Gorgonzola Pasta with Bacon, Chicken and Walnuts

Gorgonzola Pasta

A creamy sauce with a big bite to it is tossed with pasta, chicken and walnuts to make up this rich and delicious pasta dish.

Gorgonzola is an Italian blue cheese with a strong flavor and smell. It is made from cow’s or sheep’s milk in the Piedmont and Lombardy regions of Northern Italy. It is aged three – six months to produce a variety of results. Three months produces a sweet, creamy cheese, perfect for spreading on crackers or using in dips. Four months time gives a firmer texture and a smellier aroma. And Gorgonzola aged for six months has a crumbly and dry texture with an extreme bite, and is used often in salads.

For this pasta I used a creamy version. It melts nicely into a smooth, satiny sauce with a distinctly tangy bite and a smoky note. The same pan the bacon is fried in is used to make the sauce picking up the frond from the bottom. Even though the Gorgonzola is the overpowering flavor bits of sweetness from the vidalia onion and warm, spicy nutmeg come through, tinged with the saltiness from the bacon and crunchy walnuts. It’s a wonderful palette of flavors and textures. A true delight for your taste buds.

Gorgonzola Pasta

Gorgonzola Pasta
(by Reeni)

2 chicken breast, pounded thin
salt and pepper
6 slices bacon
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons brown sugar
8 ounces Pasta
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon thyme, dried
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
8 ounces Gorgonzola. rough chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/3 cup walnut pieces
Parmesan for serving

Bake or grill the chicken seasoned with salt and pepper until cooked through.

In a large saute pan fry the bacon until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels, set aside to cool, crumble into large pieces when cool enough to handle. Let the grease cool down, and drain. In the same pan add a tablespoon of olive oil and the onions. Add the brown sugar and season with salt and pepper. Saute until soft.

Cook your pasta to al dente according to package directions.

Add the milk, thyme, and nutmeg to the onion. Bring to a slow boil, add the cheese and parsley, simmer until cheese is melted and sauce starts to thicken, stirring constantly. Smash the cheese to help it melt if needed. Turn off heat. Add the drained pasta and toss to coat.

Slice the chicken breasts. Serve the pasta topped with sliced chicken, crumbled bacon, walnuts and fresh Parmesan.

Printable Recipe

Gorgonzola Pasta

Mom’s Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan

My Mom makes the best Eggplant Parmesan I ever tasted! Never mushy, bitter or greasy. Just plain perfect.

Making eggplant parm is something of an inexact science, from the size of the eggplant to how much sauce you’ll need but it doesn’t have to be precise for it to work. It’s very forgiving, All you really need is eggplant, mozzarella, and a good, preferably homemade, sauce. Anything aside from that, like the Italian sausage topping this one is a bonus…. 

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Caramelized Pepper and Sausage Pasta with Tomato Pesto

Pasta w/ Tomato Pesto  Caramelized Peppers & Sausage Pasta w/ Tomato Pesto

A hearty and delicious pasta tossed with caramelized bell peppers, Italian sausage and a fresh tomato pesto sauce.

Slices of bell peppers are slowly sauteed over the course of an hour to caramelize them. In the meantime the fresh tomato pesto is made and sliced sausages are pan-fried. The peppers turn into sweet, intensely flavored bites of incredible delicousness. So different from just sauteing them. Almost indescribable. I used the peppers as a bruschetta topping too. Insanely delicious! The tomato pesto is pretty fantastic too!

Carmelized Pepper & Tomato Pesto Bruschetta

Caramelized Green Pepper and Sausage Pasta w/ Fresh Tomato Pesto
(by Reeni)

Sausage & Peppers

3-4 Bell peppers, assorted colors, sliced 1/4 to 1/2-inch wide
1 large onion, thinly sliced in half moons
2-3 tablespoons Olive Oil
6 Italian Sausage links
4 cloves garlic, minced

In a large saute pan or iron skillet saute the bell peppers, onion, sugar, in the olive oil on low-medium heat for 45 minutes – 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper. They will start to turn black around the edges and shrink in size. And the best way to tell is by tasting them, even if you’ve never tasted one before you’ll know. Remove from pan and set aside.

Cook the sausage links in the same pan as the peppers. Add the garlic during the last few minutes of cooking. When cooked through, add the peppers and toss with the sausage to re-heat.

Tomato Pesto Pasta

2 cloves garlic
1 and 1/2 cups fresh tomato, diced
1/2 cup pine nuts or walnuts
1/2 cup fresh shredded Parmesan
3/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus a little extra if needed
Sea salt and pepper
1/2 to 1 pound pasta
red pepper flakes, for serving
fresh grated Parmesan, for serving

To the bowl of your food processor add the garlic, tomato, nuts, basil and parsley. Pulse to chop.

Stream in the oil. Pulse constantly until nice and smooth.

Add Parmesan and pulse briefly to combine. Check the thickness, and stream in a little more oil if needed.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions. Toss with pesto and top with peppers and sausage. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan and red pepper flakes.

Bruschetta

Toast thick slices of Italian bread in the oven. Spread with pesto and some of the caramelized peppers. Sprinkle with Parmesan.

Printable Recipe

Spicing up Italian-American Comfort Food

Spicing up comfort food with flavor is easy if you work a little magic in the kitchen. Knowing how to layer flavors using very basic ingredients to Italian cooking will have your food bursting with flavors and your family asking for seconds…

You can read the rest of this post here on the Key Ingredient companion blog, The Back Burner where I am guest posting for Sophia on her Tips and Tricks Friday edition. I am incredibly honored to be asked and happy to share some of my basic tips and tricks along with some of my favorite recipes.

Spaghetti & Meatballs

Hope to see you there!

White Pizza with Tomatoes and Onions

White Pizza

We eat pizza at least once a week in my house. A few weeks ago we stepped away from our usual pizza and tried a new type of pizza at a new pizzeria. It was white pizza. While I’m not debating that it was delicious, I knew I could recreate one just as good if not better using my own two hands. A white pizza has ricotta cheese in place of the sauce.The pizzeria pizza had garlic and paper-thin sliced tomatoes sparsely dotting the top. I wanted more of the topping so when the pizza craving hit again I made my own.

The Ricotta melts lovingly into a soft, creamy, mess with the perfect amount of stringy Mozzarella over the top. The tomato is just enough that I didn’t miss the sauce and gives it a little pop of acidity that livens the flavors up. And garlic is a must. As for the new pizzeria? My pizza standards are so high that I’m sticking with the old standby. When I want something different I’ll make it at home.

Pizza Fixin's

White Pizza with Tomatoes and Onions
(by Reeni)

Olive Oil
Cornmeal
1 recipe Pizza dough
1 and 1/2 cups Ricotta Cheese
12 ounces Mozzarella, sliced*
3 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced thin
1 small red onion, sliced thin
5 cloves garlic, minced
Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Oil and sprinkle cornmeal over a 15″ pizza pan.

Use your hands/fist to stretch the dough to fit your pizza pan or a rolling pin.

Spread the Ricotta in an even layer across the top. Sprinkle the minced garlic
over top.

Cover with mozzarella slices, then onion rings. Drizzle a tablespoon of Olive Oil over the top and season with salt and pepper.

Cook for 12 minutes on 500 degrees. Lower temperature to 450 degrees and
continue cooking for 7-10 more minutes. Keeping a close eye on it the last few minutes.

Remove and let sit for five minutes before cutting.

*Slicing it instead of shredding allows the top to cook slower and gives the crust more time to cook.

Raw White Pizza

Pizza Dough

2 and ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 and ½ teaspoons active dry yeast or one package
1 cup warm water
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoons sugar

Dissolve the yeast in ½ cup water and then add sugar. Place in a warm spot for a few minutes then check to make sure the yeast is active. It should have bubbled up. If it is bubbling leave it until it has doubled in size about ten minutes.

In a large bowl add the flour and make a well in the middle for the yeast
mixture and water. Add the other ½ cup of warm water, the yeast mixture and the salt. Stir until everything is incorporated and then start working the dough using your hands. Knead the dough on a floured board until smooth and elastic about three minutes.

Place the dough in a floured bowl and cover with saran wrap or a thin kitchen towel.

Set in a warm place to rise about 1 and ½ hours or until dough is doubled in size.

Punch down and knead the dough again for a few minutes on a floured board.

Use your hands/fist to stretch the dough to fit your pizza pan or use a rolling pin.

Printable Recipe

White Pizza

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti & Meatballs

On Top of Spaghetti
All covered with cheese,
I lost my poor meatball
When somebody sneezed.
It rolled off the table
And onto the floor,
And then my poor meatball
Rolled right out the door!


I always use a lot of Parmesan cheese on my spaghetti and meatballs, a habit I picked up when I was just a little girl. When I ate at my Grandparents I would use up all the Parmesan in their tiny glass shaker. Grandpa didn’t mind. He would always get me more. Sometimes it would take a long time. I used to wonder if he went all the way to Italy to get it for me. But what I didn’t know then I know now. He was freshly grating it and that takes time. Even if we were in the middle of eating he would get up and take the time and the trouble to get it for me. Grandpa serenaded me with the “On top of spaghetti song” all the time. It still plays in my head occasionally and as corny as it is I don’t mind, cause my Grandpa was the best.

Meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs is another one of those all-time favorite classics. I can’t think of anything more joyful then sitting down to a plate piled high with twirly spaghetti and tender meatballs! When your in the moment nothing else matters but getting those elusive spaghetti strings to stay wrapped around your fork with just the perfect size bite of herb and garlic infused meatball. Only to pop said forkful into your mouth and forget about everything else while you savor the pure bliss that has found its way to your tongue. Pure and delicious comfort food.

Spaghetti & Meatballs

Spaghetti & Meatballs
(by Reeni)

Meatballs:
1 cup crustless white bread/Italian bread, preferably stale, diced
Whole Milk
1 and 1/2 pounds beef/pork/veal mixture or an 80-85% Ground Beef
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/3 cup onion, diced small
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh Parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon Basil
1 teaspoon Oregano
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
Vegetable or Canola Oil, if frying

Place the diced bread crumbs in a small bowl and add enough milk to soak them thoroughly.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl add all of the ingredients except the vegetable oil including the bread crumbs and milk. Use a fork or your hands to combine thoroughly without over mixing.

Use your hands to form 2-inch (golfball) sized meatballs. Place on a baking sheet or large baking pan and bake for 15 minutes. If you prefer to fry them heat about 1/4 inch Canola oil in a large, deep, skillet over medium heat. Brown them on all sides in two or three batches being sure not to overcrowd the pan. Drain on paper towels.

While the meatballs are baking/frying get your sauce started.

Sauce:
1 large onion, diced
1 green pepper, julienned
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 can tomato paste
2 28 oz. can Crushed Tomatoes (like Tuttarosa)
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons dried Italian Seasonings (We use a mix that has basil, oregano, thyme, marjoram and rosemary in it)
1 teaspoon dried sage
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt (to start and more to taste)
¼ teaspoon black pepper (to start and more to taste)
1 teaspoon Sugar

In an extra-large stock pot sauté the onion and green pepper in Olive Oil until soft;
add garlic and sauté for two or three more minutes.

Add tomato paste. Stir it into the onion mixture and let it heat through. Add tomatoes, water, seasonings including bay leaves, salt, pepper and sugar.

Add the meatballs and simmer for at least 35-40 minutes(the longer, the better),
stirring occasionally and tasting to check the seasoning. Add salt/pepper and more
dried herbs if needed. You can also add a little more water if sauce seems too thick.
Remove bay leaves before serving.

Serve over spaghetti cooked to al dente sprinkled with fresh shredded Parmesan cheese.

Printable Recipe

Spaghetti & Meatballs

So if you like spaghetti
All covered with cheese
Hold on to your meatballs
And DON’T EVER SNEEZE!
A-A-A-CHOO !!