Re-Post: Italian Mac and Cheese


I haven’t made this in nearly three years, but it tasted better than I remembered it. The leftovers didn’t last long in our house and ¬†we happily ate them for lunch two days in a row – yeah, it’s that good! ūüôā Thanks for reading, enjoy!


Italian Mac and Cheese Ingredients ‚Äď adapted from The Food Network

  • 1 pound¬†penne,¬†ziti¬†or rigatoni pasta
  • 1 pound bulk Italian sausage
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 12 ounces baby portobello mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 3 ‚Äď 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 TBSP all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups shredded cheese blend ( I used Fontina, mozzarella, Pecorino Romano and Asiago)
  • 1 ‚Äď 14 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 tsp hot sauce, optional *I used chili flake*
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions –

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt water and cook pasta to a chewy al dente, about 8 minutes.  In a large skillet, brown and crumble the sausage. Drain cooked crumbles on a paper towel lined plate. Return pan to heat and add extra-virgin olive oil, butter, mushrooms and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Saute about 5 minutes, until garlic is fragrant and mushrooms become lightly browned.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Add flour to skillet and stir, cooking 2 minutes. Whisk in stock, then stir in milk. Bring to a bubble, then stir in 2 cups of Italian cheese blend. When cheese has melted into sauce, add tomatoes. When sauce comes to a bubble, remove from heat and adjust seasonings, adding hot sauce if desired.  Combine cheese sauce with sausage and pasta and transfer to a large baking dish.  Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is browned and bubbly.


PW’s Baked Ziti


I don’t normally make a meal for someone when I haven’t made it before, but PW has yet to steer me wrong; so I went for it. I also don’t get many chances to make meals like this, (the hubbs doesn’t like baked pasta dishes!), so when a friend from home group was scheduled for surgery, I thought that this would be a comforting meal for her and her family.¬†This pasta is rich and filling and what you see in the picture is only half of what the recipe makes! I don’t think a 13 x 9 baking dish could have contained it all – so if you have a lasagna pan, you might want to use it! ¬†Thanks for reading, enjoy!


Baked Pasta – adapted from The Pioneer Woman

  • 2 Tablespoons¬†Olive Oil
  • 3 cloves¬†Garlic, Minced
  • 1 whole¬†Large Onion, Diced
  • 1 pound¬†Italian Sausage
  • 1 pound¬†Ground Beef
  • 1 can¬†(28 Ounce Can) Whole Tomatoes, With Juice
  • 2 cans¬†(14.5 Ounce) Tomato Sauce Or Marinara Sauce
  • 2 teaspoons¬†Italian Seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon¬†Red Pepper Flakes
  • ¬†Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • 16 ounces, weight¬†Ziti Or Mostaciolli, Cooked Until Not Quite Al Dente
  • 1 tub¬†(15 Ounce) Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
  • 1-1/2 pound¬†Mozzarella Cheese, Grated
  • 1/2 cup¬†Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 whole¬†Egg
  • Fresh Minced Parsley

Directions –

Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute for several minutes, or until starting to soften. Add Italian sausage and ground beef and cook until browned. Drain off fat, leaving a bit behind for flavor and moisture.

Add tomatoes, tomato juice, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Stir and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. After that time, remove 3 to 4 cups of the sauce to a different bowl to cool down.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, 2 cups of the grated mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, and salt and pepper. Stir together just a couple of times (do not mix completely).

Drain the pasta and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking and cool it down. Pour it into the bowl with the cheese mixture and toss to slightly combine (there should still be large lumps.) Add the cooled meat sauce and toss to combine.

Add half the coated pasta to a large casserole dish or lasagna dish. Spoon half of the remaining sauce over the top, then top with half the remaining mozzarella cheese. Repeat with another layer of the coated pasta, the sauce, and the mozzarella.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until bubbling. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.


Deep Dish Pepperoni and Sausage Pizza

I know I have said this of dinner a lot lately, but really – this was just so good! Instead of the recommended 9″ skillet (who can find that size anyway?) I used 9″ cake pans. I loved that two pizzas can go in the oven at a time, whereas with my usual method (bottom of the oven on a pizza stone), I can only bake¬†one pizza at a time. The crust was pillowy, chewy and slightly crisp because of the olive oil. The kids and I enjoy dipping our crust in pizza or marinara sauce (I had some of this – it’s my favorite), and the salad is a mix of organic Romaine, baby spinach and Roma tomatoes and this dressing. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Basic Pizza Dough – adapted from The Comfort of Cooking

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/3 cups warm water
  • 1 envelope yeast


Add the yeast to the warm water and set aside for 5 minutes.

Mix together the flour, salt, sugar and olive oil. Stir the yeast into the water and make sure it’s all dissolved. Add it to the flour mixture. Mix until everything is combined, and knead with a dough machine or by hand for about 8 minutes.

Oil two bowls lightly with olive oil and set aside. Divide the dough into two pieces and roll into balls. Place each ball into the oiled bowls, seam side down, and brush the tops with a little olive oil. Top each bowl with plastic wrap or a clean, dry towel and place the dough in a warm place (I use a turned-off oven). Let rise 2 hours.

Once risen, use the dough or wrap in plastic wrap, then a plastic bag, and freeze or refrigerate.

Chunky Pizza Sauce – adapted from Annie’s Eats

  • 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 1/2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced


Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.  Allow to cook for at least 15 minutes.  Once finished cooking, remove from the heat.  If you prefer a smoother sauce, use a potato masher or immersion blender to break up the chunks of tomato.  Alternatively, simply leave it as is if you prefer a chunkier sauce.  Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

Deep Dish Pepperoni and Sausage Pizza – adapted from The Comfort of Cooking

  • 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 6 ounces Italian sausage, casings removed
  • sliced pepperoni, roughly chopped
  • 12 ounces pizza dough
  • 1/2 pound mozzarella, shredded
  • Parmesan, Asiago, Pecorino Romano or other hard Italian cheeses, grated (to taste, optional)
  • olive oil mixed with true garlic powder for painting the crust


Cook sausage over medium heat until browned, making sure to break the meat up into crumbles.

Heat oven to 400¬į F. Coat a 9-inch oven-proof skillet or cake pan with 1 ¬Ĺ tablespoons of the oil. Stretch and press the dough into the pan, covering the bottom and sides. Top the dough with chunky pizza sauce, top with half the mozzarella, sausage, pepperoni and remaining mozzarella. Grate Parmesan, Pecorino Romano and Asiago (optional – I had remnant blocks of these in my fridge) over all. Paint the crust with olive oil/garlic powder mixture and sprinkle dried oregano over top all.¬†Bake until the crust is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes.

Chunky Beef Chili

This one is an old favorite. I don’t make it very often, but the weather promises to be much cooler tonight, so I had to take advantage of it! It’s not a quick meal but the flavors are worth the wait. The addition of the cinnamon stick is noticeable, but it is probably my favorite flavor note in this chili. The cinnamon’s sweetness/spiciness makes this dish so unique! Please don’t shy away from it ūüėČ

Yum! This was so good and my husband was very appreciative of this dinner. It makes the house smell wonderful – so good, there should be a candle in the scent! ūüėČ The long simmer makes the meat fall apart tender and there is a pleasant kick to it. It’s not the tongue burning type, but the kind that you feel in the back of your throat. I used two jalapenos, one I left with the seeds and membrane and the other I scooped out to guard against the taste bud searing heat. Thankfully, the sour cream cools it down nicely and the cornbread I made for this (to be in a later post) is perfect crumbled over top the chili. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Chunky Beef Chili – adapted from Martha Stewart

  • 2 pounds sirloin steak, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 12 ounces sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 to 2 jalapeno chiles, (ribs and seeds removed for less heat, if desired), diced
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal
  • 1 whole cinnamon stick
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 1 can (15 ounces) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • Toppings, such as shredded Monterey Jack cheese, pickled jalapeno chiles, sliced red onion, sour cream, fresh cilantro leaves, or hot sauce, for serving (optional)


  1. Heat a Dutch oven (or a heavy 5-quart pot with a tight-fitting lid) over high heat until a drop of water sizzles upon contact. In three batches, cook sirloin until no longer pink; remove each batch with a slotted spoon. Set aside.
  2. Add sausage, breaking it up into small pieces; add onion and jalapenos. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until sausage and onion are browned, about 5 minutes.
  3. Return sirloin to pot. Stir in chili powder, cumin, oregano, tomatoes (with juice), cornmeal, cinnamon, bay leaves, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Cover; cook until sirloin easily breaks apart with a spoon, about 2 hours.
  4. Stir in beans; cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Discard cinnamon and bay leaves. Serve.

Puh-sketti and Meat Sauce

Quick Post: Yum! I used this marinara sauce but before I started the marinara sauce directions, I browned three links of Italian sausage and one pound of lean ground beef. I knew M wouldn’t appreciate it unless there was meat in it…If the sauce becomes too thick for you, add tomato sauce or water if you’d like. I ended up adding two 8 ounce cans of tomato sauce and the same volume ¬†of water to make it a little thinner. Once the spaghetti noodles were finished cooking, I ladled about five cups of the sauce along with parmesan and Pecorino Romano cheese. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Sausage Bread

Quick Post: This is a family favorite! It’s so simple and tasty and definitely worth the effort. I use this recipe for pizza dough, about a pound and a half of browned sausage and a combination of mozz, smoked gouda and parmesan – those are really the only modifications I use. We eat this with a side of marinara (my favorite), but my husband prefers Alfredo sauce. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Sausage Bread – adapted from Soup Belly

  • 1 pound Italian sausage *1.5 pounds for us…doubling this recipe is a must!
  • 8 oz. cubed mozzarella cheese *I grated my mozz, smoked gouda and a little parmesan
  • 2 egg whites and 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • 1 pound pizza dough *I used two 14.5 ounce balls for ours
  • 1 egg yolk (for brushing on top of dough), beaten
  • 1/4 tsp. oregano
  • salt & pepper

Directions –

1) Removing sausage out of casing if necessary. Cook sausage until browned, crumbling into small bits. Drain grease, set aside to cool. In a bowl, combine sausage, cubed mozzarella, 2 egg whites and 1 egg yolk. Add oregano, salt & pepper.

2) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3) On a greased baking sheet, roll the dough out into a rectangle, as large as you can make it without creating holes or ripping it. Spread the sausage mixture on the surface but keeping a 1 inch border clear. Carefully roll the dough like a jelly roll and pinch the edges shut, and place seam side down on the baking sheet. Don’t panic if there are holes or you ripped multiple tears (see my disastrous looking picture below). Brush top of loaf with egg yolk mixture. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown.  Cut slices with a bread knife, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Vodka Cream Pasta with Italian Sausage

I was introduced to tomato/cream pastas some time last year…dangerous! I don’t make them very often at all and our favorite so far is Penne al la Betsy via The Pioneer Woman. The first time I made it, I subbed chicken for the shrimp – see that was before I was comfortable cleaning, deveining, and cooking shrimp. My family loves shrimp, even my picky eater loves shrimp. Thankfully, she loves sausage (and bacon) too, and if she knows what’s good for her, she’ll eat some of this too!

I cooked the sauce much longer than what the recipe specified – actually, it doesn’t give a time limit at all. I also thought it best to use 1/2 cup of vodka and about the same amount of heavy cream, because 1 cup of each seemed like over-kill to me!

Verdict: rich, creamy, flavorful, yum! This makes a lot of pasta, so unless you want to deal with all the leftovers, invite some friends over! Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Vodka Cream Pasta with Italian Sausage Ingredients – adapted from Eclectic Recipes

  • 5 links sweet Italian sausage, cut in bite size pieces
  • 1 32 oz can Italian tomatoes (I used crushed San Marzano tomatoes)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup vodka (I used 1/2 cup)
  • 1 cup cream (I used about 3/4 cup)
  • a large bunch of basil, roughly chopped or torn
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • penne pasta (I used angel hair)

Directions –

Preheat large skillet. Drizzle with olive oil and add sausage to pre-heated pan. Brown sausage. Add onions and garlic and saute until translucent. Add tomatoes. Add vodka. Turn heat to a simmer. Break up tomatoes with a spoon or potato masher.

In a separate saucepan, while sauce is simmering, bring water to boil for pasta. Cook pasta according to package directions.

When pasta is done, Add cream to sauce and bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Add basil and stir until just wilted. Serve over pasta, and don’t forget the garlic toast!

Quick Post

I was contemplating not having the promised pizza night because of my laziness…I needed to roast the chicken, brown the sausage, make a batch of pizza dough in order to have this dinner ready tonight. I promised the family pizza, and I kept that promise. Because the kids already knew it was coming, I decided against the lazy-butt-mom route and did all the extra work anyway. I’m glad I did, cause this pizza was so good. I made two pizzas, but this one is the mom/kid pizza – you see, normally one pizza is the “Mom/Dad” pizza and then there is the “kid” pizza – that way everyone is happy. M gets his BBQ chicken pizza with smoked gouda and the kids get their pepperoni. I thought it best to load up my half with bell pepper, tomato, mushroom and chicken while the kids’ side was sprinkled with Italian sausage…( Publix deli is so slow…I couldn’t pick up the good pepperoni ). Thanks for reading!:o)

Meatball Subs and Marinara Sauce

Ooh…these were good. Even my picky eater enjoyed these, which is always a great because she often refuses to eat anything new. Another great thing about these recipes is that they made enough to become spaghetti and meatballs with marinara for last nights dinner. I’m so happy that my husband who hates spaghetti loved eating that meal too. Maybe it’s because this was all from scratch and not from a jar or package. I love being able to cook like this for my family and what makes that even better is that I thoroughly¬†enjoy the process of it. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Meatballs – adapted from The Comfort is Always Here

  • 1/2 lb of ground beef
  • 3 Italian sausages, casings removed
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3 slices of white bread, crusts removed, torn into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
  • handful of fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 shallot, grated
  • Italian loaf of bread, or Italian rolls
  • 4 slices of mozzarella cheese per sandwich

Warm your marinara sauce in a deep skillet or a large saucepan while you prepare your meatball mixture.

Begin by soaking the bread in the milk for a few minutes. In a large bowl, add the meat, eggs, basil, seasonings, cheese and grated shallot. Squeeze the milk from the bread and add to the bowl. Thoroughly combine all ingredients, but be careful not to over-mix. Next form your balls and think about the size of them as you will place them onto the sub.

Cook your meatballs right in the sauce. Make sure the meatball is completely covered, and continue to cook on simmer for about 45 minutes, or longer.

When you are ready to make your sub, you have a couple of options. I hollowed out the top of mine, thinking I could place the cheese on the bottom, fill with meatballs, and place a couple of more slices of mozzarella on top. The choice is yours. You decide.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Add two slices of cheese to the bottom of the bread, and cook in the oven for about 3-5 minutes. Remove from the oven, and set your broiler. Add the meatballs to the top of the cheese, cover with two more slices of the cheese, and place under the broiler. Watch it carefully – the toasty goodness happens quick!

Marinara Sauce – adapted from

  • 3 -4¬†tablespoons olive oil¬†(I use enough oil to lightly coat the bottom of my pot)
  • 1¬†large onion, chopped
  • 4 -6 garlic cloves, minced (or to taste, the more the better I use 6 extra large cloves)
  • 1¬†tablespoon dried basil
  • 2¬†teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2¬†teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes¬†(optional or adjust to taste)
  • 1¬†(6 ounce)¬†can tomato paste¬†(can use two cans for a thicker richer sauce if desired)
  • 1¬†(28 ounce)¬†can¬†whole roma tomatoes, undrained (break up with a fork before cooking, go ahead and use two cans if desired!)
  • 1/3-1/2¬†cup dry red wine¬†(you may omit if desired but good to add in, can use white wine)
  • 2¬†teaspoons sugar¬†(optional or to taste)
  • 1¬†teaspoon salt¬†(or to taste, a good tomato sauce needs lots so don’t be shy with the salt)
  • fresh ground pepper

In a heavy bottomed stock pot or dutch oven, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion, garlic, dried herbs and pepper flakes saute for 3-4 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Add canned tomatoes and wine and simmer uncovered for 1 1/2 – 2 hours stirring occasionally. Season with salt, pepper and sugar. You can add more water if you prefer a thinner sauce.

My Favorite Pizza Dough

This is the best one I have tried so far! I didn’t have to search long for what I consider to be the best homemade dough out there. I love that it makes a huge four pound batch of dough because I portion the dough out into 16 ounce balls and freeze them to use for the next few weeks. It comes together easily, is tasty and economical – always a bonus! I have to use my giant 6 quart lidded containers to let it double in – those were a great buy. I found them at Sam’s Club in the restaurant supplies section. I have been eyeing some other items there…so tempting! I love shopping for kitchen supplies – I just wish that we had more money to blow on new toys for me…hey, those are the kind of “toys” that benefit everyone.¬† Our eight year anniversary is coming up, so maybe I will be able to get some things that I wouldn’t normally justify;o) Anyway, enough rambling on about that – here’s the recipe! The directions that Jamie Oliver gives are for hand kneading the dough. I use my standing mixer, so I will tell you how I make it. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Pizza Dough Ingredients – adapted from Jamie Oliver

  • 5 cups bread flour
  • 2 cups semolina flour
  • 1 level tablespoon fine sea salt
  • 2 (1/4-ounce) packets active dried yeast
  • 1 tablespoon raw sugar
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups lukewarm water

Directions –

If you’re using active dry yeast, get it started proofing in about 1/2 cup of your lukewarm water, all the raw sugar and extra virgin olive oil. While waiting for the yeast to wake up, measure out all your dry ingredients – by weight for the flour is best, then combine them in a large mixer bowl.¬† Measure out 2 cups of lukewarm water, I always use bottled from our water cooler because of the added chlorine in tap water . Add the proofed yeast mixture and the 2 cups of water to the flour. I stir the mix with my dutch whisk, (you can use your hand or a wooden spoon) then once I have formed a rough dough, I hand knead for about a minute until it becomes a little smoother. Using your standing mixer with the dough hook, knead the dough for 5 to 7 minutes on low until the dough is smooth and springy. Place the kneaded dough in a large, lightly oiled container to rise, then lightly cover the container. Let rest until doubled in bulk – about 1 hour. Weigh and divide the dough as needed. I use Ziploc quart sized bags with a little extra virgin olive oil poured in to prevent sticking. It’s also helpful to write the date and weight of the dough on the bag.