Butternut Squash Linguini

It is officially fall which means it is pasta galore in our kitchens. We have no shame posting two pasta recipes in one week, and you shouldn’t feel bad about cooking both of these recipes during a chilly week either! There is something so satisfying about a creamy, hot bowl of noodles on a cold evening. That being said, just because a dish is hearty does not mean that it has to pack on the calories. The sauce for this Butternut Squash Linguini is pretty much just that, pureed butternut squash. We add some decadence to the dish by mixing sautéed pancetta and fried sage, but those ingredients act like garnishes versus heavy handed ingredients. For those of you with kids at home, this is a great way to sneak in extra veggies during this winter.

Butternut Squash Linguini

Makes: 4 servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes Total Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb linguini
  • 4 oz cubed pancetta
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 8 (approx) sage leaves
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 12 oz cubed butternut squash (thawed if using frozen)
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • grated Parmesan cheese for garnish, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Cook the pasta. Heat a large stock pot full of water. Add about 2 tbs salt and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook to al dente according to package directions, about 12 minutes. When the pasta is ready, remove 1 cup of pasta water and drain the noodles.
  2. Make the butternut squash sauce. Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and pancetta to the pan and fry for about 3 minutes, or until the pancetta is crispy. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pancetta and set it aside. In the same olive oil, fry the sage leaves until crispy, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and again, keep the fat in the pan.
  3. Add the onion and garlic to the pan. Sauté for 4-5 minutes, or until the onions start to become translucent. Add the butternut squash and cook another 3 minutes to lightly sauté. Season with salt and pepper. Add the thyme (keep the stems intact) and the vegetable stock. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the butternut squash is fork tender.
  4. When the butternut squash is fork tender, remove the pan from the heat and remove the thyme leaves from the pan. Place the rest of the butternut squash mix into a blender and blend until smooth. You can add the pasta water in 1/4 cup increments as necessary to get the sauce to a smooth consistency. The sauce should be a little thinner than a butternut squash bisque. Reserve any extra pasta water.
  5. Add the sauce, pasta, and pancetta back to the pot and toss to coat. Taste and season with salt and pepper as necessary. If the pasta is starting to slurp up the sauce and it looks too thick, add more pasta water 1/4 cup at a time. If you don’t have any pasta water leftover you can use vegetable stock until you have the texture you are looking for. If you have added liquid back to the pasta, taste and season again. Serve the pasta in four bowls with the fried sage leaves (chopped) and a hearty serving of shaved Parmesan cheese.

Pesto & Ricotta Stuffed Shells

As the weather starts turning cooler, we find that we start craving warm and hearty meals. One of our favorite family meals is stuffed shells. There are so many different ways to customize a stuffed shells recipe; you can incorporate the protein of your choice or add vegetables to get your greens in. For this version, we have chosen to incorporate ground beef, pesto and ricotta. We love the flavor combination of pesto and ricotta. The pesto brings in an herby freshness and the ricotta adds creaminess and unctuousness to the dish. This recipe can be prepared in advance and baked just as your family or friends come over for dinner. Serve this with our Kale Salad: Autumn Edition and you have balanced, full dinner.

Pesto and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Makes: 8 servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes Total Time: 60 minutes

Ingredients for the Sauce:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup parsley, minced
  • 2, 28oz cans tomato sauce
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 tbs salt

Ingredients for the Shells:

  • 1 package jumbo pasta shells
  • 3 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup pesto
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup basil, minced
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese

Directions:

  1. Make the sauce. In a large pot, sauté the ground beef until it is cooked through. Set aside in a bowl but do not drain the fat. Add the garlic and parsley and saute in the beef fat for a few minutes. Add the tomato sauce, water and salt and bring to a simmer. Add the beef back into the sauce and keep on simmer, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes.
  2. While the sauce is simmering, cook your shells according to package directions. When the shells are cooked to al dente, rinse them with cold water. You will want them to be cooled before stuff them.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350.
  4. Create the filling. Combine the ricotta, pesto, egg, basil and Parmesan cheese in a bowl and mix to thoroughly combine. Season with salt and pepper. Put the mixture in a large Ziploc bag and cut the tip off the corner of the bag. Use the bag to pipe the mixture into each shell.
  5. Coat the bottom of a large baking dish with a layer of the sauce. Add the stuffed shells on top of the sauce in an even layer. Fill the rest of the dish with the sauce and top with the mozzarella. Place in the oven for 20-30 minutes until the cheese is fully melted and bubbly.

Eggplant Caprese Salad

It has been a labor of love, but we are finally getting eggplant to grow in our garden! We love to cook this seasonal veggie by lightly seasoning it and grilling it. This version of eggplant is served in a caprese salad and pairs perfectly with the tomato and mozzarella cheese. This is an easy and delicious way to mix up a classic and makes for a hearty salad recipe. You can serve for the salad for lunch, as an appetizer, or a side dish for an Italian-inspired dinner. 

Eggplant Caprese Salad
Makes: 8 servings 
Prep Time: 15 minutes     Total Time: 15 minutes 

Ingredients For The Salad:

  • 1 eggplant slices in 1/4 inch rounds
  • 2 tbs olive oil 
  • 3 beefsteak tomatoes cut in 1/4 inch rounds 
  • 1 log of fresh mozzarella or buffalo mozzarella cut into 1/4 inch rounds
  • basil
  • salt 

Ingredients For The Dressing:

  • 1/2 balsamic vinaigrette 
  • 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper 

Directions 

  1. After slicing the eggplant, sprinkle salt on both sides of the pieces and set on paper towel for 15 minutes. This will help remove some of the excess moisture from the eggplant before you grill. 
  2. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat, about 450 degrees. 
  3. Drizzle olive oil over both sides of the eggplant and grill the slices on high for 2-3 minutes on each side so that the pieces are lightly charred and cooked through. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. Prepare the dressing by whisking all of the ingredients together in a bowl. 
  5. Assemble the caprese by layering the eggplant, tomato and mozzarella across a long serving dish. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and top with fresh basil. Serve immediately. 

Italian Sandwiches

Making almost 21 meals a week for four adults has its upsides, like lots of blogging content, but can get exhausting day after day. We often find that we are craving our favorite restaurants, but due to proximity and restaurant closures a lot of places aren’t feasible during the workweek for lunch. To keep ourselves inspired (and full!) we have started creating our favorite takeout recipes at home. Tate’s dad loves himself a good Italian sub, so we recreated our version at home one day for lunch last week. The homemade vinaigrette is a great addition to pre-made ingredients and the spinach adds a necessary dose of vegetables to balance out all of that meaty decadence. 

Italian Sandwiches
Makes: 4 sandwiches 
Prep Time: 10 minutes   Total Time: 20 minutes

Vinaigrette Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 tbs oregano
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste 

Sandwich Ingredients:

  • 1 Italian or French baguette or 4 brioche buns (as pictured) 
  • 1 lb pepperoni, sandwich slices
  • 1 lb salami, sandwich slices
  • 1 lb turkey, sandwich slices
  • 1 lb provolone cheese
  • 1/2 cup giardeniera
  • 1 package of spinach (6 oz) 

Directions: 

  1. Heat your oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Make the vinaigrette. Combine all of the vinaigrette ingredients into a small bowl and whisk together. We pour this into a pan and cook it for a few minutes so that the shallot can break down and the oil can absorb all of those great flavors. 
  3. Assemble the sandwich. Cut the baguette or rolls in half and place both halves on a piece of tin foil. Using a brush, generously brush the vinaigrette on both sides of the bread. Continue until you use all of the vinaigrette. Layer all of the sandwich ingredients, except spinach, evenly across the bottom half of the baguette or each of the rolls. You can go in pretty much any order, but we assembled ours according to the ingredient list with pepperoni on the bottom. 
  4. Put the top on the sandwich and wrap the entire sandwich in tin foil. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes so the cheese gets melted and sandwich is toasty. Take the sandwich out of the oven, add the spinach and slice into quarters. Serve warm.

Penne a la Vodka

Keeping things simple in quarantine does not mean that the food we make has to lack flavor. This penne a la vodka has just a few ingredients, most of them pantry ingredients, and is a much more exciting dinner than regular old spaghetti. Not to mention we could all use a little extra dash of vodka these days! Our recipe is different from other vodka sauce recipes because we cook the vodka down separately before adding the tomatoes. This helps smooth out the vodka taste so that there’s just a hint of it compared to other bolder tasting variations. We love to serve this creamy pasta as it is, but also bulk it up with slices of chicken or chicken sausage for a complete meal. 

Penne a la Vodka 
Makes: 4 servings 
Prep Time: 15 minutes   Total Time: 25 minutes 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 lb penne pasta (we used Trader Joe’s brown rice penne) 
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 tbs olive oil 
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1 shallot, minced 
  • 1/2 cup vodka 
  • 1- 28 oz can tomato puree 
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream 
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese 
  • 4 basil leaves, chiffonade 
  • salt and pepper, to taste 

Directions: 

  1. Heat a large soup pot over high heat to bring to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions, about 8 minutes depending on the pasta you have chosen. When the pasta has finished cooking, remove 1/2 cup of pasta water with a measuring cup and drain the pasta in your sink. Set aside. 
  2. While the water is boiling and the pasta is cooking, heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. 
  3. Add the butter and olive oil to the pan, letting the pan get hot and until the butter starts to bubble. Add the garlic and shallots to the pan and saute for 3-4 minutes, or until the garlic becomes fragrant. 
  4. Add the vodka to the pan. Cook for 3 minutes to burn off most of the alcohol.
  5. Add the tomato puree to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and cook another 7 minutes.
  6. Add the heavy cream and 1/2 cup of the cheese to the tomato sauce. Stir and keep over medium heat until the cheese is melted. 
  7. Add the pasta water and pasta to the pan. Stir and cook for another 2-3 minutes, or until the pasta is well coated with the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. Serve hot with chopped basil and the remaining 1/4 cup cheese, for garnish. 

Nonna’s Meat Sauce

There is nothing that reminds Tate’s dad of home more than a bowl of pasta with his favorite homemade meat sauce. During the holiday time, we took advantage of having family in town to watch and record the coveted process of making this delicious meat sauce. This is a recipe that has been passed down multiple generations and makes a very hearty Sunday family dinner.

Note: this recipe makes A TON of sauce. Feel free to modify to the portion size that fits your family best or make this and freeze a bag or two or three!

Nonna’s Meat Sauce

Makes: 16 servings

Prep Time: 40 minutes Total Time: 2 hours 40 minutes

Ingredients:

Sauce

  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 13 cloves of garlic, peeled and diced
  • ½ cup dried parsley
  • ¼ cup Italian seasoning
  • 3, 28oz cans peeled tomatoes
  • 2, 28oz cans crushed tomatoes

Meatballs

  • 3 lbs ground beef
  • 7 eggs
  • 4 oz pecorino romano cheese
  • 1 tbs black pepper
  • 1 tbs onion powder
  • 6 slices white bread
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 lb Italian hot sausage links
  • 1 lb Italian sweet sausage links

Directions:

For the sauce

  1. Heat a large stock pot with 5 tbs canola oil. Add the garlic and saute until golden brown. Approximately 5 minutes.
  2. Add the dried parsley and Italian seasoning. Stir for one minute and remove from the heat.
  3. Add the crushed and peeled tomatoes to the stock pot. Using a wooden spatula or spoon, crush the tomatoes and break them down into smaller pieces. If you notice any pieces of tomato skin, remove the pieces and throw them out.
  4. Fill one of the cans of tomatoes half-way and run the water through all of the tomato cans to collect as much of the remaining tomato sauce as possible. Add the tomato water to the pot. Fill the can half way again and add to the pot.
  5. Turn the heat back on medium/high and bring the sauce to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat so that the sauce is on a low simmer. Let simmer, covered, for at least one hour.

For the meatballs

  1. Put the ground beef and eggs, cheese, black pepper and onion powder in a large bowl.
  2. Take the white bread and rinse it in cold water. Using your hands, squeeze the water out of the bread and place it in the bowl.
  3. Using your hands, blend the ingredients together. If using your hands is not for you, you can use a spoon, but we highly recommend using your hands as you will get a better mix (and it’s the Italian way!)
  4. Once the mixture is well combined, mold the meatball mix into 2-3 inch meatballs. You should get around 15-20 meatballs.
  5. Heat a large saute pan on medium and add the oil. Once hot, add the meatballs until the pan is full. Fry in the oil for 5 minutes or until the meat is browned. Flip the meatballs over and fry for an additional 5 minutes. Remove the meatballs and set aside. Repeat until all of the meatballs are cooked.
  6. Remove half of the oil from the pot. Return the oil to medium heat and add the sausage links. You will want to cook all of the sausage until browned, similar to the meatballs and add it to the tomato sauce when completed.

Bringing it all together

  1. After the sauce has simmered for at least an hour, add the meatballs and sausage, in full links, to the sauce.
  2. Cook on simmer for at least another hour to let the flavors blend and meld together.
  3. Serve with pasta and top with more cheese or parsley as desired.

Seal the Deal Prosciutto Stuffed Chicken Breasts

This chicken dish is really the beginning of the story for how Tate’s parents got together. After a few dates in college, Tate’s dad offered to cook a meal at his house. A little nervous, and armed with wine, Tate’s mom agreed. Her hesitation was removed at the first bite of this chicken dish. Crunchy, cheesy and filling – this dish won over her stomach and heart. Flash forward 10 years, and they are still enjoying this dish together.

Prosciutto Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Seal the Deal Prosciutto Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Serving Size: 4 servings

Cooking Time: 60 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 4 slices provolone cheese
  • 4 slices prosciutto
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs, scrambled
  • 2 cups canola oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbs chopped basil, for garnish
  • 2 cups marinara sauce (click for our favorite recipe)

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Pound chicken breasts to flatten so they are even in thickness. Aim for roughly ¾ inch thick. This will help to cook the chicken evenly.
  • Take a paring knife and make an insert in each breast, leaving at least a half inch border on three sides of the chicken breast to form a pocket for the prosciutto and provolone
  • Take the provolone and prosciutto and roll together and place in the pocket of each chicken breast. Season the outside of each chicken breast with salt and pepper.

Bread the Chicken:

  • Add the salt and pepper to the flour and place the flour, eggs and breadcrumbs in three separate containers
  • Using one hand for dry ingredients and one for wet follow the next steps for each chicken breast:
  • Put the chicken breast in the flour and cover both sides
  • Move the chicken breast to the eggs and cover both sides
  • Move the chicken breast to the breadcrumbs and cover both sides

To Cook:

  • Put the canola oil in the pan and turn heat to medium-high.
  • Once the oil is hot (you can test with a pinch of flour), add the chicken breasts to the pan. Be careful not to overcrowd- you can do this step in two batches if necessary.
  • Cook the chicken about 4 minutes per side, or until the chicken is nice and brown. Transfer to a cookie sheet. If you are doing this in two steps, let the first batch sit out and transfer all of the chicken to the oven at the same time.
  • Place the chicken in the oven and cook until the thickest part of the breast has reached a temperature of 165 degrees- roughly 20 minutes.
  • Serve the chicken on top of the marinara so that it stays crispy! Top with fresh basil.