush pesto over rolls. Transfer to an oiled 2-quart rectangular baking dish.

Bake, uncovered, 25 to 30 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in the center (170 degrees F). Let stand 5 minutes. Remove toothpicks and slice crosswise to serve.


Stir 1 clove garlic, minced; 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed and 1/8 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed, into 3 ounces of cream cheese.

Lobster Tails with Garlic Butter


Makes: 4 servings


  • Four 8 ounce fresh or frozen lobster tails
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup butter, plus extra for serving


Thaw lobster tails, if frozen. Preheat broiler. Butterfly the lobster tails by cutting through the center of the hard top shells and meat. Spread the halves of tails apart. Place lobster tails, meat side up, on the unheated rack of a broiler pan.

In a small skillet cook garlic, orange peel, and chili powder in butter over medium heat about 30 seconds or until garlic is tender. Brush mixture over lobster meat.

Broil 4 inches from heat for 12 to 14 minutes or until lobster meat is opaque. Serve with extra melted butter.

Pan Seared Tenderloin Steak


Makes: 4 servings


  • 4 beef tenderloin steaks (filet mignon), cut about 3/4 inch thick
  • 10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup dry red wine
  • ½ cup reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 4 tablespoons finely shallots
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream (no substitutes for this dish)
  • Salt and Pepper


Heat a large stainless steel or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter; reduce heat to medium. Cook steaks about 3 minutes per side or until medium rare (145 degrees F). Transfer steaks to a platter. Cover with foil; let stand for 5 minutes while preparing sauce.

Add wine, beef broth and shallots to the hot skillet. Using a whisk, stir and scrape up any browned bits in the bottom of the skillet. Cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes or until liquid is reduced.. Lower heat to medium low.

Stir in cream; stir in the remaining tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking until butter is melted and sauce has thickened slightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide the evenly sauce over steaks and serve immediately.



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