Chicken Parmesan Casserole

The last stop on my cooking marathon yesterday was this dish – Chicken Parmesan Casserole! I love the idea of deconstructing a traditional dish and turning it into a casserole (see also Chicken Cordon Bleu Mac and Cheese). So I thought I’d do something similar to this Italian classic. The fact that I love fried chicken helped to add this to my dinner rotation for the week too. I have to say that it turned out great and every bite was definitely reminiscent of the original dish. Some of the breading from the chicken gets mixed in with the pasta and sauce and continues the flavor throughout. Yum, yum! I made own Italian bread crumbs (because I have yet to find a store-bought brand that is all-natural) to bread the chicken. By the way, frying chicken with these breadcrumbs and buttermilk just as a normal fried chicken entree is awesome, and even if this dish doesn’t appeal to you, I suggest you try it! Hope you enjoy!

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Chicken Parmesan Casserole

Vegetable oil (enough to fill a frying pan 1-inch)
1 1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs (see recipe below for homemade)
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 lb chicken tenderloins
1 lb penne pasta, boiled to al dente
6 cups marinara sauce (see recipe below for homemade)
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 cup mozzarella balls, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup shredded mozzarella (for topping)

1.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2.) Heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Dip each chicken tenderloin in buttermilk, then dredge in the breadcrumbs, making sure to coat well on each side. Add to hot oil and fry until browned and cooked fully (actual time will depend on the thickness of the chicken – I cooked mine for about 5 minutes on each side). Remove from oil and place on a paper towel lined plate. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into chunks. Set aside.
3.) In a large bowl (or the pot you cooked the marinara sauce in), combine cooked pasta, marinara sauce, parmesan cheese and mozzarella balls. Stir well until everything is well combined. Gently stir chicken into the pasta (so you don’t lose all the breading). Top with shredded mozzarella. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cheese is browned and sides are bubbly.

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Italian Bread Crumbs
1 1/2 cup plain panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp dried parsley

Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well combined and consistency is thinner.

Italian Bread Crumbs

Marinara Sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large sweet onion, diced
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 26-oz boxes finely diced tomatoes
3 tbsp tomato paste
1/3 cup fresh basil, julienned
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil. Add remaining ingredients and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for at least an hour.

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Caprese Chicken Bake with Balsamic Reduction

This Italian dish is a fresh take on traditional pasta and tomato sauce. Simple to make and full of flavor. This is another Pinterest inspired recipe, but this time I took a few things from two different dishes. The end product was great! But to be fair, soaking just about anything in a balsamic reduction would be pretty awesome…

Caprese Chicken Bake

Caprese Chicken Bake 

2 pints of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 red onion, julienned
1/4 cup fresh basil, julienned (plus a little more for garnish)
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 chicken breasts
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
8 oz angel hair pasta, cooked according to box in salted water
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sugar

1.) Place first 8 ingredients in a casserole dish and stir until well combined. Add chicken breasts and try to rub the chicken in the tomatoes to transfer some of the olive oil and seasoning, then place chicken breasts on top of tomatoes. Salt and pepper liberally.
2.) Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and place 1/3 of the mozzarella on each breast. Place chicken back in oven for about 10 more minutes. Exact time will vary based on the size of the breasts, so check to make sure they are done.
3.) While chicken is baking, place vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan and heat to boiling. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until vinegar has thickened and sticks to a spoon. Watch that this doesn’t burn.
4.) When pasta is done cooking, toss in about a tablespoon of olive oil.
5.) Serve chicken and tomatoes on top of the angel hair pasta and drizzle the balsamic reduction over top.

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Adapted from Our Story’s Italian Chicken and The Novice Chef’s Caprese Chicken

Chicken Tetrazzini

I’m not sure I had ever actually had chicken tetrazzini until just recently. We had an assortment of pasta dishes at the shower I helped host this weekend, and one of the other hostesses put this dish on the menu. Ever since Saturday night I’ve had the itch to make it, and while I knew it would be ambitious for a week night meal, Blake was home tonight and so I thought what the heck. Totally worth it. This is a Giada De Laurentiis recipe. I stayed pretty true to the original, but due to some of the quantities I had on hand (and the fact that I messed up a couple of steps), I veered ever so slightly. I am sharing the way I made it because I can personally attest to the fact that it tasted really, really good. I will definitely make this again, and it has potential to be a great care package meal too. Hope you enjoy!

Chicken Tetrazzini

Chicken Tetrazzini

2 chicken breasts, boiled and shred
1 lb linguine
1 tbsp olive oil
5 tbsp butter, divided
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 large onion, diced
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup flour
4 cups milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup parmesan
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs

1.) Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2.) Add 1 tbsp of butter and olive oil to large dutch oven. Add mushrooms and sauté until any liquid is cooked up and mushrooms are golden. Add onion, garlic and thyme. Saute for another 2 or 3 minutes. Add wine and chicken stock. Saute until liquid is mostly evaporated. Remove from heat and stir in shredded chicken.
3.) While the mushroom mixture is cooking, boil linguine in a large pot of salted water for 10 minutes. Set aside when done.
4.) In a separate large sauté pan, heat remaining 4 tbsp butter until it is melted. Add flour and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk. Add milk, heavy cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Bring to boil, stirring frequently. Once sauce has thickened (about 8 or 9 minutes), remove from heat.
5.) In the largest pot you used, add pasta, mushroom/chicken, cream sauce, peas and parsley. Stir until well combined. Pour into a 9″x13″ casserole dish. Top with parmesan cheese and then Italian breadcrumbs. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly and the top is golden brown.

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Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis’s Chicken Tetrazzini

Meatballs and Marinara

So I actually made this a while ago… I even typed out the recipe, uploaded the pictures and everything, but apparently I forgot to post it! Well, it’s too good to not share, so here it is!

My boys love, love, love meatballs, so this goes over really well in my house. I’ve played around with this recipe a lot over the years – sometimes with pork and/or veal – but I really just like it best with a high quality ground beef. The parmesan cheese and fresh herbs add a lot of flavor, and overall, they’re pretty easy to throw together. I made these along with marinara, so the instructions below are how I did both in about 45 minutes. Hope you enjoy!

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Meatballs

1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup plain panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (or 1 tbsp dried)
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped (or 1 tbsp dried)
2 tsp dried oregano
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Marinara

3 14-oz cans diced tomatoes (undrained)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red wine
8 oz mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (or 1 tbsp dried)
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped (or 1 tbsp dried)
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tbsp sugar

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in large dutch oven over medium-high heat.
2.) Add onions and garlic and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes. While onions are sautéing, in a large bowl,  combine all ingredients for the meatballs.
3.) Add tomatoes to onions in the dutch oven and reduce heat to medium; simmer while you form meatballs into 1 1/2″ – 2″ balls.
4.) Place meatballs on a baking sheet about an inch apart and bake for 35 to 40 minutes (depending on how big you make the meatballs).
5.) To the sauce, add red wine, mushrooms, herbs, salt, pepper and sugar. Sauté for 30 minutes.
6.) With an emersion blender (or by using a normal blender to blend in batches), puree sauce to desired consistency (I like mine a little chunky, so I didn’t totally puree).
7.) When meatballs are done, add them to pot and coat with sauce. Serve over pasta.

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I was able to make 15 meatballs at this size.

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The sauce after simmering, before blending.

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The finished sauce – yum!

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Sausage and Goat Cheese Stuffed Shells

Figuring out what to make for dinner is tough – especially on week nights.  While I don’t make the same things every week, it is almost a certainty that the week will contain something with chicken, something Mexican and something Italian, and last night was Italian night. I decided to try stuffed shells – something I had never attempted. I have to admit, I was a little intimidated because I thought it would be a pain in the butt to stuff them (like manicotti), but I got a wild hair and decided to try them anyways. Turns out, it was really easy. I found that if you hold the shell in your hand and squeeze it just so, it opens up nicely and you can easily spoon the cheese and the sausage and tomato sauce into the shell. It does take a little time to stuff them all, but truthfully, much simpler than I anticipated. I enjoyed the goat cheese / sausage combo so much in the lasagna I made a couple of weeks ago, that I decided to give it another go.

I tried out some new tomatoes with this recipe because a couple of weeks ago I saw a video on CNN about the 5 things you should never eat, and canned tomatoes was on the list. So I’ve had a little bit of a dilemma, I’ve been trying to make my own sauce from “scratch” (and by scratch I don’t mean boiling fresh tomatoes, but rather using canned tomatoes and adding my own seasoning), but this information has had me second guessing myself. Until, while at Publix this weekend, I noticed that they finally started carrying tomatoes in a box! Hallelujah! No more BPA! So I will have to adjust my recipes for the 26-oz package, but even with that hiccup, I’m thrilled.

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Disclaimer: I’m not claiming that I’ll never again use canned tomatoes or eat canned tomatoes. So please no calling me a hypocrite if one of my future recipe contains them. However, to the extent that these are available, I will use them.

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Sausage and Goat Cheese Stuffed Shells

24 to 30 jumbo shells, cooked according to box
2 cups prepared marinara sauce (I used Classico)
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Sausage and Tomato Sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb Italian sausage (I used mild Italian chicken sausage, removed from casings)
1/2 onion, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
26-oz box of tomatoes
1/4 cup red wine
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup fresh parsley
Salt and pepper

Cheese Mixture
2 cups ricotta cheese
5 oz goat cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan  over medium-high heat. Add sausage and break apart with spatula. Cook until browned.
2.) Add onion and garlic and cook until onion is translucent. Add tomatoes, wine, basil, oregano and parsley. Salt and pepper to taste.  Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes (it’s good to time it so it is simmering while your shells are boiling).
3.) In a bowl, mix together ricotta, goat cheese and mozzarella cheese. Set aside.
4.) Take about 1 cup of prepared marinara sauce and spread it on the bottom of a 9″x13″ casserole dish. Placing each shell in your hand, take a spoon (I used one of my dinner spoons) and first scoop the cheese mixture in the shell, using your thumb and the shell to scrape the cheese off the spoon. Next use the same sized spoon to scoop the sausage tomato sauce into the shell. Place in casserole dish and repeat.
5.) Using the remaining marinara sauce, drizzle it over the shells. Sprinkle the shells with mozzarella cheese and place in the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes.

Stuffed shells sausage RIcotta goat cheese mixture Stuffed Shells 1 Stuffed Shells 2 Stuffed Shells 3