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Recipe Thursday-Spicy Baked Macaroni with Fresh Mozzarella, Kale and Mushrooms

Posted on February 28th, 2013 | Posted in Casserole, Main Course, Recipes

I created this recipe, Spicy Baked Macaroni with Fresh Mozzarella, Kale and Mushrooms, when my father gave me a nice ball of fresh mozzarella and fresh basil! I had been wanting to make a baked ziti so this ended up being the perfect opportunity to make a similar dish. I ended up not having ziti cut pasta in my pantry so macaroni was the substitute. This is a very simple recipe that allows you to get creative with ingredients. If you do not have one of the veggies that I used look in your fridge or freezer to see if there are any other similar veggies or meats. Sliced pepperoni and Italian sausage are always nice additions to baked ziti. Enjoy!

Spicy Baked Macaroni with Fresh Mozzarella, Kale and Mushrooms

Baked Ziti-Hometown Provisions

Yield 4 Servings
1 tablespoon olive oil (992055)
3 medium cloves garlic, minced or grated with a microplane (about 1 tablepoon) (991057)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (CQP100)
30 ounces tomato sauce (990319)
1 pound mushorooms, rinsed and sliced (1/4″)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (CQS030/CQP071)
1 ½ cup chicken broth (331101)
3 cups kale, chopped
3 cups uncooked macaroni (991566)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (LCF701)
1/4 cup Maggio ricotta (HPH203)
1 cup fresh mozzarella, grated (775757)
½ cup picked fresh basil leaves, cut into strips

Adjust oven rack to center position and treheat the oven to 400°F.

Heat the oil in an oven-safe 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the garlic and chili flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant but not browned, about 30 seconds. Add the tomato sauce, mushrooms and a pinch salt and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, until the sauce has thickened and the mushrooms have cooked slightly, about 10 minutes. Add broth and kale and bring to a gentle simmer.

Add the pasta and cover. Raise the heat to medium, making sure there are active and vigorous bubbles. Cook, stirring occasionally to make sure the pasta is not sticking and cook until the pasta is just firm, following package directions for timing (12 to 15 minutes).

Remove lid, season to taste with salt and pepper, stir in the parmesan and ricotta, and spread the mozzarella on top (a few stray chunks of mozzarella never hurt). Transfer to oven and bake until cheese has melted and is starting to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Top with basil and serve.

Recipe from the Kitchen of Kristy Mellinger

Recipe Thursday-Polenta Sausage Mozzarella Casserole

Posted on February 24th, 2011 | Posted in Casserole, Main Course, Recipes

I have recently been obsessed with polenta so pretty much any recipe that has it as part of it I’ll try! I had some leftover Groff Meat’s Italian sweet sausage, so I searched for a recipe that I could use it in. I came across Polenta Sausage Mozzarella Casserole on SimplyRecipes.com, but the recipe is actually from Sunset Magazine, which is one of my favorite lifestyle magazines. However the original recipe called for store bought polenta, but I personally like the homemade version better, so that is what I made. The dish turned out great! The veggie tomato sauce was so tasty and really made the dish a success. I thought that the larger pieces of onion added nice texture and were a rather “meaty” element to the dish. You can alway choose to add more veggies to the sauce and forgo the sausage for a vegetarian version. I made a few alterations, which are noted below.

Polenta Sausage Mozzarella Casserole

Yield 6 Servings


4 1/2 tablespoon olive oil (992055)
28 ounces crushed tomatoes (990309)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, I used 1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (CPo075)
1 medium yellow onion, halved lengthwise then cut into wedges
1 medium bell pepper (red, green, orange or yellow), cut lengthwise into thin slices
2 cloves garlic, minced (991057)
1/2 teaspoon salt (CQS030)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (CQP065)
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes (CQP101)
1 pound Italian sausage (removed from casings), sweet or spicy (GRF436)
2 pounds of prepared polenta, 1/2-inch slices if using prepared polenta in a tube (CWGA090) (recipe below for fresh polenta)
1/2 pound (8 ounces) fresh mozzarella, 1/4-inch slices (775757)


1 Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a 2-3 qt saucepan on medium heat. Add tomatoes and oregano, simmer, uncovered for 15 minutes.

2 While the tomatoes are cooking, in a large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, salt, pepper, and chili flakes. Cover the pan, lower the heat to medium, and cook until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. While veggies cook, preheat oven broiler on high. Add the sausage, stirring and breaking it into small pieces as it cooks, about 5 minutes. Cover the pan and cook until vegetables are tender and the sausage is cooked through, about 5-8 more minutes. Add the tomato sauce and simmer for 10 minutes.

3 While the sauce is cooking, coat the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking pan with a 1/2 tablespoon oil. Add the cooked polenta (or slices) to the pan. Coat the top of the polenta with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Broil the polenta about 4 inches from the heating element until golden brown and crispy, about 10-15 minutes.

4 Pour sauce over broiled polenta, then arrange Mozzarella slices over the top and return the casserole to the broiler. Broil until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes before serving.


6 cups water
Salt to taste (CQS030)
1 1/2 cup medium-grain yellow corn meal (NOT1920)
4 tablespoons butter (880024)


Heat water lightly seasoned with salt to a boil over high heat, about 5 minutes. Quickly whisk in the polenta until fully incorporated. Lower the heat to a low simmer, add the butter and allow the polenta to cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Finish by stirring in salt to taste. If preparing in advance, cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat in the microwave, about 5 minutes on high, just before serving. Stir vigorously after reheating to fluff.

Recipe adapted from Sunset Magazine & Simplyrecipes.com

Recipe Thursday-Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Posted on February 3rd, 2011 | Posted in Casserole, Main Course, Recipes

Super Bowl weekend is upon us and this is my last game day recipe for you to browse and possibly make! I decided to submit a heartier side dish, Baked Macaroni and Cheese, to add to, hopefully, the copious amounts of wings and other finger foods that everyone will be enjoying. I always welcome a tasty homemade macaroni and cheese and found that this recipe did not disappoint. I altered the recipe a bit by adding Gruyère and nutmeg, to add more complex flavor. Below the recipe you will find a number of ingredient substitutions that can be made to the recipe to gourmet it up a bit. May the best team win and have fun indulging in all the food that comes along with watching the Super Bowl!

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Yield 6 Servings


Salt (CQS030)
2 1/2 cups whole milk (low-fat is fine) (HPH004)
3 bay leaves (CQB011)
1 pound elbow, shell, ziti or other cut pasta (991534)
4 tablespoons butter(880024)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (991867)
1 cup grated cheese, Gruyere (CWSZ050)
1 cup grated cheese, sharp cheddar (774101)
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese (775628)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (CQN061)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (CQP065)
1/2 cup or more bread crumbs (991870)


Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and salt it. Cook the milk with the bay leaves in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. When small bubbles appear along the sides, about 5 minutes later, turn off the heat and let it stand. Cook the pasta to the point where it is almost done but you would still think it needed another minute or two to become tender. Drain it, rinse it quickly to stop the cooking, and put it in a large bowl. In a saucepan over medium-low heat, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter; when it is foamy, add the flour and cook, stirring, until the mixture browns, about 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaves from the milk, and add about 1/4 cup of the milk to the hot flour mixture, stirring with a wire whisk all the while. As soon as the mixture becomes smooth, add a little more milk, and continue to do so until all the milk is used up and the mixture is thick and smooth. Add the Gruyère and cheddar and stir. Pour the sauce over the noodles, toss in the Parmesan, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Use the remaining 1 tablespoon butter to grease a 9-by-13-inch or similar-size baking pan and turn the pasta mixture into it. Top liberally with breadcrumbs, and bake until bubbling and the crumbs turn brown, about 15 minutes. Serve piping hot.

Simple Macaroni and Cheese: Here the ingredients are just layered and cooked together: Proceed with through cooking the pasta as directed. Butter the baking pan with an extra 1 or 2 tablespoons butter. Layer one-third of the pasta, sprinkle with half of the flour, fleck with half of the butter, cover with about 1/2 cup of the cheddar, pour half of the heated milk over the top, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Repeat the layers, using the remaining flour, butter, and milk, and top with the remaining pasta, cheese, and bread crumbs. Bake until bubbling and browned on top, about 30 minutes.

Rich Macaroni and Cheese: Super-creamy and decadent; make this even more special with some sautéed wild mushrooms: Reduce the milk to 3/4 cup. Omit the bay leaves, the first 3 tablespoons butter, and all of the flour. Substitute mascarpone cheese for the grated cheese. Add about a cup or so sautéed wild mushrooms, if you like, and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves (or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried sage). Cook the pasta as directed. Mix together the milk, mascarpone, and Parmesan in a large bowl. Add the cooked pasta and the sage, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and combine. Pour the sauce over the noodles, toss in the Parmesan, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Use the remaining 1 tablespoon butter to grease a 9-by-13-inch or similar-size baking pan and turn the pasta mixture into it. Top liberally with breadcrumbs, and bake until bubbling and the crumbs turn brown, about 15 minutes. Serve piping hot.

Nutty Macaroni and Blue Cheese: Substitute 1 cup blue cheese for the Parmesan and reduce the cheddar by 1/2 cup; use a mild or medium cheddar. Add 3/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts. Fold the blue cheese and walnuts into the pasta mixture when prepping for the casserole dish (melting the blue cheese in the sauce will make it gray and not so attractive).

Macaroni and Goat Cheese With Roasted Red Peppers: Nice and tangy from the goat cheese, while rich and sweet from the roasted peppers: Add 2 roasted red peppers, peeled and chopped, and 1/2 cup each chopped fresh basil leaves and toasted pine nuts. Substitute 1 cup soft goat cheese for the Parmesan, and reduce the grated cheese by 1/2 cup. Omit the bay leaves. Proceed with the recipe, stirring in the peppers, basil, and pine nuts with the pasta and then pour into the casserole dish.

Macaroni and Chile Cheese: For a spicy dish, use a hotter chile or add a tablespoon chopped chipotle chile with adobo sauce: Use grated Jack or cheddar for all 2 cups of the cheese. Add 2 medium poblano or other mild green fresh chiles, roasted, cleaned, and chopped,1/4 cup or so chopped fresh cilantro leaves, and 1 medium tomato, sliced. Proceed with the recipe, stirring in the chiles and cilantro with the pasta and pour into the casserole dish, then top with the tomato slices and breadcrumbs.

Recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, by Mark Bittman

Recipe Thursday-Classic Italian Lasagna

Posted on January 13th, 2011 | Posted in Casserole, Main Course, Recipes

I’ve been craving lasagna for a while, and more importantly wanted to make my own. So knowing that I would be having company on Wednesday night I decided this was the perfect occasion! I decided to use Giada De Laurentiis’s Classic Italian Lasagna recipe  from Everyday Italian. I had not used this cookbook enough so I wanted to give this recipe a shot. When I told my father that I’d be making lasagna he made sure that I used the “good” ricotta cheese without whey! I used Maggio’s whole milk ricotta which, we sell. I began on Monday making the bechamel sauce, and then made the rest of the recipe on Tuesday night. Everyone enjoyed the lasagna. The dish was indeed very tasty and rich in flavor and had a nice creaminess to it, but was not overly cheesy, which sometimes overwhelms other lasagnas. However with this being said I would make a few alterations to the recipe next time I make it. I’d use a mixture of ground beef and Italian sausage to add some additional flavor. I’d mix the meat mixture with the tomato sauce to juice up that layer and sub the middle bechamel layer with tomato sauce. Lastly, I’d season the spinach with salt, pepper, and lemon juice before putting on that layer. Enjoy!

Classic Italian Lasagna

Yield 8 Servings


Bechamel Sauce:

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons for the lasagna (880024)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour (991867)

4 cups whole milk at room temperature (HPH004)

pinch ground nutmeg (CQN061)


1 1/2 cups tomato sauce, recipe follows

Salt and white pepper (CQS030/CQP094)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (992055)

1 pound ground beef (222022)

Salt and pepper (CQS030/CQP065)

1 1/2 pounds ricotta cheese (HPH203)

3 large eggs (EGG011)

1 pound lasagna sheets, cooked al dente (991520)

2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (559613)

3 cups shredded mozzarella (775553)

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (775628)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Bechamel sauce:

In a 2-quart pot, melt 5 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. When butter has completely melted, add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to prevent any lumps from forming. Continue to simmer and whisk over medium heat until the sauce is thick, smooth and creamy, about 10 minutes. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of wooden spoon. Remove from heat and add the nutmeg and tomato sauce. Stir until well combined and check for seasoning. Set aside and allow to cool completely. The bechamel sauce can be made up to 3 days in advance.

In a saute pan, heat extra-virgin olive oil. When almost smoking, add the ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Brown meat, breaking any large lumps, until it is no longer pink. Remove from heat and drain any excess fat. Set aside and allow to cool completely.

In a medium sized bowl, thoroughly mix the ricotta and eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Into the bottom of a 13 by 9-inch baking dish, spread 1/3 of the bechamel sauce. Arrange the pasta sheets side by side, covering the bottom of the baking dish. Evenly spread a layer of all the ricotta mixture and then a layer of all the spinach. Arrange another layer of pasta sheets and spread all the ground beef on top. Sprinkle 1/2 the mozzarella cheese on top of the beef. Spread another 1/3 of the bechamel sauce. Arrange the final layer of pasta sheets and top with remaining bechamel, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.

Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place lasagna dish on top, cover and put on the middle rack of the oven and bake until top is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove cover and continue to bake for about 15 minutes.

Simple Tomato Sauce

2 small onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped (whole 991057/chopped 991058)
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
sea salt (CQS031)
pepper, freshly ground (CQP071)
1 can (32oz) crushed tomatoes (990309)
1 can (32oz) tomato puree (990313)
2 dried bay leaves (CQB011)

In a large casserole pot or Dutch over, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add celery and carrots and season with salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and bay leaves and simmer uncovered on low heat for 1 hour or until thick. Remove bay leaves and check for seasoning. If sauce still tastes acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time to round out the flavors.

If not using all the sauce, allow it to cool completely and pour 1 to 2 cup portions into freezer plastic bags. This will freeze up to 6 months.

Recipe from Everyday Italian Cookbook, by Giada De Laurentiis

Recipe Thursday-Hungry Jack Casserole

Posted on December 2nd, 2010 | Posted in Casserole, Main Course, Recipes

It was my father’s birthday yesterday and one of his favorite comfort foods is Hungry Jack Casserole! So for his birthday dinner I prepared him this treasured dish. This dish is definitely a dish of nostalgia, that conveys many memories. I believe that is why my dad enjoys it so much! We can think back on times when my mom would make it for family dinners or when our friend, neighbor and sharer of the recipe would make this dish for my parents before there were kids…imagine that! All in all it is delicious and is a fun dish to enjoy on a cold, dark, fall night. Possibly this dish can be in your repertoire of dishes that will initiate many fond traditions and memories to come for your family and friends.

Hungry Jack Casserole

Yield 4-6 Servings

1# ground beef (222022)
1/4 cup chopped onion, you can use 1 teaspoon of onion powder if you wish (CQO044)
1 teaspoon salt (CQS030)
16 oz pork and beans (991646)
3/4 cup BBQ sauce (991105)
2 tablespoons brown sugar (NSU2150)
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (774101)
2 1/4 cup bisquick
2/3 cup milk (HPH008)


Brown ground beef with chopped onions, drain grease and then mix in salt, pork & beans, BBQ sauce, and sugar into large skillet and heat.  Make biscuits mixing bisquick and milk. Pour meat mixture into casserole and top with biscuits and 1 cup of grated cheddar cheese. Bake at 375 for 25 to 30 minutes until the biscuits get done.

Recipe from Linda Day

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