Baked Rigatoni with Sausage

It’s time again for the recipe swaps!! This time around it’s ‘Blogger’s Choice’ meaning you’re assigned a blog and choose a recipe that sounds great to you.

I was given Kate’s blog and found quite a few that I’d like to make but ultimately picked this one. It sounded great for fall, easy to make and nice for a weekend dinner in.  It was a huge hit with everyone who tasted it.  I lightened up the recipe a bit by using chicken sausage and part skim mozzarella.

I don’t know who thought to put the garlic bread on top of the pasta under the cheese but I’d like to meet them and give them a hug. What  a SUPER idea!!


Baked Rigatoni with Sausage


  • 1.5 lbs. sweet Italian chicken sausage
  • 8 oz rigatoni, dry, then cooked al dente
  • 4 tbsp olive oil plus 1 tsp separated
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped small
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1 26oz can marinara sauce (I used Trader Giotto’s) or use homemade
  • 1 tbsp fresh basil chopped, plus 8 whole fresh leaves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus 3 tbsp
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 10 oz frozen garlic bread loaf, defrosted
  • 3 cups part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, cut into 8 even slices.


  1. Cook the sausage and slice into thin coins. Set aside.
  2. Heat a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the 1 tsp olive oil. When hot add the onion and cook for a few minutes to soften. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Reduce heat to low and add the marinara sauce.  Let it heat, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes to incorporate the flavors.
  3. Grease a 9×13 baking dish.
  4. Preheat oven to 400F.
  5. In a large mixing bowl combine the cooked sausage, cooked pasta, sauce, 1 tbsp basil, pepper and the 1/2 cup Parmesan. Stir it gently to evenly coat everything.
  6. Gently pour the mixture into the prepared dish.
  7. Make 6 even slices through the garlic bread (resulting in 12 halves top/bottom slices). Using the non-ends line 4 pieces over one half of the pasta and the other 4 pieces over the other half to have 2 rows.  Sprinkle the remaining 3 tbsp of Parmesan over the bread. Sprinkle the mozzarella evenly over the bread and exposed areas of pasta.
  8. Place the 4 tbsp of olive oil in a shallow dish. Gently dip each tomato slice in and coat it with the oil. Shake off the excess and place one tomato slice on top of each piece of bread.
  9. Bake, uncovered, for about 15-25 minutes until cheese is melty and bubbly.  It only took about 15 minutes for me.
  10. Remove the pan and gently tip up one of the tomato slices and slide one of the remaining full basil leaves underneath it. Repeat with each tomato.
  11. Allow the dish to set for about 10 minutes.
  12. Slice and serve.

Note: I sprinkled some more grated Parmesan on the 4 end pieces of the bread, wrapped them in foil and heated them in the oven with the pasta.

Makes 8-10 servings.

Adapted from




Lone Star Chicken Spaghetti

Maybe I live in the wrong part of the country or don’t pay attention to enough of what goes on in Texas but I’d never heard of ‘chicken spaghetti’ before I saw this recipe on Maeghan‘s blog.  Which is ironic because she had never heard of it either until she came across it in a cookbook, The Homesick Texan’s Family Table. Well she made it and was nice enough to post the recipe. I’m glad she shared it because it’s DELICIOUS!!!  A sort of spaghetti and cheese with some Tex-Mex flavors and chicken.  Um, yes please.

Perhaps you’ve never heard of it either.  Well-today’s your lucky day because this is one super-tasty, easy to make, cheesy dish. It has a hint of heat-just right for the dish if you ask me and I like spicy, but with the chicken and cheese I didn’t want overpowering hotness.


Lone Star Chicken Spaghetti


  • 8 ozs spaghetti
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise, stemmed and seeded
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1&1/2 tbsp light butter (for panko #3 below)
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 2 tbsp light unsalted butter (for cheese sauce #5 below)
  • 2 tbsp AP flour
  • 2 cups 2% milk, plus more if needed
  • 2 cups freshly grated light sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups freshly grated light monterey jack cheese
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped, and a bit more for garnish
  • 2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 4 cups cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small bite-sized pieces.


  1. Turn on broiler and move top oven rack so that it’s about 6 inches from the broiler.  Arrange tomatoes and jalapenos skin side up in one layer on a foil lined baking sheet along with the onions and garlic. Broil for 5-7 minutes until skin blisters. Remove and let cool.  Reduce heat to 350F.
  2. Cook spaghetti until it’s al dente in a pot of lightly salted water. Drain, rinse and set aside.
  3. While the spaghetti is cooking place butter in a small sauce pan and melt. Add the panko and toast until just golden brown. Set aside.
  4. Spray a dutch oven with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
  5. Melt the butter in a deep sauce pan over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour until well combined and slightly browned-about 30-45 seconds. Slowly pour in the milk and cook, stirring, until sauce thickens and will coat the back of a spoon, 3-5 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in most of the cheese, about 1/4 cup at a time, leaving a small bit of both aside for later.
  6. Put the chicken, spaghetti, roasted vegetables and pepper, herbs and spices and lime juice to the waiting dutch oven and stir to mix evenly. Pour the cheese sauce over and stir to evenly combine. Sprinkle the reserved grated cheese and panko over the top.
  7. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until brown and bubbling.
  8. Sprinkle with reserved cilantro and serve.



Yummy bubbling cheese!!

Adapted from The Way to His Heart.

Bucatini All’Amatriciana

The fist time that I had this delicious pasta was many years ago at my Father’s house.  I immediately loved the flavors of the sauce-the pancetta, the onion, the tomatoes….it just goes together so well.

As it turns out he bought the cookbook which contains the recipe while on vacation in Italy.  Ironically, it’s an American book published in CA named Sunset Italian Cook Book. I ordered the book immediately from Amazon. I had to buy a used copy as it’s no longer in print. There are a TON of delicious recipes in it too.  If you ever come across a copy pick it up.  Seems like it was part of a series of cook books that they published in the late 70s, early 80s.

None of that matters though. What matters is the deliciousness and ease of making this dish. It’s one of our favorites. You could sub bacon for the pancetta but please don’t if you can possibly avoid it.  The pancetta gives a completely different flavor.


Bucatini All’Amatriciana


  • 1/4lb. sliced pancetta, cut into 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch squares
  • olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried red chili flakes
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 14.5oz can crushed or diced fire roasted tomatoes (I used Muir Glen Organic)
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine (I used a vernacchia)
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2/3 lb bucatini


  1. In a large skillet over medium heat cook the pancetta, stirring frequently, until slightly crispy and brown. Remove it with a slotted spoon, allowing as much of the oil to drip back into and remain in the pan as possible.  When all of the pancetta has been removed measure the oil that remains in a measuring cup. You need 1/4 cup. If you have enough great, if not top it off with olive oil.
  2. Pour the oil back into the pan over medium heat and add the onion and chilis.  Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is soft. Add the garlic, tomatoes (and the juices), wine and parsley. Stir to combine and break up any large chunks of tomatoes.
  3. Adjust heat so that the sauce simmers gently, stirring occasionally, about 10-15 minutes until sauce has thickened a bit.
  4. While the sauce is cooking cook the bucatini in a large pot of gently salted water until al dente. Drain the pasta, saving 1/4 cup of the cooking water, and return it to the pot. Add the cooking water to the pasta and stir.
  5. Add the pancetta to the tomato mixture in the pan, stir to combine, and then add all of the sauce to the pasta.  Stir to distribute.
  6. Serve on a large platter or individually.

Adapted from Sunset Italian Cookbook.





Veggie & Feta Pasta Salad

I cannot believe Memorial Day Weekend has come and gone. It’s almost time for summer fruits and veggies again.

That being said this pasta salad is perfect for the warm weather.  There’s a ton of veggies, a bit of cheese and a great light vinaigrette. It can be made in advance and kept in the fridge too.  You can feel free to add other veggies too-maybe some red or yellow peppers, onions etc….


Veggie & Feta Pasta Salad

Salad Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb gemelli pasta
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped kalamata olives (pitted obviously)
  • 1 cucumber cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 large clove of garlic, put through press or mashed to a paste
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil


  1. Cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente, drain and rinse with cold water.  Shake out as much of the water as possible.
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine all of the salad ingredients above and mix well to combine.
  3. In a small bowl whisk together all ingredients except the olive oil until evenly combined. Then, while whisking, add the olive oil and continue to whisk until emulsified.
  4. Pour dressing over salad, mix to evenly distribute the dressing, and serve or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Lasagna Carnivale

What a fun name!! This lasagna uses a basic marinara sauce and small meatballs instead of a meat sauce. Those along with fresh mozzarella and grated parmesan-it’s a winner. Also it came out pretty light compared to most other lasagnas. Usually when there’s no ricotta a bechamel sauce is used-this one doesn’t have that-perhaps that’s why. It was delicious.

I have always had a love/hate thing with lasagna. Since I’ve never been able to digest-either mentally or digestively- (what I call) ‘tub ricotta’ I was always disappointed to see, more often than not, that a lasagna had 60% tub ricotta and 40% other ingredients. Yuck.  Imagine my absolute glee when I went to Rome and found a cute restaurant serving lasagna-sans ricotta-which, apparently, is the way it’s made there.  Oh happy day!!! That was my first visit in 2008 and during 2 visits since then I’ve never ever seen ricotta put into lasagna. That’s not to say I’ve visited every home and restaurant in the great country, just an observation of the ones I have.  In fact, in Castelvetrano in Sicily, at my husband’s aunt’s families house, we ate it served warm and fresh right out of the pot on toasted bread for breakfast. YUM!! Since then I’ve become addicted to the fresh stuff and other versions-smoked ricotta, ricotta salata etc… So, in my opinion, people are nuts for buying a 3lb tub of mediocre mass-produced not-fresh stuff rather than heading to their local store and ponying up a bit more $ for the great fresh stuff. It makes such a monumental difference. (It’s on my ‘to do’ list to make it myself as well but I haven’t gotten that far yet.) But since there’s no ricotta in this recipe it doesn’t matter in the slightest. I just felt like explaining all of this 🙂

So here you have it:

Lasagna Carnivale

Why this recipe works:

A combination of fresh whole-milk mozzarella and Parmesan or Pecorino Romano kept our Lasagna de Carnevale recipe moist but not watery. For more even layering, we made mini meatballs, which we baked on a baking sheet in a hot oven, and then added straight to the sauce. To simplify our Lasagna de Carnevale’s sauce without sacrificing consistency, we simmered canned crushed tomatoes to our desired consistency. Finally, we used our cheese layer as the final topping to keep the lasagna from drying out as it cooked

Do not substitute no-boil noodles for the traditional noodles here; they will not work in this dish. The size of the noodles varies by brand; if the noodles are short (such as DeCecco) you will layer them crosswise in the dish, but if they are long (such as Barilla and Ronzoni) you will layer them lengthwise in the dish. Regardless of which brand of noodle you are using, there should be 3 noodles per layer.


  • 1 pound 85 percent lean ground beef
  • 6 ounces Parmesan cheese or Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated (3 cups). Don’t use pre-grated.
  • 1/2 cup plain dried bread crumbs
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh basil or parsley leaves
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped small.
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 12 dried lasagna noodles(see note)
  • 1 pound fresh whole-milk mozzarella cheese, shredded (4 cups). Do not use pre-shredded.


  1. 1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with vegetable oil spray. Mix the beef, 1 cup of the cheese, bread crumbs, eggs, 5 tablespoons of the basil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper together in a large bowl using your hands until uniform.
  2. 2. Pinch off grape-size pieces of the mixture, roll them into small meatballs, and arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Bake the meatballs until just cooked through and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the meatballs to a paper towel–lined platter and set aside. Reduce the oven to 400 degrees.
  3. 3. Meanwhile, heat the oil, onion and garlic in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the garlic starts to sizzle, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, 10 to 15 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the remaining 3 tablespoons basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the meatballs and cover to keep warm.
  4. 4. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and noodles and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Drain and rinse the noodles under cold water. Spread the noodles out in a single layer over clean kitchen towels. (Do not use paper towels; they will stick to the noodles.)
  5. 5. Spray a 13 by 9-inch baking dish with vegetable oil spray. Smear 3 tablespoons of the tomato sauce (without any meatballs) over the bottom of the pan. Layer 3 noodles into the pan; the noodles can touch but not overlap. Spread about 11/2 cups of the tomato sauce with meatballs evenly over the noodles. Sprinkle evenly with 1 cup of the mozzarella and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan.
  6. 6. Repeat the layering of noodles, tomato sauce with meatballs, and cheeses twice more. For the final layer, cover the noodles with the remaining 1 cup mozzarella and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan.
  7. 7. Bake until the filling is bubbling and the cheese is spotty brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Let the lasagna cool for 10 minutes before serving.
  8. TO MAKE AHEADThe lasagna can be assembled through step 5, then covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Remove the plastic wrap and cover the lasagna tightly with aluminum foil that has been sprayed with vegetable oil spray (or use nonstick foil). Bake the lasagna covered for 10 minutes, then remove the foil and continue to bake as directed in step 6.Here’s the meatballs in the sauce.

    Slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated.

Fresh Tomato Sauce

While I was out on the East End this past Sunday with my Mom and Grandma we stopped at Harbes Family Farm which is one of the many farmstands along the wine trail. I picked up a few beautiful tomatoes and a pumpkin.  I wanted to make some sauce using a few of the tomatoes so I looked through my fridge and cabinets to see what I could add to those sweet, wonderful smelling tomatoes.  The outcome was a fresh sauce that just bursts with amazing tomato flavor. It was easy to make and was absolutely delicious.

Fresh Tomato Sauce


  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • a few slices of onion (I used some red onion that I had left over but any will work)
  • artichoke hearts-a few good heaping spoonfulls, chopped
  • large green olives, pitted and chopped-I used 4 but you could use more or less
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • basil leaf-ripped into small pieces
  • 1/2 lb capellini
  • a few grates of parmesan cheese
  • salt & pepper to taste


  1. In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat. When hot add garlic and sautee until golden and fragrant. Add onion, olives and artichokes and cook until they start to soften-just a few minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients except for the cheese. Bring to a good steadybubble then reduce heat to simmer and stir occasionally until tomatoes are soft and can be smashed with a wooden spoon in the pan.
  2. Add cheese, cook for another minute or two and then serve spooned over the pasta.

Makes 2 servings. original

Chicken Florentine Pasta

The original recipe for this was in my September issue of Cooking Light Magazine. I changed it up a bit as I didn’t want to grill the chicken and then pick the meat off of the bones. It’s an easy to make, pretty fast recipe and the end result was delicious.  It’s a pasta that is very lightly coated with the cream sauce.



  • 1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into small bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 lb uncooked capellini
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 3/4 cup) plus extra for sprinkling
  • 4 cups fresh spinach leaves  


  1.  Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Heat a large non-stick skillet over med-high heat and melt butter.  Add the chicken to the pan and cook until cooked through and browned. Set aside and wipe pan clean.
  2.  Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain well; keep warm.
  3.  In the same skillet over medium-high heat add the oil; swirl to coat. Add flour and garlic; cook until garlic is browned (about 2 minutes), stirring constantly. Add milk and broth, stirring with a whisk; bring to a simmer, and cook 2 minutes or until thickened. Add cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and spinach; stir until spinach wilts. Add pasta and chicken; toss to combine. Serve sprinkled with remaining parmesan.

Adapted from Cooking Light.