Skillet Baked Ziti

It’s been a pretty crazy past few days around here. Baby #3 (we’ve decided to call him Nathan from here on out!) ended up being a week overdue before he finally arrived late Thursday afternoon. He is a big boy, born at 9 lbs 11 ounces and a whopping 21 inches!

nathan

We didn’t home until Saturday night, and are using this week to really get into our new routines and the general “swing of things” with a new baby around. The boys are adjusting just fine, very interested and inquisitive about every detail of Nathan’s life. I feel so lucky to have all these boys to take care of!

Back to this pasta – a cheesy “baked” pasta that’s ready in just a few minutes and only uses one pan – is pretty much a gift sent from the Gods for the crazy nights we have coming up in our future. It was so darned good too, I found myself picking off pieces of pasta for “one more bite” before we packed the leftovers away!

The pasta sauce is easy to bring together, using pantry staples. It gets a heavy dose of flavor from the addition of pork sausage, and richness from the addition of a bit of heavy cream. And I’d imagine that any pasta shape would be fine – although I happen to be partial to the tubular pastas like ziti and penne for these kinds of applications. The pasta is cooked in the sauce on the stove, then when it’s al-dente it’s topped with a good amount of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese that gets melted and browned with a quick trip to the hot oven.

Served with a quick salad and a crunchy piece of garlic bread, it’s too good to be such a delicious and easy weeknight meal. Make this one soon, guys!

Source: ATK’s Pasta Revolution, via Pink Parsley

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