Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad

Tri-color Rotini

I hope everyone had a happy and safe Fourth of July celebration with lots of delicious food. ūüáļūüáł It’s been a while since I posted a new recipe (I’ve taken a little hiatus in the kitchen), and thought I’d share this one I made yesterday. It can be a nice main or side dish, and is yummy both warm or chilled. I kept this pretty simple which made it quick and easy, but you can add your favorite vegetables, and/or chicken or tofu‚Ķ lots of possibilities. I used tricolor rotini, but feel to go with whatever pasta you’d like (bowtie, penne, small shells, etc.).

The sun-dried tomatoes are used to make a “pesto”, which I decided to do without the use of a food processor. It¬†was a little more work, but I wanted chunkier bits incorporated into the salad and I think it was perfect.

This serves 3-4, so double the ingredients if needed.


  • 6 oz. (about half a box) of tri-color rotini
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 oz. goat cheese
  • 6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • Basil, for garnish


  1. Combine your finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes, cheese, garlic, olive oil and balsamic in a bowl and stir very well.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  3. Drain pasta and reserve some of the cooking liquid.
  4. Toss the pasta with the tomato pesto, and season with salt & pepper, to taste.
  5. Fold in 1 1/2 oz. goat cheese, until melted and well incorporated, and add the cherry tomatoes.
  6. Crumble the remaining goat cheese and sprinkle on top.
  7. Garnish with fresh basil.

Sun-dried Tomato Rotini




Pennette Lasagna

Pennette Lasagna

A couple of weeks ago, a coworker friend of mine brought me in some of his homemade lasagna and it was incredibly delicious. It took me a few meals to finish it as I like to eat pasta sparingly; however, when it was gone, it left me yearning for more, so I decided to make some and improvise with the ingredients I had on hand, which included pennette pasta. If you’re not familiar with pennette, they’re simply a¬†shorter and thinner version of penne pasta, and have¬†ends that are cut at an angle. I threw this together without doing a lot of measuring (and made a small serving), but am providing my best guesstimate on the amounts I used. To be honest, I was a little nervous how it would turn out, but much to my delight, it was truly scrumptious.¬†


  • 3/4 container (around 11 oz.) of ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup 2% mozzarella, shredded
  • 1 tsp. fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic¬†
  • 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups pennette pasta
  • 2-3 cups prepared marinara or pasta sauce
  • 1/4 cup¬†shredded parmesan
  • 1/4 cup Mexican Style Four Cheese Blend


  1. Preheat oven to 375¬įF.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add pasta, cook for 8 minutes (they won’t be completely done but they finish cooking in the oven).
  3. Drain and set aside.
  4. Mix together ricotta and egg, then add mozzarella, parmesan, basil, oregano, garlic and salt.
  5. Spray a small baking dish with Pam (I used a small 5″ x 7″).
  6. Put a layer of marinara in the bottom of your pan, sprinkle some red pepper flakes and then 1/3 of the noodles (lay them flat), spread the ricotta cheese mixture on top of the noodles, put a layer of sauce on top of the cheese, add pepper flakes, top with 1/2 of noodles, repeat process again, and finish with remaining sauce and the Mexican 4 Cheese (there should be 3 layers).
  7. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover for the last 5 minutes of cooking.
  8. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Creamy, Dreamy Chili Mac & Cheese Casserole

Chili Mac & Cheese

I decided since I was off work today, and it was a long & grueling week due to our fiscal year-end crunch, some comfort food was definitely in order. I was thrilled and honored when I was asked by¬†Rag√ļ¬ģ earlier this week to create my own spin on their Chili Mac recipe, so¬†I chose to add the ooey-gooey goodness of cheese, both Colby Jack and cream cheese, in addition to some saut√©ed chopped onions, to turn it into a hearty, creamy casserole masterpiece. This is serious comfort food at its best!¬†If you’re a¬†meat eater, and enjoy mac and cheese, you will truly love this dish!

Feel free to substitute cheddar if you’d prefer, and/or to turn up the heat on this dish, you can increase the chili powder to two tablespoons or add some red pepper flakes.

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  • 2 cups elbow macaroni, cooked & drained
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 jar (1 lb. 8 oz.)¬†Ragu¬ģ Old World Style¬ģ Traditional Pasta Sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 oz. reduced fat cream cheese
  • 2 1/2 cups Colby Jack cheese, shredded
  • Salt & pepper, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 375¬įF.
  2. Cook macaroni according to package instructions.
  3. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, and cook onions for five minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add ground beef and cook until browned, stirring and breaking up into small pieces.
  5. Stir in pasta sauce, chili powder, and salt and pepper, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes, covered.
  6. Stir in cream cheese until blended, then add cooked pasta, and 1 cup of Colby Jack cheese, and mix until well incorporated.
  7. Transfer mixture to a 9×13 baking dish, and cook in oven for 15 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.
  8. Remove dish from oven, sprinkle with remaining shredded cheese, and place back in the oven for about 5 minutes, until cheese begins to melt.
  9. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.
  10. Enjoy!

Creamy Chili Mac & Cheese Casserole

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Rigatoni Lasagna Pie

Rigatoni Lasagna PIe

One of the things I truly love about Facebook, aside from being able to stay connected to family & friends both near and far, is the food pictures and/or recipes which inspire me to get into the kitchen and try them out. Most recently, a childhood friend posted a photo of her rigatoni pie, and it was seriously so pretty, I had to try to make it for that reason alone (well, it also looked delicious). I searched online and found quite a few recipes, and went with two I wanted to modify. Since I knew this pie was going to be a bit labor-intensive, and in the interest of time, I decided to use store-bought pasta sauce instead of making my own, but by all means, if you make a mean sauce, go ahead and use that. I am thrilled to report that this pie turned out amazing and absolutely scrumptious!


  • 1 lb. rigatoni pasta
  • 1 jar (24 oz.) pasta sauce (I used Bertoli Italian Sausage Garlic & Romano)
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 15 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
Fill up the springform pan with all of your cooked rigatoni
Fill up the springform pan with all of your cooked rigatoni
Ricotta cheese mixture ready to pipe into rigatoni
Ricotta cheese mixture ready to pipe into rigatoni


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the rigatoni and cook until al dente (12 minutes for my pasta). Drain the pasta, rinse in cold water and drain again. Stir in 1 tbsp of the olive oil and set aside. (This keeps the pasta from sticking.)
  2. Preheat oven to 350¬įF.
  3. Gently stir 1 cup of the grated Parmesan cheese into the cooked rigatoni.
  4. Stand the rigatoni up vertically in a greased 9″ springform pan, using the entire pound of cooked pasta.
  5. In a small mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan, basil, and oregano until smooth. Set aside.
  6. Use a pastry bag, or put a zip lock bag inside a tall glass, and fill the bag with the cheese mixture. Close the bag and snip the corner of the bag and pipe a decent amount into each noodle (don’t fill all the way).
  7. After piping the noodles with the cheese mixture, carefully pour about 3/4 of the jar of sauce over the whole top and push down as much as possible. (I wanted to save some sauce to heat up and use later for leftovers.)
  8. Top with the mozzarella and cheddar cheese.
  9. Put the springform pan on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Cook for 20 minutes, or until the cheese has fully melted.
  10. Remove from the oven and allow it to stand in the springform pan for about 15 minutes. Carefully run a knife along the edge of the pan to loosen the pie from the pan, then remove the sides.
  11. Slice the pie and garnish with parsley, if desired.

A piece of the "pie"

Rigatoni Pie

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Braided Spaghetti Bread

I loooooove bread and pasta, however, I try to keep my carb intake to a reasonable level. But, when I saw a picture of this recipe on Pinterest, I knew I had to try it. The original recipe calls for using frozen bread loaf dough, which I found to be a little difficult (aka sticky) to work with, so alternatively, you could use Pillsbury Crescent Dough Sheets to make it easier and much quicker (and cut down on the carbs a bit). With that being said, after I got the dough loaf thawed (which takes about 2 hours) and rolled out, everything else was a breeze. The end result was a delicious garlic bread filled with spaghetti and mozzarella cheese! So if you’re a carb-lover, you will truly enjoy this recipe.

There are a ton of other things you could do with this if you want to skip the spaghetti… pizza, reuben sandwiches, chili-cheese bread, etc.


  • 1 loaf bread dough, thawed to room temperature, about 2 hours (I used Bridgford, but the original recipe calls for Rhodes)
  • 6 oz spaghetti, cooked (I used thin spaghetti)
  • 1 1/2 cups thick spaghetti sauce, like Trader Giotto’s (Joe’s) Tomato Basil Marinara
  • 8 oz mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 egg white
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Garlic powder
  • Parsley flakes for garnish


1.  Thaw bread loaf to room temperature.
2.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
3.  Place loaf on parchment paper (not wax), and spray rolling-pin with cooking spray.
4. ¬†Roll ¬†into an approximate 12×16-inch rectangle.

5.  Cover with plastic wrap, let sit 10-15 minutes, then roll again.
6.  Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain, cool slightly and mix with marina sauce.
7. ¬†Place spaghetti lengthwise in a 4″ strip down the center of the dough and add the cheese cubes.

I added sweet Italian turkey sausage and sautéed onions to the sauce.

8.  Make cuts 1 1/2-inches apart on long sides of dough to within 1/2-inch of filling (as seen in picture above).
9.  Begin braid by folding top and bottom strips toward filling. Then braid strips left over right, right over left. Finish by pulling last strip over and tucking under braid.

10.  Brush with egg white, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, garlic powder and parsley, as liberally as you like.

11.  Transfer parchment paper to baking sheet and cook for 30-35 minutes.

12.  Cool slightly and slice to serve.

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Stuffed Shells

I was very fortunate to grow up having a Mom who was (is) an excellent cook. And I know my passion for cooking and baking resulted from her amazing meals and desserts. Thanks Mom! One of my (many) favorites was her amazing stuffed shells. I think this recipe is pretty close to the one she used to make ūüôā


  • 1 12 oz. package jumbo pasta shells
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 32 oz. container ricotta cheese (I use light)
  • 8 oz. finely shredded mozzarella cheese, low moisture, part skim (plus extra for sprinkling on top)
  • 4 oz. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder (optional)
  • Pasta sauce or my turkey sausage bolognese


    1. Preheat over to 350 degrees.
    2. Bring a large pot of slightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta shells and cook for 8-10 minutes, drain.
    3. In a large bowl, mix eggs, ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, parsley, salt, pepper and garlic until well combined.
    4. Put mixture in fridge for 30-45 minutes (which will make stuffing the shells much easier. You can skip this step if you choose).
    5. Stuff the shells with the ricotta mixture and place in a 9×13 baking dish (you’ll probably need 2 baking dishes).
    6. Pour desired sauce over shells and sprinkle with some mozzarella cheese.
    7. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 45-60 minutes or until edges are bubbly.
    8. Remove from oven and sprinkle with parmesan.


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Tuna Penne Casserole w/Popchips Topping

Yesterday, I was craving some¬†kind of “comfort food” and was trying to come up with ideas of what I could make with things I already had on hand.¬† My Mom used to make tuna noodle casserole when I was a child that was absolutely amazing, so I decided I’d try to make a modified version of hers. And while most people think of comfort food as¬†unhealthy or fattening, I tried to keep this recipe as healthy as possible.¬†I didn’t have any thick noodles in the house (which, come to think of it,¬†I’m not sure if I’ve ever bought them), but did have penne pasta in the cupboard. Most tuna casseroles call for a¬†breadcrumb topping and I¬†immediately thought of using Popchips instead. I must say, it was a brilliant idea! I had/have three flavors in the house; barbeque, cheddar and sour cream and onion, and decided to go with the sour cream¬†& onion. I think their parmesan garlic would be awesome, too (will have to try that next time)!


  • 1 can of tuna
  • 1 can of cream of mushroom soup (like Campbell’s Healthy Request)
  • 1/2 lb. (half of 1 lb. box) penne pasta (or you can¬†use the traditional wide noodles)
  • 1/4 can of peas
  • 1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
  • 1/8 cup skim milk
  • 2 handfuls of 2% Mexican four cheese blend
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 stick of butter
  • Popchips crumbs (about 15)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add pasta and cook for approximately 8 minutes, or until tender. Remove from heat and drain.
  3. Get a 11×7 casserole dish and lightly grease with some of the butter. (This will prevent the casserole from sticking & also add some flavor that you won’t get from cooking spray.)
  4. Put drained can of tuna in mixing bowl and break up with a fork.
  5. Add mushroom soup, sour cream, milk, peas, shredded cheese and garlic powder to tuna and mix well.
  6. Stir in pasta and blend all ingredients together.
  7. Transfer contents to casserole dish and even the top (so it’s flat). Sprinkle lightly¬†with Parmesan, then Popchips crumbs (I crumbled them with¬†my hands).
  8. Melt remaining butter and drizzle over top of casserole.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes.
  10. Remove and let cool for 5-10 minutes, then serve and enjoy!

Rag√Ļ alla Bolognese (Bolognese Sauce)

My friend, Peter, asked if I could post a good Bolognese sauce and this one is much better than good; it’s excellent. For those that are not familiar, Bolognese sauce is a thick, full-bodied¬†meat-based pasta¬†sauce, originating from Bologna, Italy. After years of research, the Italian Academy of Cuisine and the Associated Brotherhood of the Tortellino filed an official recipe for “authentic” Rag√Ļ Bolognese which contains beef, pancetta, onions, carrots, celery, tomato paste, meat broth, white wine, and milk . Among the particularities of classic Rag√Ļ Bolognese, the most important one is the cut of beef used. Thin flank – a cut rich in both fat and flavor is traditionally used, however most today prefer a to use leaner cuts in their Rag√Ļ.¬†Also,¬†the traditional use of¬†pancetta is now sometimes replaced¬†with extra virgin olive oil instead of the fat from the pancetta.¬†In addition,¬†the small amount of milk in the “authentic” recipe¬†is¬†not widely¬†used by everybody today. Instead, tomato has been used more often in comparison to the original recipe, yet Bolognese Rag√Ļ is really not considered a tomato-based sauce.¬†So, I’ve made some changes to update to a more modern recipe, but I assure you, this will not disappoint.


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 slices bacon, cut up into small pieces
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 carrots, shredded
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 (28 oz) can Italian plum tomatoes
  • 6 oz tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tsp fresh basil
  • 2 tsp fresh oregano
  • Salt & pepper to taste


  1. In a large skillet, warm oil over medium-high heat and cook bacon until it is browned & crisp.
  2. Remove bacon from pan and set aside.
  3. In the same skillet, using the bacon fat, fry the onions, celery and shredded carrot.
  4. When those become soft, add the beef, pork and garlic.
  5. Once brown drain off excess fat and add remaining ingredients.
  6. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Got Sauce? Now You Do!

Here’s a quick, easy & delicious recipe for pizza/pasta sauce that doesn’t require cooking.


  • 1¬†(6 oz) can tomato paste
  • 1/2¬†cup water
  • 1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tbsp oregano
  • 1/2 tbsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary, crushed
  • 1 tbsp sugar


  1. Mix tomato paste, water & oil – mix well.
  2. Add the rest of ingredients and let stand for several hours to let flavors blend.
  3. If you’re short on time, you can heat the sauce in a small saucepan.