Tag Archives: Parmesan

Cheesy Skillet Beef Goulash

Cheesy Skillet Beef Goulash


It’s summer and OH. SO. HOT. And I honestly haven’t really been in the mood to cook  or do anything lately except lie down in the AC or chill on the beach – but a girl’s gotta eat, right?

Cheesy Skillet Beef Goulash

I’ve also been a bit blue because my Dad is in the hospital and having double bypass heart surgery on Monday morning which is a bit scary..and too much to deal with.

Kristen and Dad

So I decided I needed a dose of some comfort food this weekend to cheer me up and bring me a little closer to home with Dad. :)

Cheesy Skillet Beef Goulash

I had a few samples of RedPack petite diced tomatoes on hand and thought they would be perfect for a comforting baked pasta dish – something that reminded me of what Mom used to make for us for dinner.

Cheesy Skillet Beef Goulash

So I whipped up a Cheesy Skillet Beef Goulash – made with ground beef, tomatoes, onion, garlic, elbow macaroni and three cheeses – all cooked together in one skillet, then baked into a pot of bubbly, cheesy goodness.

Cheesy Skillet Beef Goulash

Super simple to make and definitely comforting at that. I think I’ll get through the weekend and Dad’s surgery just fine…after I have some of this deliciousness..and maybe a nap in the A/C. :)

Kristen and Dad

Cheesy Skillet Beef Goulash

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 6-8

This is a classic cheesy baked pasta dish made with macaroni, ground beef, diced tomatoes, onion and garlic, topped with Parmesan and shredded cheddar cheese.


  • 1 package elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3-4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1- 28 ounce can RedPack petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the macaroni, drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, In a large nonstick skillet, add oil and heat until it's shimmering. Add onion, and cook over medium heat until onion is soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the ground beef and brown until no longer pink, stirring and breaking it up as you cook.
  4. Add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce to the skillet and stir. Cook the mixture for about 5 minutes or so until heated through.
  5. Stir in the cooked pasta and Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, mixing well. Adjust seasonings to your taste buds accordingly...:)
  6. Top the pasta mixture with both shredded cheeses and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  7. Top with additional grated Parmesan cheese if desired and serve hot immediately.


Goes great with a green salad and garlic bread and a crisp white wine like Pinot Grigio or a light fruity red table wine.

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California Dreamin’ Grilled Cheese

California Dreamin Grilled Cheese

So this is where I’m supposed to go on and on about how delicious this grilled cheese sandwich is. And what’s in it. And why it’s a rockstar recipe that nobody else has. And why you need to make it now.

But guess what? I just did a food photo shoot for a NYC catering company and bakery for the past 2 days and shot at least 1000 photos that need to be culled through and selected to share with my clients and it’s enough to make your head spin faster than Linda Blair in The Exorcist. AND the fact that the Mad Men finale is coming on in less than 2 hours and I have some catching up to do and some last savoring moments of Don Draper to hold on to while I can.

California Dreamin' Grilled Cheese 3

OK – so now that I got that off my chest, here’s a little ditty of a recipe that I whipped up on Friday afternoon for a grilled cheese contest I entered for Wisconsin Cheese. It’s actually quite lovely and spring-y and full of good things. Homemade Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote, strawberries, granny smith apples, grilled chicken paillards, kale with lemon and parmesan, honey dijon mustard, melted sharp white cheddar and gooey mozzarella cheese – all grilled on a whole wheat pita (actually 2 of them).

California Dreamin Grilled Cheese

It’s called California Dreamin’ Grilled Cheese because all the good things inside remind me of a sunny, breezy day on Pacific Beach in San Diego watching the sunset with a margarita in my hand with my toes in the sand, salty sea mist on my face, while basking in the glow and enjoying everything in life there is to offer. So here you go. Whether I win the contest or not – it’s absolutely fabulous, and will make you want to hop on a plane to the west coast and catch a few rays yourself.

Now back to my Sauvignon Blanc and Don Draper fix. Enjoy and Happy Sunday! :)

California Dreamin’ Grilled Cheese


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 whole wheat pitas
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 chicken breast, cut in half lengthwise and pounded thin
  • 1/2 cup strawberries, sliced
  • 1/2 cup green apple, sliced
  • 1 cup kale, chopped
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp Wisconsin Parmesan, shredded
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 4 slices Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar, sliced
  • 4 slices Wisconsin Mozzarella
  • 4 tablespoons Strawberry-Rhubarb compote
  • Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote:
  • 1 cup strawberries, sliced or chopped
  • 1 stalk rhubarb, sliced into small chunks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon water


  1. Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote:
  2. Stir strawberries, 1/8 cup sugar, and 1/2 tbsp lemon juice and 1/2 tbsp of water in a small nonreactive pan; bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Add the rhubarb, 1/8 cup sugar, and 1/2 tbsp lemon juice and 1/2 tbsp of water back into same pan and simmer for about 6 minutes until rhubarb is tender and soft. Transfer rhubarb to same bowl as strawberries and add all liquid to the pan through a strainer.
  4. Raise heat to medium high and simmer until liquid thickens and reduces to almost half.
  5. Return strawberries and rhubarb to liquid and let cool.
  6. Make sandwich:
  7. Preheat olive oil in a grill pan or sauté pan to medium/high heat.
  8. Mix honey and mustard together in a small bowl and set aside.
  9. Rub chicken with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and grill chicken pieces for about 6-8 minutes until cooked through, remove from pan.
  10. Spread both pitas on one side with butter.
  11. Spread each pita on reverse side with honey Dijon mustard on a cutting board or piece of plastic wrap.
  12. Top with sliced mozzarella cheese slices.
  13. In a small bowl, toss kale, lemon juice, salt and pepper and place on top of each pita over Mozzarella.
  14. Top one pita with both pieces of grilled chicken.
  15. Drizzle Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote over the chicken.
  16. Layer on the sliced strawberries, apples and top with cheddar cheese slices.
  17. Top the sandwich with other piece of pita bread (butter side up) and place in preheated grill pan.
  18. Smash the sandwich together with a heavy spatula or panini press and grill on both sides until cheese is melted and pita is crispy.
  19. Cut in half and serve with additional Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote and Honey Dijon for dipping.
  20. Makes one sandwich.
  21. Note: you can make the Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote ahead of time and store in an airtight container in the fridge. You can also double the recipe to make more for other uses (great over vanilla ice cream, pancakes, whipped cream or greek yogurt and granola!!)
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Baby Asparagus, Garlic & Three-Cheese Tart

Baby Asparagus, Garlic & 3-CheeseTart

Whenever the holidays roll around, I love to bake and experiment with luscious pies and savory tarts. Puff pastry is such an easy way to make appetizers fit for a crowd, especially when you buy it pre-made from the grocery store. (I especially like Dufour brand which I get from Whole Foods and Fairway stores in NYC, it’s super flaky and buttery and light.) You simply roll them out on to a floured surface or a non-stick silicone baking mat (try Silpat), score the edges and prick a few holes in it and pre-bake it for about 15 minutes.  Then, you can top it with any sweet or savory topping you like and bake it into a buttery, crispy delightful tart (or cut the pastry into smaller rounds with a biscuit cutter) to feed a crowd for brunch or a holiday appetizer.


I decided to top this one with some sauteed baby asparagus and garlic with red chile flakes along with three creamy melty cheeses: ricotta, gruyere and parmesan and a hint of lemon zest. All you gotta do is create your masterpiece, pop it in the oven and cut it into squares and you’ve got a crowd-pleaser waiting to happen and a party in your mouth. If you’re not a big asparagus fan, try experimenting with some other veggies: broccoli, mushrooms, brussels sprouts, butternut squash, spinach – whatever you fancy, and play with other cheeses, as long as they are good for melting such as Monterey Jack, Brie, Gorgonzola or Mozzarella. The ricotta base I wouldn’t substitute though – it gives it a creamy layer of flavor and texture that’s just too good to give up and protects the pastry base from getting soggy from the vegetables and cheese. Throw some cooked bacon, ham or prosciutto on it too if you really want to add some savory flavor. And if you want to go the extra mile and make your own pastry dough, go for it – but it takes a lot longer and a little more elbow grease to get it perfect. Happy Holidays!

Baby Asparagus, Garlic & Three-Cheese Tart

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 8


  • 1 puff pastry sheet (pre-made frozen or homemade)
  • 1 bunch of baby asparagus, washed and trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 container ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded and divided
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Heat olive oil over medium heat and saute asparagus spears with the shallots for about 5-7 minutes until they get soft. Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes and saute for another 1-2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, add ricotta, whisked egg, half of the Parmesan cheese, thyme, lemon zest, sea salt and pepper.
  4. Roll out pastry sheet into a 16"x10" rectangle on to a Silpat (silicone baking mat) or parchment paper. Score around the edges 1 inch border and prick the base of the pastry with a fork in several places. Bake the pastry in oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before adding toppings.
  5. Spread the ricotta and cheese mixture over the base of the puff pastry evenly. Top with sauteed asparagus, shallots and garlic, laying out asparagus spears in a flat row across the pastry.
  6. Sprinkle over the top the shredded Gruyere cheese and the rest of the Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle additional fresh thyme if desired.
  7. Place the tart (on the Silpat or parchment paper base) on a rectangle baking sheet into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until pastry is crisp and golden brown and the cheese on top is bubbly.
  8. Remove from oven and let cool for about 5-10 minutes. Cut tart into squares and serve.


Delicious for a holiday brunch or appetizer (you can always cut tart into bite size pieces to feed a crowd). Serve with a crisp white wine such as Pinot Grigio or Chenin Blanc.



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Homemade Rustic Pizzas: Chicken, Garlic, Spinach & Sundried Tomatoes :: Pepperoni, Ham, & Sauteed Veggies

Rustic Pizza

Pizza is probably one of my most favorite things on the planet. Seriously. Who can resist that crispy crunchy crust topped with melted gooey cheese and fresh, savory baked toppings? A pizza is a creative endeavor that is only limited to your imagination. The pizza dough is like a blank canvas just waiting for the artist to paint a masterpiece on.

Speaking of dough, you can certainly take a stab at making your own – here is a basic pizza dough recipe that’s easy enough to make. If you don’t want to bother making your own and want to save time, you can use pre-made refrigerated pizza dough from the grocery store (I get mine from Fairway stores, or you can try Pillsbury pizza dough which is inexpensive and easy to use. They even have Artisan, thin and gluten-free crusts now which is kinda cool.)

I made these rustic pizzas the other day in an attempt to use up some fresh veggies, pizza dough and ingredients from my kids cooking show I taped last week – we made all kinds of fun pizza on set but i couldn’t bear to waste the leftovers!

So here’s how easy these babies are to make…I divided the pizza dough and patted out the dough on to pizza pans to make four rustic pizzas – one of them topped with sauteed garlic, spinach, olive oil, savory chicken,  sun dried tomatoes and plenty of mozzarella gooey cheese. The other one I made with sauteed bell peppers in different colors, broccoli, pepperoni, ham, tomato sauce and two gooey cheeses – mozzarella and muenster, great for melting. The trick to a great pizza in my experience is to saute your veggies in some olive oil and garlic BEFORE you put them on the pizza (the chicken too!). This gives them a deeper flavor and keeps them from drying out in the oven when you bake the pizzas. Throw them in a preheated oven on 400 degrees for about 15-17 minutes, let them cool on a baking rack for about 5 minutes, and then top them with some fresh torn basil, some extra parmesan cheese and pepper flakes and you’ve got some serious deliciousness going on.

Sauteed Chicken, Garlic, Spinach & Sundried Tomato Pizza

Chicken, Spinach, Garlic and Sundried Tomato Pizza

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 2-4

This is a tasty and healthy pizza made with sauteed garlic and spinach, red pepper flakes, sauteed chicken breast, sundried tomatoes and Parmesan and Mozzarella cheese.


  • 1 package refrigerated pizza dough (or handmade)
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 package fresh spinach, chopped
  • 6-8 thin chicken cutlets, cut into 1" chunks
  • 1 tablespoon seasoned salt or poultry seasoning
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, julienned (thin strips)
  • 1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Divide pizza dough in half and shape into two oval or rectangular pizzas on a greased pizza pan.
  3. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese on to the base of each pizza dough.
  4. Heat an additional tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large saute pan and saute minced garlic and red pepper flakes for about a minute.
  5. Add chopped spinach and stir. Saute together for another 3-4 minutes until spinach starts to wilt.
  6. Remove spinach garlic mixture from pan and set aside in a mixing bowl.
  7. Heat additional 2 tablespoons olive oil in the same pan, add seasonings and saute the chicken for approximately 8 minutes until golden brown. Remove pan from heat.
  8. Top pizza crusts with spinach-pepper-garlic mixture, sundried tomatoes and sauteed chicken (divided into equal portions for both pizzas).
  9. Top both pizzas with shredded mozzarella cheese and place pizza pan in oven.
  10. Bake for 15-17 minutes until cheese starts to get bubbly and golden brown.

Pepperoni, Ham & Sauteed Veggie Pizza

Pepperoni, Ham, & Sauteed Veggie Pizza

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 2-4

This is a healthy and hearty version of classic pizza made with sauteed garlic, bell peppers and broccoli with diced ham and pepperoni topped with gooey mozzarella and muenster cheese.


  • 1 package refrigerated pizza dough (or handmade)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup yellow pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup broccoli florets, chopped
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup tomato sauce or puree
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/4 cup pepperoni, chopped
  • 1/4 cup ham, chopped
  • 1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup Muenster cheese, torn into pieces
  • 1 tablespoon garlic salt


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Divide pizza dough in half and shape into two oval or rectangular pizzas on a greased pizza pan.
  3. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large saute pan and saute minced garlic for about a minute.
  4. Add diced bell peppers, chopped broccoli, salt and pepper and stir. Saute together for 5-7 minutes until vegetables get tender and soft.
  5. Remove pan from heat.
  6. In a small mixing bowl, mix together tomato sauce, tomato paste, Italian seasoning and garlic salt to make tomato sauce for pizzas.
  7. Top pizza crusts with tomato sauce, pepperoni, ham and sauteed vegetables (divided into equal portions for both pizzas).
  8. Top both pizzas with shredded mozzarella and muenster cheeses, sprinkle with garlic salt and place pizza pan in oven.
  9. Bake for 15-17 minutes until cheese starts to get bubbly and golden brown.

***Stay tuned for my new cooking show – Cooking with Color 4 Kids© airs live on Oct 26th at 9:30 am EST on cable TV in NYC!!

Cooking with Color 4 Kids© by Kristen Hess

Channels: Time Warner 34/ Cablevision 67/ RCN 82/ Verizon 42 and the Internet: Channel 1
BCAT TV Network cablecasts in all five boroughs of NYC on Verizon FIOS cable.

If you don’t live in NYC and want to watch the show live online on 10/26, please use this link and watch Channel 1:


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5 Holiday Appetizer Recipes and Colavita Olive Oil Holiday Giveaway!

Holiday Appetizer Recipes & Colavita Holiday Giveaway
Holiday Appetizer Recipes & Colavita Holiday Giveaway

The holidays are here, and what better way to celebrate by throwing a holiday cocktail party with friends and family? I’ve teamed up with Colavita this season to celebrate with all of you, by creating  some delicious Holiday Appetizer recipes using their World Selection and Private Selection Extra Virgin Olive Oils and Flavored Cooking Oil blends. 

Colavita Olive Oil Collection

Colavita Olive Oil Giveaway!

*THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED – Congratulations to Manda Kay, the winner of our Colavita holiday giveaway! Hope you cook up lots of goodies with your EVOO & Balsamic Glace! Happy Holidays :)

I’ve teamed up with Colavita this holiday season and giving away some of their delicious olive oils and balsamic vinegars so you can celebrate the season by cooking up some holiday goodies of your own! The winner will receive: one (1) 3/4 liter of Colavita Private Selection Fruttato EVOO, one (1) 32 oz Roasted Garlic EVOO plus one (1) 29.5 oz bottle of their Balsamic Glace. 

All you have to do to enter the giveaway is leave me a comment at the end of this post telling me what your favorite Holiday Appetizer to make with olive oil is.

*For extra entries, just follow me on twitter, facebook, pinterest, google+, tumblr or sign up for my newsletter (at the top right hand side of this page) and tell me you did so in the comments section. **As an added bonus, Colavita is also offering a 25% discount to all of my readers on any purchase in their online store. Simply enter the code ‘AG25’ to receive the discount upon checkout!

**This giveaway begins on Sunday, Dec 9th and ends Sunday Dec 23rd at midnight EST, where one person will be selected by random from the comments section below.**

Colavita World Selection Olive Oils are a new collection of extra virgin olive oils exploring the tradition in countries outside of italy from estates and farms in Australia, Argentina, California, Greece, Spain and Portugal as well as other prime olive oil growing nations. Read more about a few of my favorites that I used in my recipes below!

Colavita California EVOO


Colavita 100% Californian EVOO

The warm climate in the “Golden State” of California fosters both grape and olive cultivation perfect for wines and olive oils. The Colavita 100% Californian EVOO is pressed from olives grown in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys of California. The mild flavor makes this oil perfect for all culinary applications. Enrich your favorite meal with a drizzle of EVOO and a glass of wine.

Read more and get it online


Colavita Roasted Garlic EVOO


Colavita Roasted Garlic EVOO

Colavita Roasted Garlic EVOO is a product originally created exclusively for BJ’s Wholesale Stores. To many it has become the “gateway product” that exposes customers to the entire Colavita family of products. It is raved about on their online store so we wanted to share it with all of you! It’s the perfect finishing oil and wonderful for enhancing garlic already present in your dish. Try it on Garlic Bread or my Homemade Pita Chips (recipe below).

Read more and get it online


Colavita Argentina EVOO

Colavita 100% Argentina EVOO

The Argentina EVOO was a hands-down favorite at this year’s New York Wine and Food Festival. Arbequino, Coratina and Manzanilla olive cultivars grown in the Catamarca and Mendoza regions of Argentina give this EVOO and intense, fruity aroma and taste. Pair this EVOO with soups, roasted fish, grilled vegetables and red meat for an unbeatable duo.

Read more and get it online




Colavita Private Selection EVOO

Colavita Private Selection Fruttato EVOO

Colavita’s Fruttato Oil has recently been inducted into the Colavita “Private Selection” line. This line was created to highlight the products which have received the honor of being marked a Colavita family favorite. It is made by cold pressing new harvest olives just before their peak ripeness. The result is a full bodied EVOO which is slightly pungent with peppery flavor notes.

Read more and get it online




Colavita Roasted Garlic Oil Blend


Colavita Roasted Garlic Oil Blend

This Colavita Premium Blend is an all-purpose cooking, frying, and salad dressing oil which combines the delicate hint of roasted garlic in a light Canola Oil and Virgin Olive Oil Blend. It is a versatile oil that is naturally low in saturated fats and has no trans fats.

Read more and get it online






 Holiday Appetizer Recipes

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Bites
Sweet and Spicy Chicken Bites

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Bites

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 8-10

These yummy sweet and spicy Asian Chicken bites combine honey, soy sauce, orange and Sriracha to make a fun bite-sized appetizer with a delicious glaze.


  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice, plus 1 tsp zest
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Colavita Roasted Garlic EVOO
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 pound skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 tablespoon Colavita Roasted Garlic EVOO
  • Fresh ground white pepper
  • Dash of red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 tablespoon black and white sesame seeds, toasted (for garnish)
  • 1 green onion, sliced thin (for garnish)


  1. Combine all ingredients from honey through minced garlic and place inside a large plastic freezer bag.
  2. Cut up chicken into bite-sized pieces and trim visible fat, place in bag and marinate in refrigerator for at least an hour to overnight.
  3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  4. Remove chicken from freezer bag, reserving marinade, and place on a greased baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, turning one time until chicken is browned nicely.
  6. Strain marinade and discard solids, and pour into a saucepan bringing to a boil. Reduce heat and cook for about 3 minutes.
  7. Combine water and cornstarch and slowly pour into glace in saucepan. Add fresh cracked white pepper and red pepper flakes, stirring well.
  8. Turn oven up to 500 degrees.
  9. Toss chicken bites with the glaze and broil for about 5 minutes.
  10. Meanwhile, toast sesame seeds for a few minutes in a pan over medium heat and chop green onion.
  11. Serve chicken bites garnished with sesame seeds and green onions with cocktail toothpicks on a small platter or small plates.


Recipe adapted from Cooking Light March 2003



Caramelized Onion, Ricotta & Pancetta Tart
Caramelized Onion, Ricotta & Pancetta Tart

Caramelized Onion, Ricotta & Pancetta Tart

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Yield: 8

This is a lovely tart recipe that combines sweet and savory flavors. The caramelized onions give it a sweet flavor with a hint of fig balsamic vinegar, balanced out by creamy ricotta, nutty Gruyere cheese, fresh herbs and crispy pancetta.


  • 1 package pancetta (8 thin slices)
  • 3 tablespoons Colavita Fruttato EVOO
  • 2 sweet Vidalia onions, halved lengthwise and sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1-1 1/2 tablespoons Fig balsamic vinegar (Tavern Direct brand)
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoons dried Fines Herbes (or 2 tablespoons fresh herbs)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
  • 1 frozen pie shell, defrosted, or homemade tart dough


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Heat a saute pan over medium heat and cook pancetta until browned but not fully cooked, about 5 minutes. Drain fat from pan and place pancetta on paper towels to drain to the side. Once cooled, chop pancetta into small pieces.
  3. Peel onions, remove top and bottom stems and cut in half lengthwise.
  4. Slice onions thin (about 1/8" thick or desired thickness).
  5. In the same saute pan, add 3 tablespoons olive oil and heat over medium high heat.
  6. Add onions and cook over medium high for about 10 minutes.
  7. Sprinkle brown sugar, salt and pepper over onions and stir well, cook another 10-20 minutes, reducing heat to medium low if onions start to brown too quickly.
  8. Continue cooking and stirring onions over medium low for another 15 minutes, add a few teaspoons of water if desired.
  9. Add the fig balsamic vinegar to the onions, turn heat down to low and let cook until they are caramelized, soft and sweet, up to an hour total.
  10. Combine the ricotta, egg yolk and Fines Herbes together in small mixing bowl.
  11. Spread the ricotta mixture over the pie shell in a 9" tart pan with removeable bottom.
  12. Sprinkle Gruyere cheese over ricotta.
  13. Top with caramelized onions and pancetta.
  14. Bake the tart in the oven for approximately 30-45 minutes until pastry and filling are golden brown, and pancetta is crispy.
  15. Let tart cool on a cooling rack for 10-15 minutes before serving.
  16. Serve tart cut into wedges.


If you prefer to make your own tart dough rather than using a frozen pie crust, Martha Stewart has a great recipe for Flaky Tart Dough on her website at http://www.marthastewart.com/319448/flaky-tart-dough


Parmesan Garlic Artichoke Dip w/ Homemade Pita Chips
Parmesan Garlic Artichoke Dip w/ Homemade Pita Chips

Parmesan Garlic Artichoke Dip

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Serving Size: 8

Hot Artichoke dip is one of my all time favorite holiday dip recipes, and this one is extra special, using Colavita's California EVOO, lemon zest and minced garlic with lots of gooey cheese. Instead of using mayonnaise, I substitute a light sour cream to cut some of the fat and calories. Serve with my homemade baked pita chips or crackers.


  • 2 tablespoons Colavita California extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 package frozen artichokes, defrosted
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • zest and juice from 1/2 lemon
  • Garlic salt with parsley (to taste)
  • Fresh cracked black pepper (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shredded light monterey jack cheese, plus 1/2 cup for topping
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • dash of cayenne (optional)
  • dash of paprika (for garnish)
  • 1 green onion, sliced thin (for garnish)


  1. Heat oil in a saute pan over medium high heat. Add artichokes and minced garlic, saute about 5-7 minutes until heated through.
  2. Add lemon juice, zest, garlic salt and pepper, mix well and cook another few minutes, set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, add shredded cheeses and sour cream together in a mixing bowl.
  4. Add sauteed artichokes, garlic and lemon to cheese and sour cream.
  5. Sprinkle with a dash of cayenne (if desired), mix well and transfer to a casserole dish.
  6. Sprinkle additional monterey jack cheese over the top and bake in the oven for about 20-30 minutes until bubbly and cheese is melted on top.
  7. Let cool a few minutes, sprinkle with paprika and green onions. Serve with homemade baked pita chips (recipe follows), crackers or crudites.

Baked Garlic Pita Chips

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: Makes 36 pita chips

Making homemade pita chips is super easy and way better than buying the storebought kind for your holiday party. Mine are made with whole wheat pita bread, drizzled with EVOO, and sprinkled with garlic salt and cumin for some extra flavor. So delicious and crispy straight out of the oven and so addicting you'll never buy them again! Serve with Hot Parmesan Garlic Artichoke Dip or any of your other favorite party dips.


  • 6 whole wheat pita rounds
  • 2 tablespoons Colavita California EVOO
  • 1 tablespoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut pita rounds into triangles (6 wedges per pita).
  3. Lay out pita wedges on a baking sheet and brush each wedge with olive oil.
  4. Sprinkle garlic salt and cumin on top.
  5. Flip over pita wedges, repeat coating with oil, salt and cumin.
  6. Place baking sheet(s) in oven and cook pita wedges for about 15 minutes (checking to make sure they don't burn!)
  7. Let cool, and serve with Hot Parmesan Garlic Artichoke Dip.

Sage, Lemon & Garlic Cocktail Meatballs
Sage, Lemon & Garlic Cocktail Meatballs

Sage, Lemon & Garlic Cocktail Meatballs

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 18 medium or 36 small meatballs

Serving Size: 2-4 per person

Everyone loves cocktail meatballs at holiday parties! These lovelies have a hint of lemon and sage and are light and fluffy, made with ground pork or chicken. They are first browned on the stovetop and then finished in the oven until golden brown. They're delicious alone, or dipped in a hot pepper jelly (Williams-Sonoma brand is great), balsamic pear jam (there's one by Academia Barilla that is to die for) or simply dipped in balsamic vinegar glace.


  • 3 slices of bread, crusts removed
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 pound ground pork or chicken
  • 1/4 cup fresh sage, chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup onion, minced
  • zest and juice from half a lemon
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Colavita Argentina EVOO
  • 1 tablespoon Colavita Roasted Garlic Cooking Oil Blend
  • Red Pepper jelly, for dipping (Williams Sonoma brand)
  • Balsamic Pear jam, for dipping (Academia Barilla brand)
  • Colavita Balsamic Glace, for dipping


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Remove crusts from bread and tear into small pieces in a large mixing bowl, add milk and let soak for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Mix in ground pork or chicken, sage, garlic, onion, lemon juice and zest, cheese, pepper flakes, egg, salt and pepper with soaked bread crumbs with your hands in a claw-like motion to keep meatballs light and fluffy.
  4. Roll meat mixture into small to medium size meatballs (small makes approximately 36, medium makes approximately 18).
  5. Heat olive oils in a large saute pan over medium heat (if not using cooking oil blend, mix EVOO with a tablespoon of butter to avoid temperature from getting too high and splattering).
  6. Cook meatballs in batches in the oil for about 5 minutes each batch until meatballs are browned on all sides, drain on paper towels.
  7. Once all meatballs are browned, place them on a large rimmed baking sheet coated with cooking spray to avoid sticking.
  8. Bake in the oven for approximately another 15 minutes until cooked through and to keep warm.
  9. Top with additional garlic salt (if desired), fresh chopped sage, and serve with red pepper jelly and balsamic pear jam, and Colavita Balsamic Glace for dipping.

Crunchy Zucchini Sticks w/ Yogurt Dill Sauce
Crunchy Zucchini Sticks w/ Yogurt Dill Sauce

Crunchy Zucchini Sticks w/ Yogurt Dill Sauce

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 8-10

These zucchini sticks are a great appetizer for any holiday party. They have a light crunchy coating of Japanese Panko seasoned bread crumbs and are finished with a splash of lemon and sprinkling of sea salt. They go perfect with the cool and creamy yogurt dill sauce or even a ranch dressing for dipping.


  • Colavita Roasted Garlic Cooking Oil Blend
  • 4 medium zucchini, cut into half, into long strips
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cups Panko Japanese-style seasoned breadcrumbs
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • Sea salt, for sprinkling, to taste
  • Lemon wedges, for garnish
  • Fresh minced dill, for garnish
  • 1 cup of Greek yogurt
  • 2-3 tablespoon minced dill
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste


  2. Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large deep saute pan, about 2 inches high.
  3. Trim ends off zucchini, cut in half and then in half again lengthwise.
  4. Cut zucchini into large strips about 1/2 an inch thick.
  5. Pour the flour and Panko breadcrumbs into one large bowl and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Beat eggs in a separate bowl.
  7. Dip zucchini sticks in egg, shaking off excess, then dip in bowl to coat with flour and breadcrumbs.
  8. Place coated zucchini on a baking sheet.
  9. Fry in batches until golden brown, draining excess oil on another baking sheet lined with paper towels.
  10. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice on top of zucchini and sprinkle with fresh dill and additional sea salt to taste.
  12. In a medium bowl, mix together greek yogurt, dill, salt and pepper to taste.

*This is a sponsored post by Colavita, but as usual, all opinions expressed are my own. I received 5 bottles of Colavita olive oil samples to create the recipes for this article and holiday promotion. Winners of the giveaway will receive the prizes directly from Colavita by mail and should expect 2-3 weeks delivery time due to the holidays. 

**All photographs, recipes and copy are copyrighted by Kristen Hess/The Artful Gourmet 2012 and cannot be republished without my permission or credit on the reposted original material from this article or website.

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My Favorite Roasted Squash Recipes

I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite Fall veggies to make is Squash. I absolutely love the buttery, savory smell of it roasting in the oven and it’s so easy to make.

There are plenty of different varieties of Squash, but one of the most popular ones to make for the holidays is Butternut Squash, which has a sweet, creamy, buttery flesh. Other popular Squash varieties include Kabocha, Acorn, Spaghetti, Long Neck and Cheddar Cheese squash. There are different ways to prepare squash but the easiest and most flavorful way is by roasting it in the oven on a sheet pan for about 30 minutes to an hour. Simply cut the squash in half (or peel and cut into medium chunks or slices), scoop out the seeds and fibrous flesh and drizzle with olive oil or butter, some fresh cracked pepper and sea salt, and sprinkle on some brown sugar or drizzle with honey or maple syrup for a luscious, buttery, sweet and savory dish.

You can also sprinkle on some fresh herbs (parsley, sage, thyme, chives, tarragon) and garlic or add a dash of cayenne or cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves for some spicy layers of flavor. Some ideas for the squash leftovers are to add the roasted squash to Macaroni and Cheese, Wild Rice or Orzo, or make a healthy salad by adding it to some spinach, chard or kale, apples, some toasted walnuts or pecans, cranberries or pomegranate seeds, tossed in a light herb vinaigrette dressing. However you make it, it’s simply delicious; and perfect as a Thanksgiving side or Fall vegetarian side dish.

Check out the different types of squash on Saveur.com website and enjoy my favorite squash recipes below!

Roasted Butternut Squash with Brown Sugar Butter and Herbs
Roasted Butternut Squash with Brown Sugar Butter and Herbs

Roasted Butternut Squash with Brown Sugar Butter and Herbs

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 4


  • 1 butternut squash (about 3 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt (Pink Himalayan or Fleur de Sel)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Fines Herbes (parsley, chervil, tarragon, chives)


  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Cut the squash in half cross-wise and remove top and bottom stems. Scrape out all the seeds and fibers inside; discard. Peel the squash and cut into 1-inch chunks.
  3. Place squash on a large baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil. Dot with small chunks of butter and sprinkle nutmeg, salt and pepper, brown sugar and herbs over squash. Mix together and place sheet in preheated oven.
  4. Bake for about 15 minutes, stir the squash around the pan. Bake for another 15 minutes and remove from oven.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Cayenne Maple Syrup
Roasted Acorn Squash with Cayenne Maple Syrup

Roasted Acorn Squash with Cayenne Maple Syrup

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Yield: 4


  • 2 acorn squash
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup


  1. Heat oven to 400F. Cut the squash in half with a large knife and scoop out the seeds and insides with a large spoon; discard.
  2. Place squash halves on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and rub on both sides of squash. Dot squash with butter and season with salt and pepper, cayenne pepper, and brown sugar. Drizzle maple syrup over the squash. Add some water to the bottom of the baking sheet (about an inch) and place in oven.
  3. Roast squash for 45 minutes to an hour, until flesh is soft and caramelized. (You may want to check on the squash half way through and brush some of the butter and syrup over the tops of the squash as it's baking to keep it from drying out.)

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Toasted Pinenuts, Sage and Parmesan
Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Toasted Pinenuts, Sage and Parmesan

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Pine Nuts, Sage and Parmesan

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: 4


  • 1 small spaghetti squash (about 2-3 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 6-8 sage leaves
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
  • Fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Pierce squash all over with a knife and roast spaghetti squash for 1 hour. When squash pierces easily with a knife, remove from oven; let cool for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Cut squash in half lengthwise, remove and discard seeds. Use a large fork to scrape the squash into long 'spaghetti-like' strands.
  4. Toast the pine nuts in a sauté pan over medium heat until golden for about 5 minutes. After the nuts are toasted, remove them from the pan and add the olive oil, a tablespoon of butter, and sage leaves. Sauté mixture until the sage leaves are crispy. Add the minced garlic and saute for another minute.
  5. Crush the sage leaves in the garlic oil mixture, and then pour it over the warmed squash. Add the additional tablespoon of butter, salt and pepper and top with toasted pine nuts and shredded parmesan cheese.


Other Squash Recipes you may enjoy:

The Kitchn’s 10 ways to eat an Acorn Squash

Cooking Light Butternut Squash Recipes

Taste of Home Spaghetti Squash Recipes

Food 52 Butternut Squash Recipe Contest

Brown Eyed Baker’s Butternut Squash and Bacon Mac & Cheese


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Crazy Good :: Truffle Oil, Pancetta and 3-Cheese Pasta

Truffle-Pancetta-3 Cheese-Pasta
Crazy Good :: Truffle Oil, Pancetta and 3-Cheese Pasta

I can’t remember the first time I tried anything made with truffles, but now and then I find myself lusting after these lovely things – strange? maybe. but let me tell you why..

Truffles have an intoxicating scent and flavor that is indescribable, and make any dish the most delicious thing you will ever experience in your lifetime. I’m not even a huge mushroom fan, but truffles somehow induce euphoria every time I taste or smell them. Unfortunately truffles are pricey, and usually reserved for a special occasion or night out but I felt the urge to splurge and make this dish on an ordinary night, just because.

The nutty, savory and buttery flavor of the truffle oil goes perfect with the trio of parmesan, sharp cheddar and mascarpone cheese making a luscious creamy sauce for the pasta. The pancetta gives the pasta a nice smoky flavor with less fat than regular bacon, and the garlic and onion give it another layer of awesome flavor. Topped off with some golden brown buttery crumbs then baked to perfection, and you’ve got a truly divine, grown up pasta dish that will blow your Mama’s Mac and Cheese away.

Oh, and be prepared to swoon upon first bite.

Crazy Good :: Truffle Oil, Pancetta and 3-Cheese Pasta


1 stick of butter
6 slices of pancetta, chopped
1 c. of onion, chopped fine
1 tsp dried crushed red pepper
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
3 1/2 c. whole milk
2 1/2 c grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 c. grated parmesan cheese
1 8-8.8 oz container mascarpone cheese
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of cayenne
Dash of sweet paprika
Kosher Salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 c. japanese panko breadcrumbs
1/2 c. chopped fresh Italian parsley (or 1 tbsp dried)
4 tbsp white truffle oil
1 lb. tube pasta (macaroni, penne, rigatoni, or your choice)

Cheese Sauce

In a large saucepan, melt 1 tbsp of butter and saute pancetta over medium-high heat until browned, about 5-7 minutes. Remove pancetta from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Sauteed Pancetta

Add onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and crushed red pepper and saute for another minute.

Sauteed Onions, Garlic and Red Pepper

Stir in 3 tbsp of butter and let melt, then add flour and stir 1 minute to make a roux (thickener for the cheese sauce). Gradually whisk in 3 1/2 cups of milk and simmer until sauce thickens (stirring often) for 5 minutes, and then remove pan from heat.

Three Cheese Sauce

Whisk in cheddar, mascarpone and parmesan cheeses until smooth, and add a little more milk if the cheese sauce seems too thick. Sprinkle in a dash of nutmeg, a dash of cayenne and a dash of paprika. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir and remove from heat.

Crumb Topping

In a medium skillet, melt 4 tbsp of butter over medium-high heat. Add panko breadcrumbs and stir through so that the butter coats all the crumbs, and they turn a light golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Toasted Breadcrumbs

Remove from the heat and stir in the fresh or dried parsley, set aside.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a 13×9 casserole or glass baking dish with cooking spray or butter. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente for 5-8 minutes. Drain the pasta and shock with cold water.

White Truffle Oil

Place pasta into the casserole dish and coat with the truffle oil.

Add Pancetta to the Pasta

Toss in the pancetta…(mmmm!)

Three Cheese sauce

Pour in the cheese sauce…(dreamy!)

Baked to Perfection

Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top of the pasta and bake for 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Heaven on a Plate

Let cool for a few minutes, and dig in! (you’ll never be the same)

Serves 8.

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit Pasta Favorites, 2010.

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Cooking with a Purpose: Tavern Direct + NCMEC

I recently was fortunate enough to meet Lou Bivona, Managing Partner of Tavern Direct and Founding Member of National Center for Missing & Exploited Children/NY and sample some of his gourmet products to cook with. Tavern Direct has a fantastic line of flavorful, gourmet marinades, dipping and finishing sauces, 14-16 year barrel-aged balsamic vinegars infused with real fruit and herb oils all made with premium, all-natural ingredients bottled under the Tavern on the Green name. The best of all about this wonderful cooking line is that a portion of all their proceeds goes to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), a charity committed to help millions of children through the sales of their products.

Tavern on the Green Oils & Marinades

Their product lineup includes Oils, Herbs ‘n More featuring Garlic with Rosemary Oil, Chili Pepper with Garlic Oil and Pepper with Lemon Oil. Their Marinade, Dipping and Finishing Sauce line includes Central Park Signature, Wasabi Wonder, Smokin’ Chipolte and Asian Lemon. The Marinade trio features Chandelier Chardonnay and Fire Grilled Garlic, Old Vine Cabernet and Fire Grilled Garlic and Toscana Garlic Parmesan. The Balsamic Vinegar line is premium and gorgeously flavored with options such as Citrus on the Green (infused with Orange, tangerine and lime), Blackberry and Ginger, Autumn Fig with Vanilla, and Summer Strawberry. Last but not least, they have a robust 1870 Steak Sauce as well as a sesame Golden Ginger Teriyaki Sauce, perfect for marinating steak, chicken and fish for stir-fries and grilling.

Tavern on the Green Garlic & Rosemary Oil
With so many gorgeous sauces and marinades to choose from, I had a hard time choosing which one to cook with first. I chose the Garlic with Rosemary Oil in their Oil, Herbs n’ More collection to make a fantastic, delicious meal of Pan Seared Pork Chops, Roasted Zucchini with Garlic and Parmesan and Pecan Brown Basmati Rice with Garlic. With all the wonderful oils and vinegars and marinades in this line, I’ll be cooking up a storm and planning food and wine pairings and special recipes, and aim to share all my creations and cooking experiences with you throughout the year. Stay tuned for more!

For more great recipes and info about Tavern Direct, visit www.taverndirect.com.

To make a donation to NCMEC , visit their secure website.




Garlic Rosemary Pan-Seared Pork Chops, Parmesan Zucchini + Pecan Brown Basmati RIce

Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Garlic and Rosemary

Serves 4
Total Prep time: 30 mins
Total Cook time: 1 hr
Cooking skill: Intermediate


4 large boneless pork chops (about 1 ½ inches thick)
Tavern Direct Garlic with Rosemary Oil
4 Garlic cloves, sliced
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
Fresh or dried rosemary leaves


Preheat the oven to 275 degrees and adjust the oven rack to middle position.

Marinade pork chops in the Garlic with Rosemary Oil in a plastic freezer bag or baking dish and place in the refrigerator for up 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Once chops are done marinating, cut 2 slits about 2 inches apart into each chop, using a sharp knife. Insert sliced garlic cloves into slits and sprinkle entire surface of each chop with 1 tsp of salt. Place them in a roasting pan or baking sheet and let stand room temperature for about 15 minutes.

Sprinkle chops with freshly ground pepper and rosemary and transfer baking sheet or roasting pan to oven. Cook until meat thermometer inserted into the center of the chops registers 120-125 degrees (approximately 30-45 mins).

Heat 1 tablespoon of the Garlic with Rosemary oil in a 12 inch heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat until smoking. Place 2 chops in skillet and sear until well browned and crusty, 1 ½-3 minutes, lifting once halfway to redistribute the fat underneath each chop. (reduce heat if browned bits in pan bottom start to burn). Using tongs, turn chops and cook until well browned on second side, another 2-3 minutes. Transfer chops to a plate and repeat with remaining 2 chops, adding extra tablespoon oil if pan is dry.

Reduce heat to medium. Use tongs to stand 2 pork chops on their sides. Holding chops together with tongs, return to skillet and sear sides of chops until browned and meat thermometer in center of chops registers 140-145 degrees, about 1 ½ minutes. Repeat with remaining 2 chops. Let chops rest, loosely tented with foil, for 10 minutes until ready to serve. Sprinkle with some extra Rosemary if desired to garnish.

Pair the Pan-seared chops with Roasted Zucchini with Garlic & Parmesan and Pecan Brown Basmati Rice (recipes follow) and a light, crisp Chardonnay to top off the meal. Delicious!

Roasted Zucchini with Garlic and Parmesan

Serves 4
Total Prep time: 15 mins
Total Cook time: 30-45 mins
Cooking skill: Easy


4 medium zucchini
Tavern Direct Garlic with Rosemary Oil
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Fresh or dried rosemary leaves


Wash zucchini and cut in half length wise, chopping off ends, and cut in half again. Arrange zucchini in a glass baking pan and drizzle the Garlic with Rosemary oil over the zucchini. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and top the zucchini with the shredded Parmesan cheese and fresh or dried rosemary. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 mins until cheese is bubbly and slightly browned.

Pecan Brown Basmati Rice with Garlic

Serves 4
Total Prep time: 15 mins
Total Cook time: 1 hour
Cooking skill: Easy


1 cup long-grain brown rice
1-2 tablespoons Tavern Direct Garlic with Rosemary Oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
¼ cup green onion, sliced thin (for garnish, optional)
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste


Prepare brown rice in medium saucepan, following package instructions.

About 15 minutes before the rice is done, heat 1-2 tbsp of Garlic with Rosemary oil in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until the onion is softened and begins to yellow, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the garlic and pecans; sauté over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the garlic is tender and pecans are browned slightly, about 5 minutes.

Remove rice from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Spoon brown rice into a bowl; spoon the onions, garlic and pecans on top and toss lightly to combine. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with some chopped green onion if desired.

**This was not a paid endorsement for Tavern Direct, NCMEC or Tavern on the Green. All recipes and opinions expressed are my own.

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Throwdown! A Quest for the Perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs

Perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and Meatballs. Such an unassuming yet classic Italian dish. And who doesn’t love it? Everyone seems to have their own recipe – not only for the sauce, but for the type of pasta they prefer and of course the meatball is the key ingredient that makes or breaks the dish – at least in my opinion. I was never too fussy about sauce in the past, but as I’ve grown in my culinary tastes and techniques (and the influence of my Italian boyfriend), I’ve come to like a simple tomato sauce made with nothing but tomato and basil and garlic and a dash of olive oil, salt and pepper. As far as pasta goes, I’m pretty open minded, but when it comes to meatballs – it either needs to be classic spaghetti or a rotini pasta, something with an edge or ridges that hold the sauce.

Now here comes the tricky part: the perfect meatball. I have had some of the most delicious meatballs in my life and some that more resembled old sponges than the delightfully bouncy and rich texture I think a humble meatball deserves. Not to mention the flavor – a bland meatball is about as pleasing as a piece of cardboard. It’s all about the ingredients that go inside that make it or break it.

So the other night I decided to go on a quest for the perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe and after carefully researching my options, dug up a recipe by Bobby Flay, another by Molly Wizenberg, and another from my Williams and Sonoma cookbook “Comfort Food” (which I am cooking my way through this Winter so expect quite a few comforting recipes on my blog in the next few months!)

recipe throwdown

I analyzed each recipe with a fine tooth comb; and they were all similar but different enough to be unique and have a flavor of their own. Two used pork and veal and beef for the meatballs, one used just ground beef and pork. One called for a cup of finely ground Parmesan cheese, two fresh grated cheese. Molly cooked her meatballs in the sauce, Bobby fried his in a pan and then finished cooking them in the sauce, and Williams-Sonoma baked their meatballs in the oven first and finished them in the sauce. The sauces were varyingly different versions of a Marinara, one used red wine and a bay leaf, one used only tomatoes, butter, onions and salt and the other used a small cubano chile for some extra kick.


After comparing all my options, I created my own version (based on what I thought would work for me in terms of flavor and what I had on hand!) I have posted links to the original recipes at the end of my post if you’d like to check them out for yourself, but mine takes the ingredients from three brilliant chefs/authors/culinary legends and makes the perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe. Mission complete!

San Marzano Tomato and Basil Marinara Sauce

1 large can Tuttorosso Crushed Tomatoes with Basil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2-3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp crushed garlic (or 2 cloves, minced)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp. Kosher or Sea salt
¼ tsp. Fresh ground pepper


1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
½ c. panko breadcrumbs
¼ c. milk
½ c. finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tbsp)
¼ c. finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
½ tsp. garlic and parsley salt
½ tsp. Kosher or sea salt
¼ tsp. fresh ground pepper

16 oz. San Marzano Tomato and Basil Marinara Sauce

1 lb. pasta (of your choice)


sauteed garlic

Measure 2 tbsp of olive oil and sauté minced garlic in a pan for about 1 minute until soft and lightly golden (not to high of a heat or the garlic will burn). Remove from the heat and let the garlic cool.

panko breadcrumbs

In the meantime, mix the breadcrumbs with the milk and let stand 10 minutes until moistened.

Parmesan, Parsley and Garlic

Chop fresh parsley, measure garlic and parmesan cheese.

Egg, Parsley, Cheese

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, garlic and parsley, cheese, salt and pepper until combined.

Meat Mixture and Breadcrumbs

Add the beef and pork to the egg mixture and gently mix until ingredients are combined, slowly mix in the breadcrumbs to the meat mixture using a claw-like gesture with your hands. Do not overmix. Chill in the refrigerator for up to an hour (at least 15-20 minutes).

Meatball prep

After the meat mixture has chilled, roll the meatballs into golfball size balls (should make about 20 meatballs) and arrange on a pan.

Sauteed Meatballs

Heat ½ c. olive oil in a large metal pan over high heat and add the meatballs, frying until golden brown, turning to cook all sides evenly. Drain on a baking sheet lined with paper towels.

meatballs simmering in sauce

Add the meatballs (and any scraped up browned bits from the meatball pan) to the Dutch oven into the tomato sauce (recipe follows) and cover. Simmer on low heat for about 20-30 minutes until meatballs are cooked through.



To make the tomato and basil marinara sauce, heat 2 tbsp olive oil and sauté garlic over very low heat in a medium sauce pan until slightly golden.

Tuttorosso crushed tomatoes

Pour the Tuttorosso Tomato and Basil Crushed tomatoes into the sauce pan, adding tomato paste and dry ingredients (garlic, salt and pepper, oregano, basil) and top off sauce with another tablespoon of olive oil. Simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes (don’t overstir).

San Marzano Tomato and Basil sauce

When the sauce is done simmering, add to the Dutch oven, mixing with the additional sauce and meatballs and let simmer on low for another 5-10 minutes. While the sauce and meatballs are simmering, cook your pasta in salted boiling water (and a dash of olive oil) until al dente, about 8-10 minutes.

Perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs

Drain pasta and serve in serving bowls, topped with the meatballs and sauce. Garnish with additional grated parmesan cheese and minced parsley if desired and serve with a bold red wine and some crusty garlic bread (recipe below).

Now THIS, indeed, is the most perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs I’ve ever had – Mangia!

Serves 4-6.


Garlic Bread

Cut up some Italian bread and add butter and a sprinkle of some garlic and parsley salt. Bake in the oven on 350-400 until toasty and golden brown. Crunchy, garlicky – so good!


Bobby Flay’s Spaghetti and Meatballs (source: Bobby Flay’s Throwdown cookbook)

Molly Wizenberg’s Spaghetti and Meatballs (source: Bon Appetit Magazine, October 2010)

Williams-Sonoma Spaghetti and Meatballs (source: Comfort Food: Warm and Homey, Rich and Hearty cookbook)

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Holiday Brunch: Italian Frittata with Red Pepper, Potatoes and Bacon

red pepper potato frittata

Potato and Pepper Frittata with Cheese and Bacon

So Christmas is over, but the cooking is not! As a tradition, I always make breakfast for the family and this year decided to make a delicious recipe for a Potato and Pepper Frittata from my new Williams-Sonoma cookbook Comfort Food: Warm and Homey, Rich and Hearty. A Frittata is similar to a French quiche without the crust or a breakfast casserole but cooked in an ovenproof pan on the stove and then finished by broiling in the oven and served directly from the pan.

This recipe calls for eggs, roasted red peppers and onions with Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped Rosemary which is a delicious Italian style Frittata. You can also modify it by adding cooked bacon, ham, shredded cheddar, asparagus and shallots or crumbled feta or goat cheese. I changed it up a bit by adding some shredded cheddar cheese and chives to the eggs and served it with a side of bacon and some Almond Butter Christmas Stollen (a German holiday bread). The possibilities are endless because Frittatas are so versatile and easy to make..it’s a simple and hearty breakfast or brunch you can make anytime of the year and deeeelish!!


Yukon Gold Potatoes, 2 med or large

Olive Oil, 2 tbsp

Yellow Onion, 1/2 c. chopped

Orange or Red bell pepper

Large eggs, 8

Fresh Rosemary, 1 tsp minced

Kosher Salt, 1/4 tsp

Fresh Ground Pepper

Parmesan Cheese, 3 tbsp


Thinly slice the unpeeled potatoes. In an ovenproof frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the potatoes and turn to coat with the oil. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost tender, about 20 minutes. Uncover and stir in the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender and the potatoes are lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Place the pepper on a baking sheet and broil, turning occasionally, until blackened on all sides about 12 minutes (you can also do this on a gas stove directly over the flame burner if you prefer). Transfer to a work surface and let cool until easy to handle. Leave the broiler on. Peel off the blackened skin, discard the stem, seeds and ribs; and chop the pepper.

Stir the roasted red pepper into the potato mixture into the frying pan. In a bowl, whisk  together the eggs, rosemary and salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture into the potato mixture and cook over medium heat until the edges are set. Using a heatproof spatula, lift the cooked edges of the frittata and tilt the frying pan to allow the liquid egg on top to flow underneath. Continue cooking, occasionally lifting the frittata and tilt again, until the top is almost set about 4 minutes more.

Sprinkle the top of the frittata with the Parmesan, place under broiler for about 1 minute or until the top is golden brown. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or room temperature.

Makes 4-6 servings

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