only help my unbelief

Rachael Ray’s Pizzagna
August 20, 2008, 5:00 am
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I got this recipe from Rachael Ray’s website. You can read the original recipe here; I’m going to list the ingredients I actually used, because I’m all about making things simpler.

Ultimately, this might be better than pizza or lasagna. If nothing else, it’s super cheesy, and that’s a good reason to make something.

1 pound pasta curls (I used a hollow, swirly kind; any kind of short pasta should work)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Handful parsley
1/2 cup sliced pepperoni, cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 green pepper, seeded, quartered and thinly sliced
1 onion, quartered then thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
12 mushrooms, thinly sliced
Black pepper
1 can crushed tomatoes (28 ounces)
1/2 pound shredded mozzarella
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Pre-heat broiler.

Cook pasta according to package directions.

While the water boils, combine ricotta, parmesan, parsley and pepperoni in a large bowl.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat with olive oil. Add peppers, onions, garlic and mushrooms. Saute 6-8 minutes until tender. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper. Stir in tomatoes and reduce heat to low.

Add a ladle of the water the pasta was cooked in to the ricotta mixture just before you drain the pasta. Drain pasta then toss with ricotta mixture. Pour pasta into baking dish and top with peppers, onion and mushroom sauce. Top with a layer of mozzarella, oregano and red pepper flakes. Place under hot broiler and melt cheese until golden and bubbly (about 5 minutes).

Rachael Ray says to “remove and serve with crusty bread,” so I did. Yum.


Stuffed shells
June 17, 2008, 9:00 am
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Last Friday night I got home from work a little after midnight. I was planning on making stuffed shells the next day to take to work for dinner and give to Christian. But I wasn’t tired, so I embarked on a cooking spree. I wanted to have plenty of stuffed shells for both of us to last several meals, so I doubled the recipe.

I ended up with over 70 stuffed shells. And I had to throw some of the noodles away because there wasn’t enough filling.

So if you want to make this dish for a lot of people, go for it. But I suggest not doubling it, unless you want to be buried in a kitchen full of cottage cheese.

Stuffed shells
1 box jumbo shells
16 oz. cottage cheese
1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
10 oz. chopped spinach

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook jumbo shells according to directions. While the shells are cooking, mix cottage cheese, 1/2 mozzarella cheese, spinach and Italian seasoning. Spread half jar of spaghetti sauce in bottom of 9×13 pan. When shells are done cooking, fill each with a spoonfull of filling. Lay in pan. When all shells are filled, spoon rest of spaghetti sauce on top of them. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella cheese on top. Cover with foil and cook for 25 minutes.

These turned out great, so I guess it was good I had a lot of them. This is the original recipe, which you can tweak a number of ways, some for nutrition reasons, and others for taste issues.

First of all, as always, make things as fat free as possible. Since I doubled it, I wanted to buy 32 oz. cottage cheese. But they only sold it in 24 oz. containers. I grabbed an 8 oz. can of ricotta and mixed the two together. The cottage cheese was fat free and the ricotta cheese was low fat.

I’ve never seen whole wheat jumbo shells, but if you can find them, use them!

Don’t like spinach? For vegetables, you could always leave them out of the filling and have broccoli on the side. Or, you can make them like my mom and cut up a steamed zucchini into small pieces and use that in the filling.

This dish will fulfill all your Italian cravings.

Ricotta gnocchi
June 3, 2008, 3:00 pm
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I posted about making this a week or so ago, but never got around to sharing the recipe because I hadn’t tried it yet. Well, I tried it on Saturday, and, as Christian said, “It’s a keeper.”

Ricotta gnocchi
8 oz. ricotta cheese (I used Sargento’s because I wanted the best quality, but off-brands should work)
2 eggs
1 c. flour
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese (I used the kind that comes in a can)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper

Mix together all ingredients except flour. Add flour last, stirring in a little at a time (You may need more than a cup). Divide dough into smaller pieces and roll into 1/2-inch thick ropes on a floured surface (like a cookie sheet). Cut each rope into 1-inch think pieces and place on lightly floured baking sheet. Boil in water until gnocchi float to the surface, then drain.

Again, I’ll give you my adjustments. First of all, I quadrupled the recipe because the cheapest ricotta cheese (unit price) came in a 32 oz. package. I don’t know how much flour I used by the end, because I just kept adding it until the dough wasn’t sticky. I found that when I was rolling out the pieces of dough, it really helped to stick my hands in flour first.

My ropes were thicker than 1/2-inch, and mine turned out fine. In fact, it’s surprising how quickly they boil. It took maybe 1-2 minutes.

Realize this is not an incredibly healthy meal, but at the same time, the gnocchi are really filling. Christian and I ate ours with some store-bought Ragu spaghetti sauce and a little bit of mozzarella cheese on top. It would pair well with zucchini or broccoli, and you won’t be able to eat as much as you think you will.

The great thing is you can freeze what you don’t eat. I have almost a gallon of frozen gnocchi in the freezer, just waiting for a day when I’m not counting calories.


Fiesta chicken pasta
June 2, 2008, 11:39 am
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I decided it was about time to post something related to the “good eats” part of my blog title, so here goes:

Fiesta chicken pasta

2 cups rotini pasta
2 chicken breasts, cubed
2 red or green bell peppers, chopped
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup Zesty Italian dressing
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Cook pasta according to instructions. In skillet, cook chicken in oil for about 6 minutes. Add peppers, chili powder and dressing. Cook until chicken is cooked through. Stir in salsa and sour cream. Mix in pasta. Spoon into bowls and sprinkle with cheese.

That’s the basic recipe. I made a few alterations, and you could do even more depending on how healthy you want this meal to be.

First of all, you can use fat-free Zesty Italian salad dressing and fat-free sour cream. Seriously, this doesn’t change the taste of the recipe at all, and really cuts down on fat content.

Secondly, you can use whole wheat pasta (it doesn’t have to be rotini, but I don’t think spaghetti-ish pasta would work too well).

Finally, you can go easy on the cheese. When I made it this morning, I was making it to put in tupperware so Christian and I have dinner for the next couple of days. After spooning it into tupperware, I just shredded cheese a little at a time in order to see how much I would need to lightly cover the top of the pasta. I doubled the rest of the recipe, but still only used about 1/2 cup cheese.

I also added some diced jalapenos into the recipe, because I really like spicy foods.

This isn’t a gourmet recipe, but the bite I tasted when it was done was really good, and it seems like it will work well as leftovers.