Chicken Parmesan | Sunday Night Suppers

Nothing is more comforting than a bowl of pasta with homemade gravy. It instantly takes me back to my childhood. One of my favorite Sunday Night Suppers from when I was a kid is Chicken Parmesan. This dish doesn’t necessarily take a long time to pull together but there are a lot of steps and moving parts. It’s a great meal to make with someone too. Normally, I prefer to cook alone but there are some dishes that are nice to have a companion in the kitchen for. Everyone is familiar with Chicken Parmesan. It’s one of those classic Italian dishes that you can find anywhere. It’s been transformed into a sandwich, salads, and I’ve even seen pizzas and recipes for soup! Nothing beats the classic, pan fried and oven finished meal.

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This recipe has two parts, the pasta and the chicken. Chicken Parmesan is traditionally served without pasta. Italians don’t mix meat entrees with pasta. You have the meat course, the pasta course and the salad course all separate. My family never had a problem with the American tradition of mixing meat and pasta though. Spaghetti and Meatballs? Bring it on. If it saves us from an extra set of dishes, we’re in. With that said, I went all in with this recipe by creating a homemade gravy (or red sauce) to use in the pasta and the Chicken Parmesan. I’m not above store-bought but to do a Sunday Supper properly, pour the ingredients into the pot and get the real thing going. It’s hardly any effort at all. The only hassle is stirring the gravy regularly to ensure the bottom doesn’t burn. Tasting it each time is also important. It’ll tell you whether you need to adjust the seasoning.

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When it comes to the Chicken Parmesan, the end result that you want is a nice, crispy breading with a gooey outer layer from the mozzarella, finished with a delightful crisp Parmesan crust. This recipe, I’m proud to say, yields that result. Believe me when I say I surprised myself with how delicious this meal turned out. My Noni would have been proud had she been with us that night. Let’s start at the beginning. The chicken receives a classic breading technique. Flour followed by egg finished with breadcrumbs. Don’t be afraid to get messy. Get the chicken nice and soaked by the egg so that the breadcrumbs can hold on tight. Make sure to be really generous with the breadcrumb coating too because you want a nice, crisp breading. The oil should be screaming hot before placing the chicken into it otherwise you risk the chicken being soggy. It will only take a few minutes per side to fry the chicken. You’ll know because when you go to flip the chicken, the cooked side will be nice and stiff. This is what you want.

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Once the chicken is fried, it’s not completely cooked so it needs to finish in the oven. This is also where the cheesy magic happens. The mozzarella will get all gooey around the chicken and the parmesan will become golden and bubbly on top while creating a crisp later. This is pure heaven and while it might seem like you’ve overcooked your chicken, you haven’t. The result should be a moist center. Serve on top of a bed of spaghetti and you’re good to go. See? Not too bad! There are a few moving parts but in the end, the result is completely 100% worth it.

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Homemade Red Gravy
Ingredients:
2 - 28 oz. cans Crushed Tomatoes (low-sodium or no salt added preferred)
8 oz. Tomato Paste (low-sodium or no salt added preferred)
½ cup Fresh Basil (or ¼ cup dried)
6 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 tbsp. Oregano
2 tbsp. Parsley
1 Bay Leaf
½ tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Directions:
1 - Place all the ingredients in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and let cook for 2-3 hours stirring every 15-30 minutes. Keep the temperature as low as you can to avoid the bottom from burning. Taste the gravy each time you stir to make sure the seasoning is good. Adjust as necessary.

Chicken Parmesan
Ingredients:
½ cup Flour
1 tsp. Garlic Powder
2 Eggs
¾ cup Breadcrumbs
½ cup Parmesan, grated
1 tbsp. dried Parsley
1 tbsp. dried Basil
1 tsp. Oregano
⅓ cup Vegetable Oil
4 boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts
1 recipe of Homemade Red Gravy (above)
1 lb. Spaghetti
Salt & Pepper

Directions:
1 - Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Prep three bowls. In one add the flour, garlic powder and salt and pepper. In a 2nd add the eggs and whisk. In the 3rd, mix together the breadcrumbs, parmesan, basil, parsley, and oregano.

2 - Add 1-inch of vegetable oil (about ⅓ cup) to a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. While the oil gets hot, start breading the chicken. Coat first with flour followed by dredging in the egg and then coating generously with the breadcrumbs mixture.

3 - Add the chicken to the hot oil and cook 4-5 minutes until golden brown on each side. Take off the heat, add half of the gravy and top the chicken with th mozzarella cheese, parmesan, and basil. Bake 15-20 minutes until the cheese is melted and the chicken temperature reads 165 degrees internally.

4 - While the chicken bakes, bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt the water generously and add the pasta. Cook until al dente and drain. Toss with the remaining gravy. Serve the Chicken Parmesan by making a bed of spaghetti for the chicken and placing the chicken on top.

IF YOU DON’T HAVE A CAST-IRON SKILLET OR OVEN-SAFE SKILLET
Grease a baking dish and spread a half cup of gravy along the bottom. Place the chicken in the dish after shallow frying in the skillet. Continue the recipe as is.

4 Large Chicken Breasts Makes 8 Servings

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Simple 3-Ingredient Tomato Sauce | Farmers Market Series

Tomato season is here! As an Italian, I can appreciate the season of tomatoes. They’re such a versatile ingredient and come in many different shapes, sizes, and even colors. I love roasting cherry tomatoes to bring out more of their natural sweetness. Heirloom tomatoes are gorgeous for salads and sandwiches. Plum tomatoes and vine tomatoes are perfect for homemade sauces. Tomatoes are never better than while at the peak of their season. The same goes for any other fruit or vegetable but tomatoes seem to be juicier and sweeter from August to September while they’re thriving. With that said, today’s farmers market recipe is a very simple and easy tomato sauce. Make it on weeknights, make it on the weekend. Double, triple, or even quadruple the batch and freeze the extras for quick dinners in the coming weeks.

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What’s great about this recipe is that the other two main ingredients are also at the peak of their season right now: basil and garlic. The basil is so aromatic at this time which makes it perfect for using in homemade sauces. Its potency will lend lots of great flavor to the tomatoes. Garlic is also growing like crazy now which means it's inexpensive and fresh. I call this recipe 3-Ingredient because the others should be basics you have in your pantry. Olive oil, salt and pepper should always be stocked in your kitchen. Nothing puts me in a panic more than realizing that I just used my last drop of olive oil. So to keep that from happening, I’ll usually buy a new bottle of olive oil when I’m a little under half-way through with my current one.

There are a lot of variations of olive oil at the grocery store and it can be intimidating, especially if you’re just getting started in the kitchen or haven’t used olive oil regularly up till now. Being Italian, olive oil was always something we had on hand. We use it for everything from sweating onions to drizzling over salads. We use it straight up to dip bread, we use it in baking. It’s a basic kitchen ingredient and that’s the same for a lot of other cultures too: Spanish, French, Greek, etc. It’s also really good for you, especially in its raw form (not cooked). I always go with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. You want to stay away from anything that labeled or considered "light." Extra virgin is of the best quality and a standard option for overall use. I won’t go crazy and buy $50 bottles but I generally like my olive oil to be made in Italy, Greece or Spain and never more than one location. Surprisingly, you can find oils that have 2+ places attributed to their creation. Not good. I have, however, found a brand made out of California that's really good. Bon Appetit has a helpful article to buying olive oil as a beginner if you're interested.

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Now that we’ve got ingredient information out of the way, let’s talk sauce. Like I said, this is essentially a 3-ingredient sauce: tomatoes, basil and garlic. While you prepare the sauce, get a pot of water boiling and cook your desired pasta. I used Fettuccine because we love big noodles in my house and it's a heartier pasta. Fettuccine pairs well with the fresher sauces too. First step: heat the olive oil over a medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes, basil and garlic. Season generously to taste (the S&P is your only chance to season the sauce) and bring to a simmer. Step 2: Let the sauce simmer for about 15-minutes until the tomatoes have released their juices and the bitterness has cooked out. Step 3: Toss with the fettuccine and serve. That’s it! Super easy, ridiculously quick and SOOO delicious.

NOTE: If you decide to increase this recipe and make a double, triple or even quadruple batch, increase the cook time. This is very important. Adding more tomatoes means they need extra time to cook. I would add 15-minutes for every extra “batch.” So if you double this recipe, cook 30-minutes. If you quadruple the recipe, cook for at least 60-minutes. The key is to keep stirring it every 15-minutes or so to keep the bottom from burning and tasting it along the way to see if it’s ready. And to be clear, you can absolutely cook this sauce longer than the required time. Cooking tomato sauces longer make the flavors develop more which creates a richer, sweeter, more delicious sauce. The time reflected in this recipe is the minimum suggestion for the best result. Happy cooking!

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Simple 3-Ingredient Tomato Sauce
Ingredients:
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
4 medium-large Tomatoes, diced
½ cup Basil, roughly chopped
3 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
Salt & Pepper
1 lb. Fettuccine

Directions:
1 - In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes, basil and garlic. Season generously with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and let cook for about 15 minutes until the tomatoes have released their juices and are no longer bitter.

2 - Meanwhile, cook the fettuccine or your choice of pasta, according to package directions. Drain and toss with the tomato sauce. Serve.

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Pasta Primavera | Spring Recipes

Holy Summer! I don’t know what it’s like where you guys live but here in Chicago, we seemed to enter the hellmouth. I was waiting for warmer weather when it was 10 degrees in April but by warmer I meant, 60 degrees and sunny. Not nearly 100! Guys, I’m melting. With the hot temps, my appetite isn’t what it normally is which seems to be the case for a lot of people. Hot weather and heavy food were not meant to be paired together. That’s why it’s called comfort food and we gain ten pounds eating it in the winter. These hot days require, lighter meals like Pasta Primavera.

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Pasta Primavera is simply pasta with fresh vegetables. It’s really easy to cook and is made in the amount of time it takes to boil a pot of pasta. It’s light, it’s fresh and it’s packed with flavor because of all those delicious seasonal vegetables. It’s also a blank canvas. There are no rules for Pasta Primavera other than there must be vegetables. You can use whatever combination is available to you or that you prefer. For this recipe, I included zucchini, asparagus, peas and cherry tomatoes. Garlic, as always, adds lots of great flavor and an anti-inflammatory touch to the dish. Scallions add a brightness and act as a substitute for onions which are generally found in most pasta dishes. Scallions have a lighter flavor than a traditional onion and they can pick up a dish instantly, not that this one needs it.

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Pasta Primavera doesn’t typically have a sauce. It’s just the veggies and some olive oil. Even so, adding a little bit of parmesan cheese with the help of the starchy water from cooking the pasta, creates a light, creamy sauce. It’s delightful and gives it an almost alfredo-like texture without the heaviness of an alfredo sauce. The parmesan is slightly rich and adds a nice tang to the rest of the dish finishing out that balance of flavors. This has honestly become one of my favorite pasta recipes because it’s so simple and so flavorful. It’s also an easy weeknight dinner that whips up quick without heating the house up. Perfect for those hot summer days.

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Pasta Primavera
Ingredients:
1 lb. Fettuccine
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 small Zucchini, halved and sliced
2 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
1 bunch Asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 cup Peas
1 cup Cherry Tomatoes
¼ cup Scallions
¼ cup Parmesan Cheese, preferably grated but shredded can work too

Directions:
1 - Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, drop the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water and drain.

2 - While the pasta cooks, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the zucchini, garlic, asparagus, peas, and tomatoes. Cook, stirring frequently, until the tomatoes burst and the zucchini is tender. Add the scallions and cook a minute or two longer.

3 - Mix together the pasta and vegetables. Sprinkle in the cheese and add in enough of the leftover liquid, a little bit add a time, until the pasta is wet enough*. Keep the pasta moving until you get a lightly creamy sauce. Serve!

* I used the full cup of reserved pasta water. It’s important to keep the pasta moving until you get that perfect texture otherwise the parmesan will start to clump together as it melts and cools. You want it to create a lightly creamy sauce. I used tongs to mix up the pasta as it was the easiest to maintain control of pasta.

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My Father's Daughter | Cookbooks By Lovely Ladies

My Father’s Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow is one of the many cookbooks I received for Christmas this past year. It’s one of the almost two dozen cookbooks currently sitting on my bookshelf. This cookbook has gotten the least amount of attention from me since Christmas but the recipes I have made are quite tasty. Today’s menu to highlight the cookbook is a simple and quick pasta with salad. I made this on a Friday night for only me but it’s a great weeknight meal when you need to get dinner on the table quick.

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I put My Father’s Daughter on my wish list with apprehension. Gwyneth Paltrow isn’t someone who you’d think would have approachable recipes. She’s always talking about these crazy ingredients that are hard to find and freakishly expensive. All the reviews I’d read and previews I saw made it see like this particular cookbook was applicable to anyone. I’m not shy to new ingredients, I did cook through A Kitchen In France which had me using things I didn’t even know existed. However, I’m not fond of spending a thousand dollars for one week’s worth of groceries. Flipping through My Father’s Daughter, I realized that not only did Gwyneth share recipes for the everyday home cook, she shared options.

The beginning of the cookbook shares essential tools Gwyneth always has in her kitchen, directions for any kind of special technique, and my favorite...a substitution chart. There’s nothing worse than finding a recipe that looks divine and realizing you need a specialty flour or sugar for it. This chart includes common substitutions for things like spelt, barley and buckwheat flour, non-dairy milks, and meat alternatives. It’s handy for someone like me that might not have a ton of experience with those ingredients and doesn’t feel confident make the switch without guidance. I’ve taken a photo of this chart on my phone and saved it so I can use it with recipes in other cookbooks! It’s such a useful tool.

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Besides the special tools, My Father’s Daughter includes a personal note from Gwyneth, recipes for soups, salads, burgers & sandwiches, pastas, main courses, side dishes, breakfast and desserts, tips on how to use the book, and more. Many of the recipes include little notes from Gwyneth sharing tips, experiences or memories. Many of them also have substitution suggestions and recommendations for cooking like prepping the sauce ahead of time. I chose a few of her simpler recipes to spotlight for this post. I hope you like them!

The Menu:
Italian Chopped Salad
Penne Puttanesca
Fudgy Chocolate Brownies

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Fun Fact: Italians do not eat their salad as a starter or appetizer like Americans do. The salad is instead more of an in between course or final dish after the heavier meat course is served. Personal Fact: My (Italian) family has always served salad as an optional add-on to whatever meal we’re having. I enjoy having it alongside the main dinner course. Case in point, today’s menu! The Italian Chopped Salad from My Father’s Daughter is a light and veggie packed recipe that is both easy to prepare and a treat to eat. Leafy greens are tossed with scallions, tomatoes, tiny balls of Mozzarella (bocconcini or pearl Mozz - whatever you can find), green beans, and a light vinaigrette. Gwyneth’s recipe also calls for preserved artichoke hearts, roasted bell peppers and anchovies but I left them out for various reasons. It took no time to pull this salad together and it was the perfect accompaniment to the Penne Puttanesca.

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Penne Puttanesca originated in Naples, not far where part of my family is from. It consists of ingredients that are strong in flavor like anchovies, capers and olives. These three ingredients in particular can have a briney, salty flavor. The sweetness of a basic tomato sauce balances that acidity and saltiness well. Gwyneth’s recipe calls for her Basic Tomato Sauce recipe which I have not tried my hand at yet. But I did buy a jar of marinara from the grocery store. I know most people who are Italian cringe at the thought but I am not above convenience. A batch of gravy takes a day to make and lots of freezer space to store. The only tweak I made to this recipe was leave out the anchovies. I don’t mind using anchovies in cooking because they do add a great depth of flavor but if I’m not going to use the entire can or jar, I won’t do it. I feel like it’s a waste to open up a package for one or two. Not to mention they start to smell if you save them.

The Penne Puttanesca was in one word, delightful. I made this entire meal for myself one night. It was late, I hadn’t eaten a real meal in days and I needed to make the recipes for this blog post. I ignored my lazy - “It’s Friday night”- mentality and got to cooking. I don’t know what I was waiting for because the salad and the pasta together took hardly any time. It was a comforting, yet still light dinner and it reminded me of home (I was living in the city at the time). Another reason this meal was so great...the leftovers lasted for days!

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Finally, Gwyneth has this recipe for Fudgy Chocolate Brownies. They're as healthy as you can possibly get them without sacrificing flavor. Let me tell you, no flavor was sacrificed in the making of these brownies. One requires a giant glass of milk alongside it and they are crazy rich. Little confession, her recipe uses spelt flour and soy milk but I used regular white flour and lactose-free milk. So hers, in hindsight, are probably a bit healthier. I did not make these to go alongside my pasta and salad dinner but I did make them for Tapas Night with the girls and they were the perfect finish.

3-Cheese Lasagna with Meat Sauce | Holiday Recipes

Traditions are something most of us are all too familiar with during the holiday season. Whether it’s a new tradition started in recent years past or an old tradition that’s been around for generations, they’re something we look forward to and expect to always be present come Christmastime. A tradition in my family which I’m sure I’ve discussed before is homemade raviolis. It takes a team to make them a few weeks before Christmas and they never seem to last long enough once ready to eat. Making over 200 raviolis isn’t a task for everyone though. For an equally hearty, and maybe even tastier Christmas dinner, try this lasagna recipe.

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While I love quick meals, this is not one of them. The lasagna alone takes a hot minute to prepare and the meat sauce needs a few hours. My advice? Cook the sauce in advance. To be honest, make this whole thing in advance. When we were talking about Christmas this year, there were a few days where raviolis weren’t part of the plan and lasagna was going to be the star of the show. My plan was to make the meat sauce and assemble the lasagna about a week or so in advance. It would freeze, thaw out 24 hours in the fridge and then Christmas Day, all it would need was to bake in the oven. So while lasagna seems like a laborious dish during a busy holiday, it’s actually a life saver if you prep it in advance.

Let’s talk sauce. First of all, I want you all to know how uncomfortable it is for me to type out sauce. I grew up calling it gravy which some of you may be familiar with and others may be thinking I’m crazy. When I hear it in my head as I’m typing, it doesn’t sound right. Like I’m using a bad word almost. Anyway, the trick to any great homemade sauce is time. The longer it simmers on low, the deeper the flavors become. Two to three hours is a decent amount of time but if you have five or six, even better! You can use tomato sauce or Passata as your base. Passata is tomato puree. I’ve only seen jars from Italy but any will do. The main difference between Passata and tomato sauce is that sometimes your tomato sauce can have extra pureed ingredients. Passata ensures a pure tomato flavor.

Now, let’s talk lasagna. I have a bone to pick with the instant lasagna noodles. You know? The ones that you put in the baking dish without boiling. It never works! They end up crunchy and underdone and it ruins the entire dish. I swear by the traditional lasagna noodles you boil in a pot before assembling. The result is always a million times better. The trick is to under cook them a bit. You want them to have a significant bite because they will soak up some of the liquid from the sauce and the steam that releases. If the top is cooking a little too quick, cover your baking dish with tin foil. It will ensure the lasagna cooks even without the top turning into a burnt crisp.

Tell me in the comments below, what will you be making for Christmas this year?

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3-Cheese Lasagna with Hearty Meat Sauce
Ingredients for the Meat Sauce:
2 lbs. Ground Beef
1 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 tbsp. Butter
4 Garlic Cloves, chopped
1 Onion, diced
3 cups Tomato Sauce or Passata
2 - 15 oz. cans Diced Tomatoes
1 Bay Leaf
¼ cup dried Basil
¼ cup dried Parsley
2 tbsp dried Oregano
1 tbsp dried Thyme
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Ingredients for the Lasagna:
16 oz. Ricotta Cheese
2 Eggs
½ cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
8 cups Meat Sauce
1 package of Lasagna Noodles, cooked
½ cup Mozzarella Cheese, shredded

Directions:
1 - Make the Meat Sauce: In a large pot, brown the meat over medium-high heat. Remove the meat to a paper towel lined plate to drain the grease. Back in the pot, heat the olive oil and butter. Add the onions and garlic and cook about 5 minutes until softened. Add the remaining ingredients along with the cooked meat, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 2-3 hours on a very low heat. Reserve 8 cups for the lasagna or portion out into 2 cup portions. Freeze for up to 3 months.

2 - Prep the Lasagna: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9*13 inch baking dish with a light coating of olive oil.

3 - Mix together the ricotta, eggs and parmesan in a bowl. Set aside.

4 - Assemble the lasagna:

A - Spread a cup of the meat sauce on the bottom of the dish.
B - Layer three noodles, length-wise, on top of the sauce.
C - Spoon a third of the ricotta mixture onto the noodles.
D - Gently lay another ½ cup of the sauce onto the cheese, being careful not to mix the two.
E - Repeat for two more layers.
F - On top of the final noodle layer, spoon the remaining sauce, making sure it drizzle down the sides of the dish and sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese.

5 - Bake 25-30 minutes until the cheese on top is bubbly and starting to brown around the edges. Let the lasagna rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.

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6 Pasta Recipes To Get You Through December

It’s Pasta Day on Lattes, Life & Luggage! Carbs are a gift from god, that need to be cherished, rather than avoided. There is no doubt that pasta is proof perfection does exist. However, it is so easy to get hung up on simply boiling water, adding noodles, adding sauce, and serving. Pasta deserves so much more than this! Being able to be creative, and taking your own spin on recipes, or coming up with one on the spot, is what makes pasta that much better! This ingredient can be spun to impress anyone. From the pickiest of eaters, to the most adventurous. Because of this, it is important that you gain experience with different dishes, to impress dates, kids, family, or anyone. Here is my round-up of delicious pasta dishes to try, and give you some inspiration for future recipes!

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Chicken Milanese with Simple Spaghetti
Looking to impress a date, while still being able to enjoy the date yourself? Try out this chicken Milanese with simple spaghetti recipe! Cooking with someone new is a great way to break the ice and have fun! The low and slow sauce makes it perfect for chatting, and the addition of chicken gives you, and your date, each a job. Pour yourselves a glass of wine and don’t take it too serious! Change up the sauce or noodles, add different spices, and have fun!

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Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta
This creamy, sun-dried tomato pasta, is perfect for a quick, weeknight dinner. Don’t let the short prep time of this recipe make you think it isn’t delicious! The homemade sauce is sure to impress any guests, without causing stress on you after work. It's easy, delicious, and, an added plus of the homemade sauce, aromatherapy after a long day of work.

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Crockpot Meat Marinara
There is nothing that beats walking into your home and being welcomed by the scent of meat marinara in the crockpot. This recipe can warm up even the coldest of days. The last thing anyone wants to do after coming in from the cold is cook a meal. By prepping this in the morning, you can come home, serve yourself a bowl, and snuggle up on the couch to watch holiday movies.

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Pasta with Sausage & Peppers
This recipe is perfect for when you are down to your last bit of the grocery budget for the month, but still want a home cooked meal. This dish is satisfying, without breaking the bank. Again, pasta is all about being creative, so feel free to substitute the peppers, for other veggies, or the sausage, for chicken or turkey sausage!

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Roasted Cherry Tomato & Basil-Mint Pesto Pasta
Red sauce is my go-to when cooking pasta. However, I often feel myself getting stuck in a routine of only cooking pasta with red sauce. The basil-mint pesto is fresh and different, and the addition of roasted cherry tomatoes still gives it that red flavor I love. Make this recipe on a weeknight and use the leftover pesto for lunches throughout the rest of the week!

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Short Rib Gravy
For a heartier meal, try out this short rib gravy recipe! This is perfect for winter, when you want your meals to make you feel warm and cozy. The use of a crockpot in this recipe makes it super easy to make, and the smell when you come home, will make the little work involved, well worth it.

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Tell us in the comments below what your favorite pasta night recipe is.

Creamy Pumpkin Pasta | Pumpkin Recipes

Pumpkin and pie go together like peanut butter and jelly. Pumpkin is famous for being the star of dessert during the holiday season. Pumpkin pies line the table at Thanksgiving dinner, pumpkin spice lattes are the standard coffee house specialty drink once the weather turns crisp. There isn’t a dessert table with some kind of pumpkin-focused treat. What about the savory side though? Pumpkin is good for so much more than a custardy filling. Roasted, it has this beautiful, rich flavor that is hearty and can hold it’s own alongside meaty dishes. Pumpkin and turkey chili is a recipe I see floating around during the fall season. And then there are all the variations of pumpkin pasta.

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I’m so used to having pumpkin in a sweet form that I wanted to go out of my comfort zone for at least one recipe and have something savory. Enter this gem: creamy pumpkin pasta. It’s a basic pumpkin alfredo with fettuccine noodles. It’s simple to make, quick and satisfying. You may even decide not to have dessert later! The black pepper adds a nice touch of heat to balance the richness of the “sauce” and give it some pizzazz. The pumpkin allows the sauce to coat the pasta in this thick layer which adds a decadence you don't expect. I would even go as far to say that a pinch of crushed red pepper mixed in would be a nice touch. It's up to you!

This recipe in particular uses canned pumpkin but you are more than welcome to use raw pumpkin. It’s a bit extra work to peel and cut it up and then roast it before it’s ready for use. I went through that entire process when making a pumpkin soup out of A Kitchen in France that I talked about earlier this year. Let’s say that if you want to use raw pumpkin, try and find it already carved up and cubed or you’re going to be ready to chuck the knife across the kitchen halfway through the pumpkin. I’m not saying to never try it but don’t say I didn't warn you either.

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Creamy Pumpkin Pasta
Ingredients:
1 lb. Fettuccine
1 cup Pumpkin Puree
½ cup Heavy Cream
¼ tsp. Black Pepper
¼ tsp. Ground Cinnamon
⅛ tsp. Nutmeg
2 tbsp. Butter
Dollop of Creme Fraiche (optional)

Directions:
1 - Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and toss with butter.

2 - Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, whisk together the pumpkin, heavy cream, black pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg. Bring to a low boil and simmer until thick.

3 - Toss the pasta with the pumpkin mixture until the noodles are fully coated. Sprinkle with a hint of black pepper. Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche on top.

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Lighter Spaghetti & Meatballs | Healthy Weeknight Dinners

Who doesn’t love a classic Spaghetti and Meatball dinner? This classic Italian-American dish is a quintessential go-to in most homes, especially for family dinner. It’s rare to hear a complaint with this favorite on the table. With hearty, cold-weather dishes becoming a regular at dinner, this recipe is a little bit lighter so there’s less guilt. A few swaps cut both calorie and fat content while also adding a little extra nutritional value. If you’d like the traditional version, keep reading for tips on swapping it back.

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Classic Italian meatballs are traditionally a mix of beef, pork and sometimes veal or lamb. Regardless of the combo, red meat is the norm. This recipe trims down the meatballs by using ground turkey instead. You can also use ground chicken but turkey holds a little more flavor. (**For traditional meatballs, substitute the turkey for equal parts beef and pork or only beef.) Flavor the meat with fresh garlic, onion, basil and oregano. Panko breadcrumbs allow the meatballs to bind without adding weight because they’re so light. Traditional breadcrumbs work as well but Panko give the meatballs an airy quality.

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A good gravy doesn’t take five minutes to make. If you want a great gravy, one friends and family will remember and you’ll long to smell throughout your home, it needs to cook low and slow. Since I am a champion for speedy and easy dinners, this recipe only needs a minimum of 30 minutes to simmer. However, the longer you leave it on the stove, the more the flavors will blend and enhance. (**Pro Tip: Add a Parmesan Cheese rind for an extra level of flavor that no one will be able to figure out or resist). When I make any gravy and I have time, I usually start it in the early afternoon or late morning so it gets a few hours to simmer low. Make sure to give it a stir every 30 mins or so so the bottom doesn’t burn.

A final touch to lightening up this dish - use a whole wheat or whole grain pasta. Go gluten-free if you don’t eat regular pasta. Any pasta of choice works. Using something in the whole grain variety will give you an extra boost of nutrition. I always prefer a traditional noodle to any others but there is nothing wrong with switching it up, even once in awhile.

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SPAGHETTI WITH TURKEY MEATBALLS
Ingredients:
1 lb. Ground Turkey
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
½ small Onion, finely chopped
1 bunch Basil, finely chopped
1 tbsp. Fresh Oregano, finely chopped
½ cup Panko Breadcrumbs
1 Egg
1 lb. Whole Wheat or Whole Grain Pasta
Salt and pepper

For the Gravy:
28 oz Crushed Tomatoes
6 oz Tomato Paste
2 tbsp. Dried Basil
4 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 tbsp. Dried Oregano
1 tbsp. Dried Parsley
1 Bay Leaf
½ tsp. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
Salt and Pepper

Directions:
1 - Prep the Gravy: In a large saucepan or medium pot, mix together the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic cloves, basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, crushed red pepper (if using), salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a low boil and let simmer covered over low heat for a minimum of 30 minutes. If planning to simmer longer, make sure it’s on the lowest simmer you can manage and still stir every 30 minutes to prevent burning at the bottom of the pan.

2 - Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet with tin foil. Set aside.

3 - Prep the Meatballs: In a medium sized bowl, mix together ground turkey, garlic, onion, basil, oregano, panko breadcrumbs, egg, salt and pepper. Mix together well and form into 1-inch balls. Place on the baking sheet and bake 15-20 minutes until cooked through.

4 - Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and add your spaghetti. Cook till al dente according to the package directions. Drain.

5 - Toss the spaghetti with a few ladles of marinara. Leave the rest aside for everyone to add as they’d like. Some people like more gravy and others less. Fill pasta bowls with marinara-tossed spaghetti and top with meatballs. Serve.

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