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Jalapeno Popper Pasta


Jalapeno Popper Pasta is a cheesy, spicy dish where comfort food meets an appetizer favorite.  This grown-up mac ‘n cheese dish is filled with tasty jalapeno peppers, topped with garlic breadcrumbs and  is made a little lighter too!

While Mike and I were pretty sure we would enjoy Jalapeno Popper Pasta, because I mean really…between the cheese and garlic breadcrumbs and a nice kick from the jalapenos…it’s a safe assumption, right?  Well, this is how it typically goes down when I want to photograph our dinner for the blog.  I load up a plate for photos and head over to my photo spot.  I tell Mike to go ahead and start without me, but he always says he wants to wait.  (He might sneak a bite or two).  Photos take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes depending on various factors, and then we eat!  These photos didn’t take long, maybe 5 minutes.  I went to the table, and Mike had already finished.  He just smiled and went to load up for seconds.  It’s that good!

If you’re lucky enough to have a garden full of jalapenos, this Jalapeno Popper Pasta is a delicious, new and different way to use them up.


Jalapeno Popper Pasta
 
Yields: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces pasta (rotini, gemelli, or any other similar shape will work)
For the Garlic Breadcrumbs:
  • ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • pinch salt
For the Sauce:
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2-3 jalapeno peppers, minced (to yield approx ¼ cup)
  • 6 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, cut into 6 pieces
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 cup Monterey jack cheese
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. COOK PASTA: Cook pasta according to package directions to al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. MAKE BREADCRUMBS: Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium, nonstick skillet and add breadcrumbs and (1 clove) minced garlic. Stir frequently until breadcrumbs begin to brown and garlic is fragrant. Add a pinch of salt, remove from heat and set aside.
  3. MAKE SAUCE: In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook for about 5 minutes. Add peppers and cook for 3 minutes, or until onion and peppers are softened. Add garlic during the last minute, cooking until fragrant.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and add cream cheese to onion mixture. Stir until melted. Add milk, stirring until incorporated. Add cheese and chili powder and stir until melted and smooth.
  5. PUT IT TOGETHER: Remove sauce from heat. Add cooked pasta to sauce and toss until combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. SERVE: Divide on serving plates and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of garlic breadcrumbs. Top with jalapeño rings for garnish (optional).
Notes
Adapted from Rachael Ray

 
It’s my favorite time of month again…the Eating with the Alphabet Challenge hosted by Brenda from Meal Planning Magic!  This month we were to showcase a recipe using a fruit, vegetable or grain that begin with the letters I or J.  I obviously went with J for jalapeño.

The past few months, I have been able to knock out several recipes from my bucket list with this challenge, and each of these recipes have become household staples.  Gotta love a 3 year old who can’t get enough of roasted chickpeas (we go through 1 can every 1 to 2 days!)

vegetarian spinach ravioli lasagna

Easy Ravioli Lasagna

Easy Ravioli Lasagna - takes 10 minutes to prepare using only 5 ingredients.  This is so good!
I am excited to share this recipe with you. Easy Ravioli Lasagna has become one of our favorite weeknight dinners!  It has the delicious flavor of lasagna yet is made with only 5 main ingredients and takes 10 minutes to prepare ~ perfect these days when I find myself juggling a newborn and a busy 3 year old at dinnertime.  This lasagna can also be made ahead (like before leaving for work or, in my case, before the kids wake up) so it’s ready to just pop in the oven at dinner.

Easy Baked Ravoli Lasagna

From the original recipe, I increased the sauce, added some red pepper flakes, and actually reduced the cheese (surprising for a cheese-lover like myself, but it was way too much and took away from the overall dish).  This Easy Ravioli Lasagna is made with spinach, but I think sautéed mushrooms and garlic would also be delicious.  We have made this several times, and it’s always a crowd-pleaser.  Speaking of crowds, this recipe can easily be doubled to fit a 13″x9″ lasagna pan and you’ll have enough to serve a crowd or have lots of leftovers for lunches.  It reheats beautifully!

Easy Ravioli Lasagna
 
Yields: 4 to 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups pasta sauce (I use Muir Glen Tomato Basil)
  • 20-ounce package cheese ravioli (refrigerated or frozen)
  • 10 ounces frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 4 ounces (1 cup) shredded part-skim mozzarella
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
  • Cooking spray
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray an 8-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Pour ½ cup pasta sauce over bottom of dish.
  3. Layer bottom of dish with half of the ravioli.
  4. Cover ravioli with ½ cup sauce and top with spinach and half of mozzarella (1/2 cup).
  5. Repeat with remaining ravioli, sauce and mozzarella. Sprinkle top with Parmesan and crushed red pepper flakes, if using.
  6. Cover dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until bubbling and starts to brown, about 10 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes and then serve.

Slightly adapted from All You, March 2009

vegetarian spinach ravioli lasagna

Pasta Pizza Pie

Pasta Pizza Pie combines two Italian favorites (and two of my favorites!) into a delicious pizza-inspired baked pasta.  First, you start by baking a pasta “crust.”  Then you spread your favorite pasta sauce over the crust and top it with your favorite toppings.  I used a 12-inch saute pan in lieu of a pizza pan, and it worked great!

Pasta Pizza Pie puts a fun twist on pizza and a fun twist on pasta,…and incidentally since it’s also a “pie,” this Pasta Pizza Pie is perfect for today, March 14th (3.14)…”Pi Day!”


Pasta Pizza Pie
 
Yields: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped*
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms (I used baby bellas)*
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced *
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ¼ cup milk (I used skim)
  • 8 ounces (1/2 of a 1 pound box) rotini-shaped pasta, cooked and drained
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (about 4 ounces)
  • 1½ cups of your favorite pasta sauce (I used Muir Glen Tomato Basil)
  • crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
  • * substitute with your favorite pizza toppings
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 12-inch saute pan or pizza pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and mushrooms and cook until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. In the last minute, add minced garlic and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir egg, milk, pasta and ½ cup cheese. Spread pasta mixture in prepared pizza pan. Bake this pasta crust for 20 minutes.
  4. Remove pasta crust from oven and spread sauce over crust. Top with onion-mushroom mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Shake crushed red pepper flakes over cheese.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Source: Campbell’s Kitchen

Fontina and Mascarpone Baked Pasta

Every time I make Baked Tortellini with Spinach, I am left with 6 ounces of fontina cheese.  While I would happily make it 3 more times, I have also had this Fontina and Mascarpone Baked Pasta dish on my list of things to make for some time now.   The first time I made this dish without mushrooms, and it was good, but I felt it needed something more.  It needed mushrooms.  Mushrooms are not typically my go-to for anything, but it really cried out for something earthy and meaty.  Sauteed in a little garlic, the mushrooms were the perfect addition to this dish.  I used some Parmesan cheese for some of the fontina in the original recipe to give the recipe a little more bite.  Topped with buttery, garlic breadcrumbs, Fontina and Mascarpone Baked Pasta is a delicious and sophisticated twist on macaroni and cheese ~ perfect for company or Sunday dinner comfort food.

Looking to use up the leftover mascarpone cheese?  Try Porcini Mushroom and Spinach Risotto with Mascarpone

Fontina and Mascarpone Baked Pasta
 
Yields: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 pound medium pasta shells, uncooked (penne or other similar shaped pasta works too)
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups skim milk
  • 1¾ cups (6 ounces) shredded fontina cheese
  • ¼ cup (2 ounces) shredded Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup (2 ounces) mascarpone cheese
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms (I use baby bellas)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Cooking spray
  • ¼ cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon butter (I use light butter)
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1½ tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and keep warm.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Combine flour and milk in a large sauce pan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk, and cook for about 10 minutes or until mixture starts to thicken.
  4. Meanwhile, in a nonstick skillet sprayed with cooking spray, saute mushrooms, with a pinch of salt, until softened (about 5 to 7 minutes). Add 1 clove of minced garlic in the last minute, if desired.
  5. Remove milk mixture from heat and add cheeses, whisking until mixture is smooth. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. Add cooked pasta and mushrooms, stirring to coat and combine.
  7. Spray a 13x9-inch baking pan with cooking spray and pour pasta mixture into pan.
  8. Meanwhile, melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Remove from heat and add breadcrumbs, stirring to coat. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over pasta mixture.
  9. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes, or until bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Adapted from Cooking Light, November, 2006

easy vegetarian spinach manicotti with no boil noodles

Easy Meatless Manicotti


I don’t know about you, but I am very excited for Fall.  It is my favorite time of year for cooking and baking, plus I love the cooler temperatures.  Even though the season has not technically changed, Labor Day is kind of an unofficial kick off to the Fall season.  At least that’s what I’m telling myself.  I have already made a pumpkin pie, pumpkin pancakes, chili and cornbread, beef stew, and a few other Fall-inspired goodies to be posted soon.  (Ok, confession…I may have done some of this before Labor Day).

In any case, this Easy Meatless Manicotti is one of my favorite dishes and is a perfect comfort food for the cooler temperatures.  There are a couple time-saving steps in this recipe to help make it “easy.”   First, no boiling of the noodles is required.  Not having to boil the noodles is not only a time-saver, but filling firm shells is a whole lot easier than flimsy cooked shells.  This recipe also uses a jarred pasta sauce, though if you want to make your own, go for it!  The filling is very flexible – I’ve used cottage cheese or ricotta, and either works fine.  I have used frozen broccoli in place of the spinach; I have added onions, shredded zucchini, whatever extra vegetables that needs to be used up.  Leftovers heat up beautifully, which make for great lunches or quick dinners.  Easy Meatless Manicotti is healthy and delicious and a regular in our dinner rotation.

easy vegetarian spinach manicotti with no cook noodles

Easy Meatless Manicotti
 
Yields: 7 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella, divided
  • ¼ cup (1 ounce) grated parmesan cheese
  • 16 ounces nonfat cottage cheese
  • 10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated or minced
  • 1½ teaspoons dried Italian herb seasoning (or dried oregano)
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • Cooking Spray
  • 3 cups marinara sauce (or 24-28 ounce jar pasta sauce)
  • 1 package (14 noodles) manicotti noodles - uncooked
  • ½ cup water
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine 1½ cups mozzarella, Parmesan, and cottage cheese, along with the spinach, garlic, Italian herb seasoning, red pepper and salt/pepper to taste.
  3. Spray 13 x 9 baking dish with cooking spray. Pour ½ of the sauce in the baking dish.
  4. Fill the manicotti noodles* with filling mixture until full, about 3 tablespoons.
  5. Pour the remaining sauce over the noodles, making sure the noodles are covered.
  6. Slowly pour ½ cup water around the perimeter of baking dish. Sprinkle remaining ½ cup mozzarella cheese on top. Cover with nonstick foil (or spray foil with cooking spray) and bake for 1 hour. Let sit uncovered for 10 minutes and serve.
Notes
Filling tips: Put filling in a ziploc bag, cut off a corner and fill shells OR I have found an iced tea spoon is the perfect size for spooning the filling in the shells.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 2 shells

 

Adapted from Cooking Light

Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese

Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese is a delicious, cheesy, veggie-filled baked pasta with a Mexican twist.  It is made with three different cheeses (yum!) and lots of vegetables (yum!).  The chipotle chiles add a nice smokiness and spice which, along with the chili powder, balance nicely with the tomatoes and cheeses.  Black beans give a protein and fiber boost while adding a nice color contrast to the rest of the dish.  A traditional breadcrumb topping is sprinkled over the top before baking.

Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese is very easy to prepare and the result is no ordinary mac ‘n cheese, that’s for sure. This recipe makes plenty, and the leftovers heat up nicely for lunches the next day.

Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese
 
Yields: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 cups dry whole wheat elbow macaroni (or other short pasta)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (adjust to taste)
  • 1 (14½ ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chiles, including juices
  • 1 teaspoon adobo sauce (from can of chipotle chiles)
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup nonfat cottage cheese
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • ¼ cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting fat and salt.
  2. In a large pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add chiles, onion, and bell pepper, and cook 4 minutes, or until onion is tender. Add garlic and cook 1 minute, or until garlic is fragrant, stirring frequently.
  3. Sprinkle with flour and chili powder, and cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and add tomatoes. Cook for 3 minutes, or until mixture is thickened.
  5. Add adobo sauce, cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, milk, Parmesan and egg, stirring until combined and cheese is melted. Add cooked pasta and black beans, stirring until combined.
  6. Spray a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Pour pasta mixture into prepared baking dish. Top with bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Adapted from Cooking Light

healthy lighter cajun chicken pasta with evaporated milk

Lighter Cajun Chicken Pasta

Lighter Cajun Chicken Pasta is a one-pot, easy recipe with a cajun twist made healthier!
  Lighter Cajun Chicken Pasta | alidaskitchen.com
This Cajun Chicken Pasta is an easy, one-pot stovetop dinner made with lots of vegetables and spicy chicken in a creamy sauce.  The hands-on cooking time is around 20 minutes, which means with a little advance prep (chopping vegetables and chicken), this can easily be a weeknight dinner, or a quick dinner any time.  The recipe is also easily halved to make dinner for 2.
healthy lighter cajun chicken pasta
 I used this recipe from Southern Living for my inspiration, but made several modifications to lighten up the dish.  For the cream sauce, I used fat free evaporated milk instead of half-and-half, and the result was great.  It had a creamy texture without being heavy.  I also eliminated the butter in favor of cooking spray and a small amount of olive oil for the vegetables.   I reduced the amount of pasta and added more vegetables.  There is a lot of flexibility with the vegetables to add more or change it up to use up what you have on hand.  The result is a lighter version of Cajun Chicken Pasta that is simply delicious!

Lighter Cajun Chicken Pasta
 
Author:
Yields: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces whole wheat linguine or fettucine
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into small strips
  • 1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning (divided), adjust to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 large bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 1 (8 ounce) package sliced mushrooms
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can (12 ounces) fat free evaporated milk
  • chopped green onions, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Prepare pasta according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, sprinkle chicken evenly with 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning and salt.
  3. Spray a large saute pan with cooking spray and heat oven medium-high heat. Add chicken, and saute for 5 to 6 minutes or until done. Remove chicken to a plate, tented with foil.
  4. In the same saute pan, add olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add red onion, peppers, mushrooms and garlic to pan and saute for 9 to 10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and liquid evaporates.
  5. Return chicken to skillet and mix with vegetables. Add evaporated milk and 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 3 minutes. Add linquine, toss to coat
  6. Garnish with green onions, as desired, and serve immediately.

Lighter Cajun Chicken Pasta | alidaskitchen.com

Smoked Gouda Baked Pasta with Broccoli

I recently made an old favorite frittata recipe using smoked Gouda cheese.  The good thing about smoked Gouda is that it is so flavorful, a little goes a long way.  That also means that whenever I purchase a block for a specific recipe, there is usually some leftover.  Not a bad problem to have, that’s for sure.  This time I decided to put it to use with a fun twist on a classic ~ Smoked Gouda Baked Pasta with Broccoli.  Who doesn’t love fancy, new versions of macaroni and cheese!

The first time I made macaroni and cheese with smoked Gouda, it was really tasty, but there was something missing.  The smoked Gouda wasn’t as pronunced as I had hoped.  So after experimenting with some seasoning, I found a little paprika was the key.  It really brought out the smoked Gouda flavor.  The broccoli was also a nice addition to this dish, giving a nutrition boost while adding some texture and color.  One can never have too many mac ‘n cheese recipes, and this version is definitely a keeper!

Smoked Gouda Baked Pasta with Broccoli
 
Yields: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces short pasta (such as elbows, penne, rotini)
  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup yellow onion, chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ground dry mustard
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ cup (2 ounces) smoked Gouda cheese, shredded
  • ⅓ cup (about 1½ ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 12 ounces frozen broccoli florets, thawed and lightly chopped
  • Cooking spray
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Set aside.
  3. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened (about 5 to 7 minutes). Add garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly toasted (about 1 minute).
  4. Gradually add milk, paprika, mustard, salt and pepper, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil, and then cook until thickened (about 2 to 3 minutes).
  5. Add cheeses to milk mixture, stirring until melted and then remove from heat.
  6. Add broccoli and cooked pasta to the cheese sauce, stirring until well-blended.
  7. Pour into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
  8. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes, or until bubbly.

Adapted from Cooking Light

lighter baked tortellini fontina cheese with spinach

Baked Tortellini with Spinach

I’m a sucker for anything with cheese.  Cheese pizza, a cheese sandwich, cheesy pasta, it’s all good.  When I saw a recipe for Baked Tortellini, I was beside myself.  Cheese tortellini itself is good.  Bake it in a light cheese sauce, and we’re golden.  In fact, the dinner I had planned was immediately scrapped so that I could make this!

I decided to add some spinach, which was very welcome and an easy way to boost the nutrition of this dish.  I added a little cayenne pepper to perk things up a bit, and also added garlic.  We can’t have pasta without garlic, right?  Baked Tortellini with Spinach is cheesy pasta perfection, made healthier, with a little kick.

Baked Tortellini with Spinach
 
Yields: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup fine dry breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups skim milk, heated (I microwave it for about 1 minute)
  • ½ cup fontina cheese, shredded
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 16-20 ounces cheese tortellini (I used 2 10-ounce packages)
  • 10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese and set aside.
  2. Set water to boil in a large pot to cook tortellini.
  3. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add flour and whisk constantly, cooking for about 1 to 2 minutes, or until flour lightly browns. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, continuing to whisk constantly.
  4. Add hot milk and bring to a simmer, stirring until smooth and slightly thickened, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  5. While the milk mixture is simmering, add tortellini to boiling water and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, or according to package instructions.
  6. Remove milk mixture from heat and add in fontina cheese and cayenne pepper, stirring to melt the cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Drain cooked tortellini. Add tortellini to the cheese sauce (milk mixture) and stir until coated. Add chopped spinach and stir until evenly distributed.
  8. Spray 2½ quart baking dish with cooking spray and pour mixture into dish, using the back of a spoon or a silicone spatula to spread evenly throughout.
  9. Sprinkle with breadcrumb mixture. Cover and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. Serve immediately.
Notes
This can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator, up through step 8. When ready just sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake as usual.

Nutrition Facts
Calories: 366
Fat:  8g
Carbs:  46g
Protein:  18.5g

Adapted from Eating Well

Four Cheese Lasagna

If we were ranking dinner favorites in our household, this Four Cheese Lasagna would be #1 without question.  There is cheese, cheese, cheese and more cheese.  And if you’re so inclined, the potential for even more cheese.  Yes.  Yum.  Amazing.  In fact, I had an entirely different recipe planned to share with you today, but……I decided it would be wrong of me to keep this from you any longer. It is so good!

I made very few changes from the original recipe, because frankly it’s darn near perfect.  A few items of note:  I have used light butter and regular butter – either one works fine.  I always use skim milk and low fat ricotta cheese, yielding fabulous results.  I use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth to make it vegetarian.    The first time I made this, I added gorgonzola, the optional fifth cheese, and prefer it without.  It adds an interesting dimension to the dish, but I realized I’m not really a gorgonzola fan.

There is a little extra time involved in making this lasagna, but every second is worth it.  This lasagna can be served as an elegant dinner for company or as an incredible treat for a lazy Sunday, and the leftovers heat up perfectly!

Four Cheese Lasagna
 
Yields: 8 to 10 servings
Ingredients
  • 6 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded (about 1½ cups)
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated finely (about 1 cup), divided
  • 15 ounces low fat ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped, plus 2 teaspoons for garnish
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2½ cups skim milk
  • 1½ cups low-sodium vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 15 no-boil noodles
  • 8 ounces fontina cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 3 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (about ¾ cup) (optional, see note)
Instructions
  1. In a large glass bowl, place Gruyere and ½ cup Parmesan cheese.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, egg, black pepper and parsley. Set both bowls aside.
  3. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat until it begins to foam. Add shallots and garlic, stirring frequently until soft (about 2 minutes). Stir in flour until thoroughly combined, about 1½ minutes (mixture should not brown). Gradually whisk in milk and broth; increase heat to high, cover and bring to a full boil, whisking frequently. Add salt, cayenne and bay leaf, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until sauce thickens (about 10 minutes), stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove saucepan from heat and discard bay leaf. Gradually whisk in ¼ cup sauce into ricotta mixture. Pour remaining sauce over Gruyere mixture and stir until smooth; set aside while softening noodles.
  5. Adjust oven rack to upper middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place noodles in a 13-by-9 inch baking dish and cover with very hot tap water; soak 10 minutes, agitating noodles occasionally to prevent sticking. Remove noodles from dish and place in a single layer on kitchen towels and pat dry. Wipe out baking dish and spray lightly with cooking spray.
  6. Pour ½ cup sauce in the bottom of baking dish. Place 3 noodles in a single layer over sauce. Spread ½ cup ricotta mixture over noodles and sprinkle evenly with ½ cup fontina. Drizzle ½ cup sauce over cheese. Repeat layering of noodles, ricotta, fontina and sauce 3 more times. Place final 3 noodles over the top and cover with remaining sauce, spreading with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle evenly with remaining ½ cup Parmesan cheese.
  7. Spray large sheet of foil with cooking spray and cover lasagna; bake until edges are bubbling, about 25-30 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking time. Remove foil and turn the oven to broil. * Broil until surface turns spotty brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Cool 15 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining parsley, cut into pieces and serve.
Notes
* If your dish is not safe under the broiler, turn oven up to 500 degrees and cook for 10 minutes, or until spotty brown on top.

Note: If you want to include gorgonzola cheese, sprinkle it on top of the fontina on each layer.

Source: America’s Test Kitchen

 

Spicy Beef and Zucchini Pasta

When I was flipping through a recent magazine for the second time, I was a little surprised to see that I flagged something called ‘Stovetop Chili Mac.’  It’s not something that I would typically make, based on title alone.  After a quick glance, I could definitely see the potential in this dish – increase the veggies, give it some kick,…and we find ourselves with the delicious Spicy Beef and Zucchini Pasta.

The beef and zucchini sauce was a spicy and flavorful topping on top of pasta, which is a nice change from your every day bolognese.  The preparation of this sauce reminds me of my go-to taco recipe though.  This recipe makes plenty, so enjoy pasta for dinner and then tacos for lunch the next day.  That’s what we did!

Spicy Beef and Zucchini Pasta
Yields 4 servings

3/4 pound (12 oz) short pasta, such as rotini or rigatoni
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced or grated
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 green and/or red bell peppers, chopped
1 pound extra lean ground beef
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 medium zucchini, diced
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) diced tomatoes with chiles, including juices
2 ounces shredded cheddar cheese, for topping

  1. In a large pot of boiling water, cook pasta according to package instructions.  Drain and return to pot.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil over medium.  Add onion, peppers and garlic and cook until onion is translucent and peppers are soft (about 5 minutes).
  3. Increase heat to medium high, add beef and break it up with a wooden spoon.  Cook until no longer pink.  Add chili powder and cumin, and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute). Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add zucchini and cook until tender.  Add tomatoes, bring to a simmer and cook until mixture is thickened and heated through. 
  5. Divide pasta among 4 bowls, top with meat sauce, and sprinkle with cheese.

Adapted from Everyday Food

Tortellini Soup with Chunky Tomatoes and Spinach - made in less than 30 minutes!

Tortellini Soup with Chunky Tomatoes and Spinach

(Photos updated 2/23/2012)

As the weather turns cooler, we find ourselves gravitating toward soups, chili, baked pasta, all of those warm comfort foods. I have had a vision for this tortellini soup for quite a while, but simply have not had an opportunity to execute it. Until now…

Filled with healthy vegetables and hearty tortellini, Tortellini Soup with Chunky Tomatoes and Spinach is the perfect comfort food for a crisp fall day, or any day for that matter.  And guess what?  It can be made in under 30 minutes!  Had I realized that, this soup would have been made long ago.

I put a range of 4 to 6 cups for the broth, so you can adjust to your preference. I like my soup on the chunkier side, so 4 cups of broth yielded the perfect consistency for me. I also used frozen spinach, which worked really well.   I recommend using both low sodium broth and tomatoes, so you can control the sodium by adding salt to taste.

As a great weeknight dinner, or a quick any time meal, we are looking forward to enjoying this soup all fall/winter long, and I hope you will too!

Tortellini Soup with Chunky Tomatoes and Spinach
 
Yields: 3 to 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 to 6 cups low sodium vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) low sodium diced tomatoes, including juices
  • 9-10 ounces tortellini (fresh or frozen), any variety
  • 1½ teaspoons Italian herb seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 10 ounces fresh or frozen spinach, chopped (if frozen, thaw and squeeze out excess moisture)
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. In a dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Saute onion for 5-7 minutes, or until translucent. Add garlic, and saute for 1 minute.
  2. Add broth and tomatoes. Turn heat to high, cover and bring to a boil.
  3. Add tortellini and cook according to package instructions.
  4. Within the last minute of cooking the tortellini, stir in Italian herb seasoning, crushed red pepper and spinach. Taste, and add salt and pepper seasoning, as desired.
  5. Serve immediately, garnishing each bowl with Parmesan cheese.

 

Adapted from Food Network

Ravioli with Roasted Zucchini

For the second recipe of ‘Zucchini Week,’ I am very excited to share this Ravioli with Roasted Zucchini recipe.  This dish has immediately vaulted its way into our rotation, and frankly we have been trying to find excuses to make it again and again and again.  It’s that good and easy too!

We are huge garlic fans, so I thought slices instead of crushed would be a nice change.  The garlic pieces become a little crispy, which adds nice texture to the dish and the flavor is incredible.  The crushed red pepper gives this dish a little kick as well.  All together, this becomes the perfect topping for ravioli, or any pasta really.

Ravioli with Roasted Zucchini
Yields 4 servings

4 small zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
6 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 pound fresh cheese or spinach ravioli
3 tablespoons chopped parsley

  1. Preheat oven to 400.  Spray baking dish or rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.  Set aside.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil
  2. In a small bowl, mix olive oil and crushed red pepper. 
  3. Add zucchini, garlic and 3 tablespoons cheese to oil mixture and toss until thorougly coated.  
  4. Place zucchini mixture in a single layer on a baking dish or rimmed baking sheet.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, tossing halfway through, until tender and golden brown.
  5. Meanwhile, within the last 5-10 minutes of baking time, add ravioli to boiling water and cook per package directions (or 3-5 minutes until they float).  Drain and place in large bowl.
  6. Toss ravioli gently with roasted zucchini and garlic, half the parsley, and half of the remaining cheese.  Serve immediately, topping with remaining parsley and cheese.

Adapted from Real Simple

Baked Penne with Cheddar & Leeks

Hi friends, are you still with me? In yesterday’s food-free post, I promised you a tasty recipe. What can be more tasty than cheese…and lots of it! Not much if you ask me. This upscale version of macaroni and cheese has plenty of cheese and a twist to boot.

Actually the twist in this dish is two-fold. For one, eggs, in lieu of a roux, are used as a thickener which creates a gooey custard. For two, the addition of sweet leeks provides the perfect counterbalance to the cheddar.  All together it takes your everyday macaroni and cheese comfort food to a whole new level of cheesy goodness. 

While it takes a little extra effort to make this dish, it is definitely worth it.  It makes enough to serve a crowd, a couple of hungry teenagers, or simply to reheat throughout the week for lunches.  Served with a side of green beans, a salad or whatever is your favorite vegetable, Baked Penne with Cheddar and Leeks is sure to become a family favorite!

Have a fabulous weekend and thank you for visiting Alida’s Kitchen!

Baked Penne with Cheddar and Leeks
Serves 8 to 10

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter  (I used light butter)

5 cups chopped leeks, white and pale green parts only; about 5 large
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 1/2 cups skim milk
1 pound extra-sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated, about 4 cups packed
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
Fresh ground pepper
2 large eggs
1 pound penne pasta
  1. Spray baking dish with cooking spray 13 x 9 baking dish. Set aside.  Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Melt 1/4 cup butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Add leeks; stir to coat. Cover saucepan and cook until leeks are tender, stirring occasionally (about 12 minutes; do not brown).  After about 10 minutes, add minced garlic to the leeks to cook for the final 2 minutes.  
  4. Then uncover saucepan; add flour. Stir 2 minutes. Add milk; bring to simmer, stirring often. Add cheese, mustard, and pepper sauce. Stir until cheese melts. Remove from heat. Season cheese sauce to taste with salt. 
  5. Whisk eggs in medium bowl. Gradually whisk in 1 cup cheese sauce. Stir egg mixture into cheese sauce in saucepan.
  6. Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain. Return to pot.
  7. Stir cheese sauce into pasta in pot. Transfer to prepared baking dish.
  8. Bake pasta until cheese sauce is bubbling around edges and some ends of pasta are golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.  Let stand 15 minutes. Serve hot.

Adapted from Bon Apetit

Pasta with Grape Tomatoes and Mozzarella

The first time I made this pasta, I was a little underwhelmed. It was good, but not great. While I love pasta, tomatoes, mozzarella and chickpeas, there was something that just wasn’t doing it for me. However, I was not willing to give up on this recipe so easily. It had all the potential to be something fantastic, just clearly needed a little tweaking. 

First, I decided to marinate the tomatoes and mozzarella in the vinaigrette while I cooked the pasta. I also added some garlic for good measure. It then became obvious. While thyme may offer a unique flavor, it was just not right in this dish. What goes best with tomatoes and mozzarella is…basil! Nothing beats classic caprese-inspired flavors. 

As I hoped, with just a few changes, this dish became something extraordinary. It was simple, delicious and very easy to make. We enjoyed this pasta warm as an entree, but it would also be excellent served as a pasta salad. This quick and easy pasta has definitely landed a spot in our weeknight dinner rotation!

Pasta with Grape Tomatoes and Mozzarella
Yields 4 to 6 servings

1 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish

1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cubed

12 ounces pasta (any shape short pasta, any flavor; I used whole wheat & flax rotini)
1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
Coarse salt and ground pepper

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, garlic and basil.  Add tomatoes and mozzarella and toss until combined.  Set aside.
  2. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water until al dente, according to package instructions.   Add chickpeas to pot for the last 2 minutes of cooking.  Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water. Drain pasta mixture and return to pot.
  3. Add tomato mixture to pasta.  Toss, adding reserved pasta water a little at a time to create a thin sauce to coat the pasta (you may not need all of the water). 
  4. Season with salt and pepper, as desired and toss to combined.  Serve, garnished with basil leaves, if desired.
Adapted from Everyday Food