Roasted Vegetable Pasta

“I miss having a garden,” I recently said to my father-in-law. “I thought you hated the garden,” he replied. I went on to explain that I have a love/hate relationship with having a garden. I love walking out at about 4:00 in the afternoon to see what is fresh and deciding what I can use for dinner that night. I hate the fact that a garden refuses to follow my schedule. I can’t tell you how many nights — after I’ve gotten up at 4:30 to run so I can volunteer at school until 2:30 and then come home and work while Gray does homework, then make dinner, and while I am trying to clean up, Matt brings in 2 buckets full of purple-hull peas to be shelled, washed, blanched, bagged, and then frozen. That doesn’t fit my schedule at 7:30 at night after a long day. But yet somehow I still miss the first part of the whole garden thing.

Toward the end of every July, Gray and I visit my parents for a week. We grace them with our presence so that they can spoil us with lots of fun, good food, oh and my birthday party. More on that last thing next week.  A bonus for visiting this time of year is that the garden is really coming on. So a few weeks ago, I traveled back to Tennessee from Indiana with a backseat full of tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and squash (plus homemade blackberry jelly). Gray quickly demolished the cucumbers, and I slowly worked on the other items, making my grilled cheese with tomatoes and having plenty of BLT’s. I made zucchini bread, grilled squash, and I still had quite a bit of stuff left. Produce from a parent’s garden is like gold — you should never let it go to waste, so Saturday night I put the remaining tomatoes, zucchini, and squash to yummy use.

First, I made homemade marinara sauce using this recipe.

marinara 2016

Next, I chunked up zucchini, squash, and onion; placed them on a cookie sheet; drizzled them with olive oil; seasoned them with sea salt; and roasted them at 400 degrees for 35 minutes.

zucchini squash mom and dads garden

After the vegetables were done, I cooked rigatoni pasta to al dente, then mixed it with about half the sauce, the roasted vegetables, a ball of diced fresh mozzarella, placed all of it in a casserole dish, topped it all with freshly grated parmesan cheese, and then baked it at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

roasted veggie pasta


roasted veggie pasta 2

And sadly now the produce from my parent’s garden is gone……. Hey Mom and Dad, didn’t you say you felt like coming to Tennessee this weekend?

Beefy Manicotti

“I don’t like manicotti,” said my obviously unhappy husband.  I knew that, but I had a surprise up my sleeve.  “It’s beef manicotti,” I replied, and suddenly he looked a bit more pleased.  But not as pleased as he was after he took the first bite.  Home run.

beef manicotti pan

First, I made a batch of marinara using my favorite (and really the only one I use) marinara recipe.

Filling for the shells:

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. oregano
  • 1/2 t. basil
  • 1/4 t. pepper
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1 cup mozzarella
  • 1 cup marinara

Brown the ground beef with the onion, herbs, salt, and pepper.  Allow to cool slightly.  Mix in the remaining ingredients.

Cook 1 box manicotti shells in salted boiling water for 5 minutes.  Drain and allow to cool slightly.

Place a layer of marinara on the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan.  Stuff the shells with the meat mixture and place them in a single layer on top of the marinara.  Top the whole thing with a ladle or two of marinara, another cup of mozzarella, and a cup of grated parmesan.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

And then you get this:

beef manicotti plate

Delicious man-friendly, meat-filled manicotti along side one of my favorite salads — Italian Chopped Salad by Giada De Laurentiis

  • 4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups finely chopped romaine lettuce (from 1/2 head)
  • 2 cups finely chopped radicchio (from 1/2 large head)
  • 1/2 cup drained canned white beans, rinsed and patted dry
  • 8 oil-packed sun-dried tomato halves, drained and chopped

Whisk the vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper in a large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in the oil to blend. Add the lettuce, radicchio, beans, and sun-dried tomatoes. Toss to coat. Season the salad, to taste, with more salt and pepper, and serve.

Delicious dinner, plus I had enough meat mixture and marinara leftover to make an 8×8 lasagna.  Score!

Rigatoni with Sausage Tomato Sauce

Periodically, Matt gets on a no-carb kick.  It absolutely kills me, but being the good wife that I am, I make adjustments to our meals.  One morning while at the gym sweating my tail off on the elliptical, The Rachael Ray Show happened to be on.  (There’s something so wrong about working out while watching a food show.)  And wouldn’t you know it, she had several chefs on teaching someone how to make pasta dishes.  Just shoot me now.

My mouth watered as I huffed and puffed.  I could no longer take it.  I had to have pasta.  I apologized to my husband, and he blew his no-carb kick.  Here’s the link to Lidia Bastianich’s Rigatoni with Sausage-Tomato Sauce.  I made some minor adjustments to the recipe when I made it.  Here’s how I did it:

Rigatoni with Sausage Tomato Sauce

  • 1 1/2 pounds mild Italian Sausage
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons EVOO
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepperoncino flakes
  • 2 diced zucchini
  • 6 cups crushed tomatoes
  • Handful basil, torn
  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for passing

Pour the EVOO in a skillet.  Brown the sausage and onions.  Then add the garlic, salt, and pepperoncino.  Deglaze the pan with the wine.  Add in the zucchini, tomatoes, a cup of water, and the torn basil.  Bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to simmer and cover the pan with the lid slightly ajar, and allow the sauce to simmer for an hour.

When the sauce is almost ready, cook the rigatoni in salted water according to the package directions.  Drain.  Stir 1-2 cups of the sauce in to the pasta and add the parmesan cheese.  When plating, top with more sauce and sprinkle with more cheese.  You should have some sauce leftover.

Lidias rigatoni

It’s a delicious dish.  I’m certain it was extra-delicious because I was so carb-deprived.

The First Annual Treading of the Grapes

Last Sunday on the way home from church, Matt had an epiphany.  He wanted to have a grape harvesting party, let the kids stomp the grapes, and then serve Italian food.  Have I ever mentioned that Matt has a ‘vineyard’?  I like to poke fun at him — and he typically takes it well.  He has around 40 plants and has tried his hand at making wine for the last few years now.  It has gone from flat-out terrible to relatively drinkable.  I’d call that progress.

Last Sunday the vines were loaded with ripe grapes, but he wanted to wait one more week as last year he felt he picked them a bit too early.  He extended invitations to The First Annual Treading of the Grapes, 22 folks committed, and then he left for Greensboro for the week.  I, of course, never paid a bit of attention to the grapes while he was gone.  All last week I made preparations for Saturday’s big meal by doing all the shopping, making meatballs ahead of time, and chopping vegetables.  Friday afternoon, I made Nutella Cookies and an Italian Cream Cake.

Saturday morning I had just finished my run and was walking toward our house, and Matt, in his truck, started heading my way.  He stopped, and I could just tell something was wrong.  “Have you seen the grapes?” he asked.  Of course, I don’t pay a bit of attention to the grapes so I missed the fact that critters of some sort had nearly stripped the vines clean.  He was so disappointed.  But, alas, 22 people would be there in a few hours….so the party went on with a small token picking and no stomping.



There’s always next year for that.

Now the meal was a huge success.  We started with Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus and Rosemary Parmesan Breadsticks while the kids enjoyed Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies.

me and food 3

Dinner consisted of Arugula Salad and Spaghetti and Meatballs. (Here’s the link to the marinara recipe I used.)

me and food 4

The troops were happy.


Finally dessert of Italian Cream Cake and a Gelato bar.

me and food 1

me and food 2

And while the grape thing was a bust, it was an evening of sheer happiness for me — getting to feed lots of people.



Cheesy Baked Spaghetti

I am a part of a group at church that volunteers to take meals to families with special circumstances.  Typically I like to show up when they are ready for dinner with hot food and sit it on the table for them.  Unfortunately, I can’t always make that happen with work and an 8-year-old that has school and after-school commitments.

My friend Sue gave me this recipe at least ten years ago.  It is my go-to recipe when I need to take a meal to someone, and I can’t deliver it hot.  I love this recipe because you can easily double it, it freezes really well, and it’s rather tasty.

I was scheduled to take a meal to a family at 4:30 today but my parents will be arriving about that time, so I took this to the family on Wednesday.  They were so appreciative and will be in for a real treat tonight.

Cheesy Spaghetti Bake

  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 15 ounce jar spaghetti sauce with mushrooms
  • 7 ounces spaghetti noodles, broken in half
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese

Brown the ground beef and onion together.  Drain off the excess fat.  Stir in the spaghetti sauce and simmer.  Cook the spaghetti according to the directions on the box.  Drain.  Mix the cooked spaghetti into the sauce.  Set aside.  In a separate sauce pan, melt the butter.  Add the flour and salt.  Cook for one minute.  Stir in the milk and water.  Cook on low stirring constantly until it thickens.  Add 1/2 of the cheeses.  Stir until melted and remove from the heat.

Place half of the spaghetti mixture in a 10x6x2 pan sprayed with non-stick spray.  Pour the cheese sauce over the top.  Place the rest of the spaghetti mixture over the cheese sauce.  Top with remaining cheeses.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

If you want to cook it later or even freeze it (be sure to thaw before baking), you’ll need to bake it at 350 degrees for an hour.  Be sure to cover it with foil for the first 30 minutes so that the cheese doesn’t get too brown.

cheesy baked spaghetti


If I could have any chef come over to my house and share their knowledge with me first hand, that chef would be Anne Burrell.  First, I’ve learned a number of things just by watching her Food Network Show “Secrets of a Restaurant Chef”.  Imagine what I could learn if I could spend the day asking questions and receiving correction on things I’m doing wrong.  Second, she has such passion and enthusiasm when it comes to cooking and food.  Third, I’ve made a number of her recipes, and they are all home runs.  I mean out of the ballpark home runs.  Finally, she regularly uses this phrase — “brown food tastes good”, and I just like that.

You all know that most Saturday nights, I go to a lot of trouble for dinner — even if it is just for me.  The just for me nights gives me the opportunity to make something I might not make if the boys are at home.  Last Saturday night, Matt and Gray were going to a Cub Scout campout, so I was on my own.  And Matt has decided to do this no-carb thing (It’s KILLING me), so that made it a perfect time for pasta!  But it couldn’t be any old pasta, it had to be stellar.  Enter Anne Burrell’s Lasagna.

If you decide to make this lasagna, and I highly recommend that you do, be prepared to spend 3+ hours in the kitchen.  Also be prepared to wash a lot of dishes.  But I did my prep work in advance (as Anne always says to do), cleaned up my mess, assembled the lasagna, cleaned up my mess again, and then placed it in the oven.  Then waited what felt like the longest hour and a half of my life.  I was starving.

When I finally sat down and took the first bite — oh my goodness — all that work was so worth it.  It is by far the best lasagna I’ve ever had.  Cheesy.  So incredibly flavorful.  I devoured it.  And because I cannot eat an entire pan of lasagna by myself, I made two in individual ramekins and then froze 2 8×8 pans for the day that Matt decides to eat carbs again.  Which can be any day now, if you ask me.

Invest the time.  Make this lasagna.  You’ll be glad you did.

Anne Burrell Lasagna

Click here for the recipe.