Ah, it’s almost the end of Summer and I keep thinking, where has it gone? Along with Summer comes lots of fresh veggies like zucchini, bell peppers, mushrooms and yellow squash that I just can’t get enough of!
I recently received a lovely care package from my client Colavita, who sent me some delicious pasta, sauces, olive oils and vinegars to sample, which inspired me to make this Cheesy Baked Pasta with Sausage and Summer Veggies.
I used their Colavita Tomato Basil sauce mixed in to the pasta and veggies along with fresh oregano and basil. AND it has three (3!!) cheeses: ricotta, parmesan/asiago and mozzarella to make it super creamy and cheesy – all baked into a big pot of bubbly goodness.
Look. At. This. Cheesy Baked Pasta Goodness. YUM.
It’s the perfect dish for a quick and healthy weeknight dinner – and is great served with a green salad and some crusty Italian bread (dipped in Colavita olive oil and vinegar of course!) Enjoy!
Tip! Lately I came across this website www.vacuumsealerresearch.com and found foodsaver reviews with many good tips so I decided to try vacuum sealer. I really like it.
This is a tasty and healthy twist on traditional Baked Ziti, using Colavita Rotini pasta with Italian Sausage and lots of colorful summer veggies like zucchini, squash, mushrooms, onions and garlic! It also features Colavita Tomato Basil sauce mixed with three cheeses: ricotta, parmesan/asiago and mozzarella to make it super creamy and cheesy baked into a big pot of bubbly goodness. Perfect for a quick weeknight dinner served with a green salad and crusty Italian bread.
1 pound Colavita Fusilli pasta, uncooked
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, ground
2 tablespoons Colavita Extra Virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon Colavita Chardonnay White Balsamic vinegar
1 cup yellow squash, chopped
1 cup zucchini, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-16 ounce jar Colavita Tomato Basil sauce
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup Parmesan/Asiago cheese, grated
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt (add more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (add more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Cook pasta according to package directions (about 9 minutes for al dente), drain.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add one tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Cook sausage until no longer pink, drain fat and set aside.
Add additional tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, and add squash, zucchini, mushrooms and bell pepper. Saute for 5-7 minutes until soft. Add minced garlic and balsamic vinegar and cook for another minute or two. Add the cooked sausage back into the pan.
Stir in the tomato sauce, 1/2 cup of mozzarella and 1/2 cup of Parmesan/Asiago cheese and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes until cheese is melted.
Meanwhile, add the ricotta cheese to a mixing bowl and stir in beaten egg, fresh herbs, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.
Place the cooked pasta in a large pot and add the sausage-veggie-tomato sauce mixture, stirring well. Fold in the ricotta-egg-herbs mixture until thoroughly combined.
Spoon the pasta mixture into an 8x8 square glass or ceramic baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan/Asiago cheese evenly over the top.
Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes until cheese is bubbly and browned.
Let cool for a few minutes, serve hot with a green salad and crusty Italian bread.
You can also substitute Colavita penne, shells, farfalle or ziti for the fusilli pasta.
Note: I received complimentary products from Colavita but was not compensated for this post. All photos, copy, recipes and opinions are my own. Please do not share, distribute or use any content without my permission.
It’s finally Fall (Yay!) and football season is in full force which means fun tailgating and parties with friends mixed with lots of delicious football party food and drinks! My favorite time of year.
I’ve partnered with Mission Foods to create a delicious Game Day recipe for serving a crowd with their awesome flour tortillas, and I present to you my Beef Enchilada Tortilla Casserole.
It’s made with ground beef and taco seasoning, onions, garlic, corn, jalapeños, chopped tomatoes, beef broth and LOTS of cheese, all baked in layers of spicy, cheesy, ooey-gooey goodness with the flour tortillas in a 9-inch pie pan. Then it’s served cut into wedges and topped with some fresh green onions. You can also serve it with some sour cream and cilantro for extra garnish, if you like, on the side.
I love making casseroles and one-pot dishes in the Fall, and especially for parties with friends because they’re easy to make and easy to transport and serve, and they are usually a huge hit on the food table! This one will disappear fast so you might want to double the recipe for a big crowd – trust me!
I’m also hosting a giveaway for my readers to win 2 packs of Mission Foods Tortillas – all you need to do is leave a comment and your email below telling me how you would use the tortillas to make a delicious recipe for your Fall Football party! A winner will be chosen at random.
Hope you enjoy my super yum recipe and enter for a chance to win tortillas to make your party more delicious and fun too!
This Beef Enchilada Tortilla Casserole is a super easy and tasty dish to make for Football season! Made with Mission Foods flour tortillas, all layered with a spicy enchilada beef, mixed with onions, garlic, corn, tomatoes, broth and jalapeño and lots of cheese in the layers and on top! Garnished with scallions, sour cream and cilantro if desired...and DIG IN!
1 pound ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup beef broth
1/2 packet taco seasoning
1 cup petite diced tomatoes and juice (or 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce)
1 cup frozen corn
1 jalapeno, chopped
4 large Mission Foods flour tortillas
1 6-ounce package shredded Mexican Blend cheese (Colby, Monterey Jack and Cheddar)
1-2 scallions, sliced, for garnish
1/2 cup sour cream, for garnish (optional)
2-3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped, for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and onion to pan and cook for about 5-6 minutes until browned and crumbled.
In a separate medium saucepan, melt the butter and sauce the garlic for 1 minute until lightly golden, sprinkle with flour and stir, cooking for 30 seconds.
Add broth, taco seasoning, tomatoes, corn and jalapeños to the saucepan and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Add 1 1/2 cups of the tomato-corn-jalapeno mixture to the cooked ground beef and onions in the large saute pan, mixing together and reserving the rest for the top layer of the casserole.
In a 9-inch pie plate, place 1 tortilla on the bottom. Top with 1 cup of the beef mixture, and sprinkle with a layer of the shredded cheese. Repeat layers 2 more times, ending with the 4th tortilla on top.
Spread the reserved tomato mixture over the tortilla and top with the rest of the shredded cheese.
Bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes until cheese is melted and golden.
Let cool slightly, then cut into wedges and serve with sliced green onions, and sour cream and cilantro (if desired).
You can also substitute ground turkey or chicken for the ground beef.
For a large crowd, I suggest doubling the recipe to make two casseroles as this one will disappear fast!
Classic Greek Moussaka is one of the most popular Greek dishes, and a staple “comfort food” and main course meal in Greece (as Lasagna is in Italy). This tasty Greek dish is a culinary delight to those who sample it for the first time, and I experienced it when I went on a trip to the Greek Islands a few years ago for my birthday.
Some friends and I were in Santorini, a beautiful island in Greece in the Aegean Sea with pastel colors and gorgeous views, eating at a restaurant in Oia called Pelekanos, nestled up in the hills overlooking the sea.
The sun was setting, the relaxing music was playing softly in the background and the atmosphere was just perfect. The waiters graciously came over and attended to our every need, and made our dinner a spectacular night with their attention to detail not only in the food and wine, but our dining experience overall.
The table was elegantly set, with fine china, white tablecloths, crystal glasses and silverware with beautiful flowers as a centerpiece. The waiters filled our glasses with water and wine, lit the candles on the table and gave us recommendations of the specials and enlightened us on some of their popular Greek dishes on the menu.
As we joyously dined, they quickly cleared our plates when we were finished eating, filled our glasses when they were half full, and stood by the table a few feet away with a watchful, attentive eye, to let us know they were on stand by for service, but just far enough away to not be obtrusive on our dining experience.
They always had a smile on their faces and let us stay at the table long enough to enjoy our dinner, engage in great conversation, take photos of our food and engage in the gorgeous bright red sunset that was going down over the ocean as we sat and viewed it in awe. I felt like I was sitting in a little piece of heaven up there and never wanted to leave.
One of the most delicious dishes I ever tasted was the Moussaka, which I ordered that night. It was a perfect mixture of spicy meat at the bottom, layered with potatoes and tender eggplant, and tons of béchamel and gooey cheese on top. The vegetables were steaming as I dug into this gorgeous meat and vegetable pie – my mouth watered at the sight and smell of it. I became so obsessed with this luscious Greek dish that I decided I needed to make it for my big Greek birthday party when I got home from vacation.
Moussaka can be made in many variations, but the classic recipe uses layers of eggplant, potatoes, a spicy meat and tomato sauce with a touch of cinnamon and a rich and delicious béchamel sauce and bubbly kefalotyri cheese on top. Other variations are Moussaka with zucchini or artichokes instead of eggplant, ground lamb instead of ground beef, or vegetarian-style with zucchini, eggplant and potatoes without the meat. Either way you make it, with its warm and rich flavors and gooey cheese you’ll be hooked.
I made this recipe with zucchini and potatoes, and combined ground lamb with ground beef together. The combination of all the spices from the meat and seasonings soak into the vegetables and once you layer some creamy béchamel and gooey cheese on top, you’ve got yourself a delicious heartwarming dish. Be careful to pat dry the vegetables though before layering in the baking dish, as you don’t want the liquids to make the Moussaka too watery as they are cooked down in the oven.
You’ll need a lot of time and kitchen space to make this dish, and if you’re cooking for a crowd, you’ll be safe to double the recipe and make two large rectangular baking dishes of it, as it won’t last long. The flavors in this dish really improve if you make it a day ahead. It’s also a very filling dish, so you may want to serve it as the main course, and accompany it with a Greek Salad, some Stuffed Grape Leaves and Tzaziki for a light side dish along with some Garlic Lemon Hummus and grilled pita. Serve with a red Greek wine and a shot of Ouzo as an aperitif.
Cut the zucchini/eggplant and potatoes into slices about 1/2 inch thick. If using eggplant instead of zucchini, peel the eggplant first. Brown the vegetables quickly in 1/4 cup of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes until lightly golden brown, transfer to paper towels to drain and set aside.
Heat the remaining ¼ cup of oil in the same skillet and cook the onions until they are?golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the ground meat, tomato paste, cinnamon, cayenne, and cook for another 8-10 minutes. Pour off excess fat through a strainer and return meat mixture to the pan. Then add the wine, cooking until almost completely evaporated, about 5 minutes.
Add the tomato puree to the meat mixture and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer over low heat;?stirring frequently, until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 30 minutes. Stir in the parsley and oregano and season with salt and pepper. Remove the?mixture from heat.
Make the Bechamel Sauce:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and heat a medium saucepan over medium heat.
Make the white sauce by melting the butter?and blending in the flour, stirring with a wire whisk until smooth. Meanwhile, bring the milk to a boil and add it gradually to the butter-flour mixture,? stirring constantly. When the mixture is thickened and smooth, remove ?it from the heat. Cook slightly and stir in the beaten eggs, nutmeg, lemon zest and ricotta.
Assemble the casserole:
Grease an 11x16-inch baking dish or casserole dish and sprinkle the bottom lightly with?breadcrumbs.
Arrange alternate layers of the zucchini/eggplant and potatoes and meat sauce?in the pan, sprinkling each layer with Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs.
Pour the bechamel sauce over the top and sprinkle some additional Parmesan cheese on top. Bake 1 hour, or until top is golden.
Remove from the oven and cool 20 to 30 minutes before serving.
Top with additional chopped fresh parsley. Cut into squares and serve.
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I recently got back from an amazing trip to San Diego – one so lovely and rejuvenating that the sunsets are burned into my brain, leaving me wishing for more of the bright colorful skies, fresh air, palm trees swaying in the wind and cool sand between my toes.
This is a fun trip that started last year with an amazing group of friends and has now turned into a yearly tradition.
Seven of my friends and I rented a gorgeous beach house on Mission Beach in San Diego –
Our house had two levels, two kitchens, five bedrooms, a beach front patio, two grills, plus another two patios outside,
all with stunning views of the ocean from every angle and every room.
It all started as a birthday celebration trip for my friend Suzanne last year and now with another birthday girl, my dear friend Linda. Plus five other cool cats I’m proud to be friends with: Paula, Cris, Jackie, Janis and Andrew. What a crew.
enjoying each other’s company with a Corona or two…
taking in the stunning views..
people watching on the boardwalk..
and making new friends.
There’s something about California that makes me feel relaxed, happy, and in a totally different world than the one I live in New York City.
No crazy traffic or cars honking, just beautiful beaches and cool, relaxed people up early for morning jogs and bike rides, swaying palm trees,
hazy blue and pink sunrises, and breathtakingbright magenta and orange sunsets that will blow you away.
The boardwalk is lined with colorful pastel houses and bungalows that look like Jordan almonds lined up in the sand.
We took daily walks down the beach, watching the surfers and volleyball players,
catching some rays down by Crystal Pier while gazing out into the turquoise blue water.
To satisfy our foodie fix, we grabbed a fish taco and a Bloody Mary (or two) at the little beach side cafes and food stands on the boardwalk while soaking in the sunshine.
We took advantage of our gorgeous views and drank plenty of tequila and margaritas out on our beach front patio playing penny can, laughing and telling stories,
and frolicking on the beach at sunset like fools.
With a large group of eight people that all love to eat and drink, we spent over $1500 on our grocery bill and stocking our bar so we could take advantage of our two kitchens and grills and had massive amounts of cooking and eating (and drinking) going on each day. I swore after this trip I would never eat again – but that didn’t last long.
Jackie made her Famous Eggs with Sausage, Mushrooms and Cheese, served with my Spicy Fried Potatoes, toasted bagels and plenty of bacon and mimosas to go around and feed the masses. Best Breakfast EVER.
Cris was our designated grill master, who made us a delicious feast at sunset with heaps of tender grilled steak, shrimp and veggies – love those baby peppers on the grill!
Paula made us a yummy Chicken dish stuffed with Prosciutto, Sage and Provolone which I gladly assisted with while multi-tasking by drinking my Sauv Blanc with a HUGE mitt (just in case that wine glass gets too hot – LOL).
She also made us a Flaky Egg Bake for Suzanne’s birthday breakfast – with layers of buttery phyllo dough filled with sausage, eggs, cheese, peppers, mushrooms, onions and baked into a yummy casserole fit for a Queen (ahem, Suzanne..)
Janice and Andrew made their delicious Italian lunch of Caprese Salad made with fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar with prosciutto, olives and fresh Italian bread, accompanied by a few bottles of great wine. They also made a delicious Italian meal of Chicken Marsala over pasta with fresh parmesan cheese, parsley and Sauteed Asparagus and Brussels Sprouts for our last night in town – totally delicious and gone in five seconds FLAT.
My designated meal was to make a feast for Mexican night – when i say feast, i mean FEAST – we had enough food to feed the entire Mission Beach strip and enough leftovers that we seriously thought about donating it to a homeless person so we didn’t have to throw it out if we didn’t finish it all up the next day!
My Mexican menu included fresh Pico de Gallo, fresh Guacamole with lots of cilantro and lime and some jalapeno,
Grilled Marinated Steak with Lemon and Herbs and Sauteed Lime and Tequila Shrimp to go with the tortillas for tacos and burritos,
I also made a cheesy baked Chicken Enchilada Casserole,
Red Mexican Rice, Tortillas, Sour Cream, Warm Queso Cheese Dip, Hot Sauce and PLENTY ofMargaritas to go around for at least three more days.
I think we all fell into a serious food coma by Night #3 and decided to kick it up a notch and wake ourselves up with some music and a few games of pool after dinner, and even some video games with the help of services as overwatch boost.
After all the eating and feasting, a breathtakingly spooky view appeared when the sun went down. We missed the Green Flash though – which apparently happens for a split second as soon as the sun goes over the horizon line and sinks into the abyss.
Jackie, Cris and I headed out to the bars for some debauchery and drinking activities at the local bars, involving Cinnamon Whiskey shots (ordered by Cris)..FIRE IN THE HOLE! 🙂
My favorite moment of the entire trip was basking in the glow of that big orange fireball in the sky one evening, dreaming of the day I can return to this lovely, lovely place. Until then, I’ve had my fill of tequila and Mexican feasts to last me another year. The sunsets? I never get tired of those – especially when they look like this.
2 jalapeno peppers, minced fine, stems and seeds removed
1 teaspoon cumin
Kosher Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Dash of hot sauce
Cut avocados in half and remove the pit. Scoop out the flesh into a large mixing bowl and squeeze lime juice on immediately (to prevent the avocado from oxidation and browning). Mash avocado well with a fork until slightly smooth but still a little bit chunky.
Add garlic, onion, tomatoes, jalapenos, cumin, salt and pepper, and hot sauce. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Cover with plastic wrap tightly and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or more to let the flavors meld.
Serve with tortillas, chips, veggies or crackers with fresh made salsa (tomatoes, onion, cilantro, jalapeno, salt and pepper) and plenty of margaritas to go around.
1/4 cup olive oil for marinade, plus 1 tablespoon for cooking
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Wash and drain shrimp, and place in a medium bowl.
Mix together 1/2 cup of tequila, lime juice, cayenne pepper, chile flakes, chili powder, jalapeno pepper, and olive oil in a separate bowl and pour over the shrimp. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour. Drain and discard marinade off shrimp in a colander or with a slotted spoon and set shrimp aside.
Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and heat for a minute or so. Add additional 1/2 cup of tequila to the saute pan (with pan removed off the burner to avoid flames!).
Add 1/2 of the marinated shrimp to the heated saute pan and cook for about 2 minutes. Remove shrimp from the pan and set aside. Add the rest of the shrimp to the pan and cook for another 2 minutes until pink.
Add two tablespoons of butter to the saute pan and return first batch of shrimp, adding it to the shrimp in the pan and saute while tossing the pan for another 2 minutes or so. Sprinkle salt and pepper into the shrimp to taste and mix through for another 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Serve the shrimp on a platter with the tequila-lime-butter sauce on top with a side of tortillas and all the dressings: guacamole, cilantro, hot sauce, sour cream, rice to make tacos or burritos.
1 32-ounce container of chicken stock (for poaching chicken)
2 cans of red enchilada sauce
9 flour tortillas (large burrito size)
2 cups of shredded Mexican-blend cheese
1 14-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
Fresh cilantro, chopped for garnish
Sour cream, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, cayenne, salt and pepper and hot sauce. Saute for about 5 minutes until onion is soft and golden. Add minced garlic and saute for another 2 minutes. Remove onion-garlic mixture from heat and set aside in a large mixing bowl.
To poach chicken breasts, heat chicken stock in a large Dutch oven or high-sided saute pan and cook chicken breasts in the stock, covered, for approximately 10-15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let chicken sit in the pot (still covered) for another 10-15 minutes.
Remove chicken breasts from the stock on to a platter and let cool for a few minutes. Shred the chicken with 2 forks and add to the onion-garlic mixture in to the mixing bowl.
Spread 1/2 of the enchilada sauce from one can on the bottom of a rectangular glass casserole dish. Place three tortillas over the sauce, overlapping.
Top the layer of tortillas with 1/4 of the chicken-onion mixture, spreading evenly over the casserole dish. Top with 1/4 of the crushed tomatoes and 1/4 cup of shredded cheese.
Repeat 3 times until you have four layers and have used up all the enchilada sauce, tortillas, chicken-onion mixture, crushed tomatoes and shredded cheese. (Like making a Mexican Lasagna!)
Place casserole dish in the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes until the cheese on top is bubbly and golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5-10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve with chopped cilantro and sour cream.
Can also make casserole with ground beef or steak, and it can be made in a circular or oval casserole baking dish rather than rectangular if preferred.