Seriously, Spaghetti alle Vongole!

This dish was so fun to make and turned out so beautifully, I can’t stop smiling about it. This would be great to serve fora dinner party! Don’t forget the bread!

I seriously cannot believe I made this dish! To me, there is something so beautiful about simple food. Basically this dish is clams in a white sauce with tomatoes over pasta. It doesn’t get more basic. I adore the way seafood looks, especially clams and mussels, and this dish is a wizz-bang-show-stopper! I mean, just look at the colors! I loved every part of making this meal and I certainly plan on doing it again!

We started at the fish market. I am a clam virgin so I relied on the fish monger to explain them to me. Turns out, clams are not cheap, so he suggested we buy just the meat to get more bang for our money. I wanted the real deal, so we bought both. I can’t imagine making this dish without the clams in their shells; it’s half the fun!

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As soon as we got home, I put them in a bowl of cold water, sprinkled in some semolina, and let them sit in the refrigerator until dinner. Supposedly, the semolina makes the clams open up and spit out any sand they might be holding onto. (Black pepper works as well.)

Step one of this dish was to prepare my ingredients. I sliced half of my tomatoes and left the other half whole; chopped my parsley; then I smashed my garlic and prepared my pasta and set it aside. (They say to wait until the last minute to chop the parsley so it is as fresh as possible. I’ll do that next time. I was nervous about making this dish so I wanted everything prepared ahead.)

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When I was ready, I heated my olive oil to medium, and then added in the garlic and red pepper flakes. This cooked until fragrant (oh and it was a beautiful aroma!) about two minutes.

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Then came the tomatoes. (Isn’t this pretty? I loved the colors!) The point here is to blister them in the oil. It takes about five minutes.

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Here is a silly video of the tomatoes blistering:

Next comes the wine! I used a Sauvignon Blanc. They say to only cook with a wine you would drink so I followed the rules to the letter. This was left to come up to a boil. (Took about a minute.)

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The clams go in next! Then the pot gets covered for two minutes in order to steam them. (I swear to you, I’m feeling giddy typing this out. I had some much fun doing this!)

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I was a little bit uncertain about when to add the extra clam meat, so I opted to wait until I could see the clams starting to open. I was really afraid of over-cooking them. No one wants to bite into a rubber clam!

Here they have started to open up, so this is the point where I dropped in the other clam meat.

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This is another silly video that captures my giddiness!

Finally, it’s time to add in the pasta. We used angel hair pasta, which is our favorite. The recipe calls for spaghetti or linguine, but I ignored that part. The important part was not to cook the pasta all the way through because it continues to cook in the sauce. Thankfully, I managed to get it right.

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Lastly, the fresh parsley goes in, the heat goes off and then the cheese goes on.

Voila! How gorgeous is this!!!

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Ingredients:
Kosher salt
12 ounces spaghetti or linguine (we used angel hair pasta)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing
8 cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 teaspoon crushed hot pepper flakes
8 ounces very small cherry tomatoes, roughly crushed with your hands, or regular cherry tomatoes, halved (I sliced half of the tomatoes in half and left the other whole & I didn’t crush them.)
1 cup dry white wine (I used Kendall Jackson Sauvignon Blanc)
48 tiny clams such as cockles or vongole (We used 24 clams & a pound of frozen clam meat, thawed)
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley, plus more for serving
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a generous amount of salt (salty like the sea!) and the pasta and stir to separate. Cook until a few minutes shy of al dente, then drain.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant and sizzling, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the pepper flakes and tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil for 1 minute. Add the clams and cover for 2 to 3 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring, until the clams open. Discard unopened clams.

Add the pasta to the skillet along with the parsley, cheese and butter. Cook, tossing and stirring and drizzling with olive oil, until the pasta is cooked through and the sauce is silky and thickened. Serve drizzled with oil and sprinkled with cheese and parsley.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: If you don’t serve this with a loaf of crusty bread, you will seriously regret it!

How do I know this? We forgot and seriously regretted it! The sauce is divine and crusty bread would have been perfect for sopping it up!

One Skillet Lasagna? I’ll Take It! (So Will You!)

I am about to make this again but I’ll be making it keto-friendly. Until then, enjoy this recipe!

Who in the world doesn’t like an easy one skillet, show stopping dinner? As you probably know by now, I am a Food Network addict. This recipe is adapted from Giada De Laurentiis’, Spicy One-Skillet Lasagna.

The first time I made this, I did it exactly to her specifications and it turned out looking absolutely beautiful. The problem was that it was just too spicy for my family. (I should have realized this prior to cooking. I don’t even like sausage!)

The second time I made it, I adapted it to my own tastes and subbed in ground beef, a little bit of sausage, and a baby spinach & kale mixture instead of the broccoli rabe that she used. (I hate broccoli rabe. To me, it tastes bitter.)

The first step was to brown the meat and then add the onions.

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Once that is finished, add the greens and mix until they wilt.

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Then add in some of the prepared sauce:

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After this is complete, you remove the mixture to a bowl. You don’t even have to wipe out the pan because next, you start the bottom off with a little sauce and then the no-bake noodles. Let the layering begin!

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This was the first time I’d ever splurged and used the Gruyere. Now I am hopelessly hooked forever.

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Then it goes into the oven and comes out just like this. Gorgeous. I have to do better with my photography, however, as I keep forgetting to take a picture of what it looks like plated. Picture lasagna only pie-shaped and just beautiful!

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Here is a stupid video from the first time I prepared this using the spicy sausage. Again, I was so excited about this recipe that I didn’t consider the fact that I hate spicy sausage. LOL!


 

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound ground beef
½ pound sweet Italian Sausage (if you don’t like sausage, leave this out.)
3 shallots, finely minced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4-5 cups spinach (I used a baby spinach/kale mix)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
One 25-ounce jar marinara sauce
8 ounces no-boil lasagna noodles
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan
1 pound fresh mozzarella, dried well and torn into large chunks
1/2 cup grated Gruyere

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a 12-inch high-sided skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the meat and cook through until browned.  Add the shallots and garlic and cook until translucent and slightly fragrant, another 3 minutes. Add the lemon zest and red pepper flakes and cook for additional 2 minutes. Stir in the spinach and salt; cook until the spinach is wilted. Remove the mixture to a medium bowl and return the pan to the stove over low heat.

Spoon a small amount of the marinara sauce in the bottom of the skillet. Mix the remaining marinara with the meat mixture in the bowl. Layer half of the lasagna noodles on top of the marinara, breaking them up as needed to fit the pan. Cover with half of the meat mixture. Add 3/4 cup of the Parmesan and half the mozzarella. Layer with the remaining noodles. Cover with the remaining meat and top with the rest of the Parmesan and mozzarella and the Gruyere.

Bake until bubbly and golden on top, about 40 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Tricked Out Eggplant Parmesan Towers!

Oh my GOODNESS, look at THIS!

Lately I have been trying to make friends with egg plant. Try as I may, I have never liked it. Conversely, my husband loves it and is often disappointed when he suggests it for dinner and I poo-poo the idea. A few days ago I decided to try my hand at making faux bacon using slices of eggplant. It was a hit and I actually loved it. I will make it again.

The recipe was so simple, it’s almost ridiculous. I posted it the other day.  Click here. Also did you notice flat “Groot” in the last piece? Yeah, that wasn’t planned.

Because I liked this so much, I decided to buy some more eggplant and see what else I could possibly love about it. Enter, “Tricked Out Eggplant Parmesan”. I like just about anything fried, so why not! I have to give credit to Trisha Yearwood because I saw her show on the Food Network and she made Eggplant Parmesan stacks. I thought they looked really pretty, so this was the inspiration for my dish.

This recipe starts by slicing the eggplant into rounds. I salted them on both sides and set them up on a wire rack for thirty minutes. Then they get towel dried and dredged in the traditional, seasoned flour, egg and Italian breadcrumb mixture.

I made a quick, cheater version of marinara sauce (and I do mean quick AND cheater cheater pumpkin eater!) I cut up an onion into a medium large dice and sautéed it in some olive oil and fresh garlic; then I added 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, Italian seasoning, one large can of Italian seasoned diced tomatoes and shhhhh!…a jar of prepared Marinara. (My favorite brand is by Chef Emeril Lagasse. I love his tomato basil sauce!) I threw in the rind of my last Parmesan wedge and also two basil stems with the leaves and all-then it simmered for about half an hour. I was shocked at how good it was. I was even more shocked that Charlie raved over it. (He is an Italian gravy snob from Chicago.)

Then comes the frying of the eggplant. I heated the oil in my cast iron skillet to 350 degrees, which is the optimal temperature for deep frying. (I never deep fry without a thermometer.) The eggplant cooks very quickly; about a minute on each side. After this, it’s just a matter of salting them while they are still hot and dabbing them with paper towels to get rid of the excess oil.

Now comes the really fun part: stacking them! First a slice of eggplant, then sauce, then grated cheese (I used a combination of Mozzarella, Fontina and fresh Parmesan), then a big fat basil leaf! Repeat twice but leave off the basil leaf from the top or it will burn. Then bake these beautiful creatures!

I made a side dish of fettuccine, but it was too much. One of these stacks is a meal in itself, so next time we’ll just have a nice salad and call it a day.

Well, did I like it or not? Resoundingly I say, “Yes! Yes! Yes! This recipe is a keeper and I really loved my cheater sauce. It was yummy and so easy.

It looks like a lot of work but truly, it’s all easy stuff. Give it a try!


Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. Italian Seasoning.
1 small Parmesan rind
1 15-ounce can Italian-style diced tomatoes
1 jar prepared marinara (your favorite)
1 bunch fresh basil
2 quarts vegetable oil, for frying
3 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
4 large eggs
4 cups Italian breadcrumbs
One 1-pound eggplant, sliced into 1/8-inch rounds (about 24 slices)
1 cup shredded Fontina cheese. 1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese.
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan

 

 

Directions:

To make a “cheater cheater pumpkin eater” marinara sauce, place a sauce pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened , about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and the tomato paste and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the diced tomatoes, including their juice, to the pot. Stir to combine. Add 1 whole stem of fresh basil leaves, plus the Italian Seasonings. Throw in the Parmesan rind. (If you don’t have one, you can sprinkle in some grated Parmesan cheese.) Bring the sauce to a simmer and reduce the heat to medium low. Allow the sauce to cook and reduce while you work on everything else.

Pour the vegetable oil into a Dutch oven  and attach a deep-frying thermometer. Heat the oil over medium heat to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and top with a cooling rack.

Assemble a three dish dredging station: To the first dish, add the flour, Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and stir to combine. In the second dish, beat the eggs. To the third dish, add the breadcrumbs (I add extra seasoning here. You can even add some grated Parmesan here and it would be delicious.)

Dredge both sides of the eggplant slices in the seasoned flour. Then, dip the eggplant slices into the egg. Then, coat the eggplant in the breadcrumbs evenly on both sides.

Working in batches, carefully place the breaded eggplant into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown and crispy, about 40-50 seconds per side. Transfer to the cooling rack on the baking sheet. Sprinkle each slice generously with salt. Continue until all the eggplant has been fried.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the basil stem from the marinara sauce.

Remove the paper towels from the baking sheet. Build towers on the cooling rack: Top a slice of eggplant with 1 tablespoon of marinara sauce, 1 tablespoon mozzarella, 1 tablespoon Parmesan and 1 basil leaf. Place a second piece of eggplant on top and repeat this process. Top the tower with a third piece of eggplant and repeat only with sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan (no basil). Repeat this process to create 8 towers on the cooling rack.

Bake until the cheese is melted and slightly browned on top, about 20 minutes. Transfer the towers to a serving platter. Garnish each eggplant tower with a fresh basil leaf and serve immediately.

I made four of these towers. We ate two of them and refrigerated the others for the next day’s lunch. They were just as delicious re-heated.

 

Oh, Those Hot (Not Spicy) Italians! (Sliders, of course!)

Lately I have become crazy about any kind of sandwich. I don’t know if it’s a phase or what, but when I think of comfort food, my thoughts turn right to sliders and then my mouth starts to water!

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Last week when I pre-ordered the supplies for our Wednesday Night Fellowship Meal catering job, I made a mistake. (At least, this is what they tell me.) My original menu idea had been soups and sandwiches, but at the last minute I was inspired to make something else. I thought I’d cancelled my soup order, but when I got to the store, it was there. The store had ordered it in, so they informed me that I had to take it. Graciously, they agreed to store it for me until this week.

Long about 2:00 AM Wednesday morning, I started popping around Pinterest, looking for inspiration for my menu. My tomato basil soup is pretty yummy, so I already knew I’d be making this to go along with the home-style chicken noodle waiting for me at the store. I wanted to try some type of slider we’d not done before, so I settled on a version of an Italian slider I found on Pinterest.

The first step is to lay out all of your rolls in greased pans, taking the tops off. Then I made a softened butter mixture that included fresh basil and thyme (from my garden), granulated garlic, and dried Italian Seasoning.

Next is a layer of smoked ham. It’s important to fold the pieces so each sandwich has volume and texture to it. No one wants to bite into a flat meat sandwich. Yuck!

Next is a layer of pepperoni.

Then, a layer of your favorite Salami. This is Genoa.

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Then a layer of Roasted Red pepper. In the interest of time, I used a jarred variety. Were I making this at home, however, I’d have roasted my own peppers.

Then a layer of smokey provolone cheese. (We cut ours into squarish shapes- you don’t have to.)

The next time I make these, I will add one more layer which will be caramelized onions. I planned on doing it this time, but completely forgot about the onions I left in the car! Here, you simply replace the lids and then the fun part is drizzling a mixture of melted butter, Italian seasoning, garlic and Parmesan cheese over the top. Use a pastry brush to ensure every part of the sandwich is covered in butter.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. I like to start them off covered for 15 minutes, then finish them uncovered for 5.

We paired these with a choice of tomato basil bisque or chicken noodle soup and a garden salad with sliced mushrooms and artichoke quarters. It was yummy and very very easy to do.

If you have a crowd to feed, sliders are the greatest option!


Ingredients
1-2 sticks of butter
2 Tbsp. freshly chopped basil (optional)
1 Tbsp. freshly chopped thyme (optional)
1-2 Tbsp. Dried Italian herbs (more if needed)
1-2 Tbsp. granulated garlic (more if needed)
1 package of sliced Hawaiian Type rolls. (I used a generic version.) 1 dozen.
1 package of Smoked Ham
1 package of large Pepperoni Slices
1 package of large Salami Slices
1 package of Smokey Provolone slices
1 jar of Roasted Red peppers (at home I would roast my own, but not for a huge crowd)

Directions
Preheat oven to 375.
Grease a baking pan and lay the bottoms of the rolls inside.
In a bowl combine one stick of softened butter with half the herbs of your choice.
Spread the butter mixture over the bottoms of the rolls.
Layer as follows:
1. Folded Ham Slices
2. Pepperoni
3. Salami
4. Roasted Red Peppers
5. Provolone Cheese
6. Put the tops back on.
Melt the remaining butter, add the herbs and then drizzle this over the tops of the buns being careful to coat each one.
Bake covered at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake 5 minutes more or until the cheese is melted and the tops of the rolls are a little bit brown but NOT hard.