Cheese Manicotti

I’ve been making this version of cheese manicotti for so many years, it’s hard to believe I haven’t gotten around to sharing it with you guys! While many baked pasta dishes can take all day long to prepare – between making the sauce, cooking the pasta, and layering the pasta before baking – this one only takes a few minutes. And the flavor is unparalleled.

The key is using no-bake lasagna noodles to make the manicotti. No stuffing tubes required! The cheese mixture is simply spread on some lasagna noodles that have been softened using a bit of boiling water, rolled up and placed in the baking dish, then topped with a simple tomato sauce that takes just a few moments to bring together. With the addition of fresh basil, the sauce is really delicious too – light and bright in flavor.

This was the first time I’d made it using homemade ricotta, and it really took it to the next level. So, if you have an extra few minutes – I’d highly recommend taking the time to make your own, but it’s certainly not required. I like to serve with a nice green salad and some crunchy garlic bread for a traditional Italian meal that the whole family loves. It’s a favorite in our home, and I know it will be in yours as well!

Source: adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, January 2007

Country Fried Pork Chops

Pork chops are one of the things that Jon always gives me gruff that I don’t cook enough. I prefer to cook something like one of my many favorite versions of a pork tenderloin, but once in a while I give in and make him one of his favorite meals of all time – these fried pork chops. It’s one of those manly, stick-to-your-ribs meals that all guys love…

Basically a pork chop is coated with a mixture of egg wash and seasoned flour, much like fried chicken is. Then pan fried. Afterwards, a milk gravy is made from the pan drippings and served over the pork chops. While it’s not the most figure-friendly thing on the planet, it really is delicious and totally worth a splurge every now and again.

I always serve with mashed potatoes, because they are equally as good topped with the gravy. This time around I also served roasted Brussels sprouts on the side, and they were really delicious with them too. If you’ve not had the pleasure of trying these, you should – as it’s “country cooking” to the core!

Chicken, Spinach, and Artichoke Pasta Bake

Even when the weather is warm, sometimes I still find myself craving a big bowl of comforting baked pasta. But, it’s nice to switch it up from the standard red sauce and ricotta cheese variety. When I came across a recipe a couple of months ago in a recent issue of Taste of Home, I thought I’d give it a try.

I did end up changing it a bit, mainly by adding chicken as well as a dose of homemade Alfredo sauce to the pasta bake. I loved all the flavors together, almost reminiscent of a spinach-artichoke dip. It was pretty easy to bring together too, as it doesn’t require all the layering that something like a traditional lasagna would.

I had leftover roasted chicken from the night before, so I just used that – but a store-bought rotisserie chicken would be ideal for this application. Or you could certainly use boneless skinless chicken breasts that you roasted or sauteed as well. Whatever works best for you!

I kept it simple and just served it with a salad topped with a light lemon vinaigrette. Everyone really enjoyed it, and with most baked pastas the leftovers were even better the next day for lunch.

Source: adapted from Taste of Home Magazine, February/March 2014

Roasted Garlic Smashed Potatoes

Guys, this is one of my favorite side dishes of all time – and frankly I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to share it here on the blog. Slow roasted garlic, butter, fresh parsley, and tender red potatoes mashed up into a delicious heap of goodness.

It’s a nice change of pace from the traditional mashed potatoes and gravy, and the flavor is just wonderful. It takes a little bit more time and forethought, as you have to roast the garlic ahead of time before mashing the potatoes – but trust me, it’s worth it! Roasting the garlic, as opposed to just using garlic powder, really mellows and deepens the flavor – so it doesn’t have that harsh bite that many garlic mashed potatoes have.

I like to add parsley, for a little pop of color and bright flavor, but it’s great with other herbs as well – I’ve used some chopped rosemary and thyme in the past, and both were wonderful. This side dish would be great on your Easter table, paired with ham or turkey. Or, it’s always my go-to side to serve with a homey traditional dish like meatloaf. It’s a favorite in my family, and I know it will be one in yours as well.