Original Marinara Sauce

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Original Marinara Sauce! Marinara isn’t just a fancy name for spaghetti sauce, it actually lacks one key ingredient that sets it apart. You guessed it: MEAT. Basically, marinara is a tomato-based sauce infused with herbs and spices. It can be prepared very easily in less than half an hour. Personally, I find it perfect for a meatless meal. I like chunks of tomatoes, the hint of garlic, and a slight kick of red pepper spice. Look again at the snapshot. Perhaps it’s time to make marinara at your house.

ORIGINAL MARINARA SAUCE

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

28-ounce can Italian Roma tomatoes, diced with sauce

2 tablespoons fresh oregano

1/4 cup basil, chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1 tablespoon agave nectar

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Instructions:

In a large skillet over medium-low heat, warm olive oil. Add minced garlic; sauté for one minute until slightly brown, stirring occasionally. Add diced Roma tomatoes with sauce, fresh oregano, chopped basil, sea salt, marjoram, agave nectar, and red pepper flakes. Simmer sauce until thickened, approximately 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Marinara sauce will be chunky and thick. Serve with cooked pasta.

Yellow Pepper Spaghetti

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Yellow Pepper Spaghetti! You know how spaghetti always tastes better the second day? There’s something about those savory spices intensifying the sauce and melding it with the pasta. Some of it has to do with starch, I’m told, but I don’t want to get too scientific. I’ll trust my taste buds to go with the flow. Because my garden has a bounty of peppers right now, this seemed like a natural progression. Stuff ‘em. Not only did the leftover spaghetti taste amazing, but the yellow pepper added it’s own smoother mild flavoring. Not bitter. Not sweet. Just right. Maybe you’ll come to the same conclusion.

YELLOW PEPPER SPAGHETTI

Ingredients:

4 yellow peppers, whole

4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded

2 cups of leftover cooked spaghetti in marinara sauce

Chopped tomatoes, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350°. Cut off the top of each yellow pepper and remove the insides. Rinse and drain. Stand peppers upright in a baking dish. Put a heaping tablespoon of mozzarella cheese in the bottom of each yellow pepper. Then stuff each pepper with the leftover cooked spaghetti in marinara sauce. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil, divide remaining cheese over the tops. Garnish with chopped tomatoes and bake 15 minutes longer. Serve immediately.

Manicotti Pasta Bowl

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Manicotti Pasta Bowl! Comfort food. We all have our favorites. Some include melted cheese, rich chocolate, home made soups, or peanut butter sandwiches. And then there’s pasta; guardian of the energy boost. Not only is pasta a healthy option, it satisfies by keeping hunger pangs at bay. Being affordable, versatile, and nutritious make it even more enjoyable. And a little pasta goes a long way. We all know that. Sure, pasta is a carb…but in a good way. It partners well with low fat protein and veggies. Go, Team Pasta!

MANICOTTI PASTA BOWL

Ingredients:

6 manicotti shells

3/4 pound lean ground beef

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon marjoram

1/4 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

3 cups prepared spaghetti sauce, chunky

1 ounce cream cheese, softened

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Fresh basil

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Cook manicotti shells according to package directions. Drain shells; rinse in cold water. Set aside. In a large skillet, brown ground beef until cooked and crumbled. Remove from heat. Drain liquid. Add sea salt, oregano, marjoram, basil, and garlic powder. Pour prepared spaghetti sauce over meat. Mix well. Spoon 1/3 of meat mixture into the bottom of two single-serving casserole dishes. Add softened creamed cheese and mozzarella cheese to the remaining meat mixture. Stuff each shell with filling. Arrange three filled manicotti shells in a row over sauce. Repeat in second casserole dish. Spread remaining filling over the tops of the stuffed shells. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake, covered, for 30 minutes. Uncover; bake 15 minutes longer until cheese is melted. Remove from oven; serve in casserole dish. Garnish with fresh basil.

Aubergine Mini Pizzas

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Aubergine Mini Pizzas! Lately I’ve been exploring different ways of making gluten-free pizza. So, naturally, when I discovered using an eggplant slice to replace the dough, I had to jump on the low-carb bandwagon to celebrate the merits of healthy choices. Talk about satisfying! Don’t believe me? Check my fellow foodie at http://chefkresorecipes.wordpress.com/2018/02/21 who gave me the idea. Yes, you still get marinara sauce. And of course, cheese toppings are a must-have. The secret to the incredible taste is Italian herbs, in my opinion. But be forewarned, you absolutely cannot skip the first step of “weeping” the bitter juices from the eggplant slices before assembling. Just be sure to allow at least half an hour for that process. Then you’re good-to-go.

AUBERGINE MINI PIZZAS

Ingredients:

1 eggplant

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon corn meal

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon marjoram

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 1/2 cups marinara sauce, chunky

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Fresh basil leaves, chopped

Instructions:

Cut off ends of the eggplant; discard. Slice remaining into 3/4” equal sections. Sprinkle kosher salt on both sides of each slice and transfer eggplant onto paper towels to “weep” for 30 minutes. Set aside to allow the towels to absorb the liquid. Then rinse well. Pat dry. Preheat oven to 375°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Brush one side of each eggplant slice with olive oil. Dust with cornmeal. Place each slice face down on the parchment paper. Then brush the tops with remaining olive oil. Sprinkle on oregano, marjoram, basil, and garlic powder. Bake 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and layer each eggplant slice with marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, and parmesan cheese. Top with freshly chopped basil. Return to the oven. Change setting to Broil. Watch carefully. Remove after a couple minutes when cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve immediately.

Oval Pizza Rolls

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Oval Pizza Rolls! Do you ever get the munchies during that last hour of late-night tv? When it hits me and the commercials seem to become more frequent, my willpower eventually wanes and I succumb to the nibbling temptation. I’m here to say, this is a perfect bedtime snack. Just the right sized portion to satisfy those late night cravings under the bluish glow of a 42-inch screen. You no longer have to sit and devour an entire pizza while being absorbed in your favorite program or professional sports. Permission granted.

OVAL PIZZA ROLLS

Ingredients:

1 prepared pizza crust

1/2-3/4 cup pizza sauce

3 ounces provolone cheese, sliced

4 ounces smoked ham, thinly sliced

2 ounces pepperoni slices

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, shredded

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons cornmeal

1-2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

1 teaspoon dill weed

Garlic salt, to taste

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a 9”x9” pan with nonstick oil. Set aside. Remove pizza dough from can to a lightly floured work space. Unroll dough. Spread with pizza sauce. Layer with provolone cheese, ham slices, and pepperoni slices. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese. Beginning at the long end, roll up dough. Brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Wrap in parchment paper, seam side down. Freeze for 20 minutes to chill. Remove dough roll from freezer. Slice into 1 1/2-inch ovals. Transfer to prepared pan, slice side up. Bake in oven for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Brush with butter; sprinkle with dill weed and garlic salt.

Gluten-Free Crustless Pizza

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Gluten-Free Crustless Pizza! Are you ever tempted to just eat the toppings off a pizza? For those who require a gluten-free lifestyle or simply desire fewer carbs, here is a healthy alternative on pizza night. Eliminate the crust altogether. By substituting eggs and cheese for bread dough, it’s surprising how this turns into a delicious deep dish pizza.

GLUTEN-FREE CRUSTLESS PIZZA

Ingredients:

8-ounce cream cheese

2 eggs

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded

1/2 cup pizza sauce

1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

4 ounces pepperoni, sliced

1/3 cup ham, chopped

1/3 cup chorizo sausage, cooked and crumbled

2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

1/4 cup mushrooms, sliced

1/4 cup onion, chopped

1/8 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 10”-12” iron skillet with nonstick oil. Set aside. Combine cream cheese, eggs, black pepper, garlic powder, and parmesan cheese. Spread in a single layer in the prepared pan. Bake 20 minutes until light brown. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes. Spread pizza sauce over crust. Top with mozzarella cheese. Arrange pepperoni, ham, chorizo sausage, bacon, mushrooms, and chopped onion. Sprinkle with oregano, basil, and marjoram. Bake 15 minutes longer until cheese is melted. Cool 5 minutes before cutting into pizza slices.

Zingy Weeknight Pasta

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Zingy Weeknight Pasta! Don’t you love it when everything you need for a quick meal is right at your fingertips? Well, I do. This was one of those nights when everything in the fridge “must-go” simply because we were leaving on a trip the next day. I already had a jar of homemade marinara sauce, but feel free to substitute a store bought variety you probably keep in your pantry, next to the package of spaghetti. The chicken strips are frozen, grilled, and precooked. Don’t judge me. It works. Oh, and I actually served freshly grated parmesan cheese as a garnish, but we sprinkled it on at the table.

ZINGY WEEKNIGHT PASTA

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 green pepper, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

3 cups prepared marinara

2 cups precooked grilled chicken strips, cut into chunks

1/2 pound sliced salami, cut into pieces

4 ounces spaghetti, cooked

Parmesan cheese for garnish

Instructions:

In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped green pepper, chopped onion, and minced garlic. Sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to simmer and add marinara sauce. Meanwhile, microwave frozen chicken to thaw. Cut into chunks. Add chicken and salami to sauce. Stir to mix. Cook spaghetti according to package directions, but remove the pasta 4 minutes earlier than directed since we are going to add the spaghetti to the sauce to finish cooking. Once the spaghetti is prepared to that point, ladle some of the pasta water into the sauce, about 1/3 cup. This will add wonderful flavor and help thicken the sauce nicely. Now drain the spaghetti and add it to the sauce mixture, without rinsing. Let the spaghetti finish cooking until it is al dente. Serve in pasta bowls. Garnish with parmesan cheese. (Freeze any leftovers to serve when you return from a day of travel.)

Mountainous Meatball

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Mountainous Meatball! It doesn’t have to be National Meatball Day to indulge in authentic cuisine found in Little Italy. By using everyday ingredients, mix and shape a giant meatball with your own two hands to feel like a gourmet chef. Smother the meatballs in a jar of marinara sauce, store-bought or made-from-scratch for perfection. And my secret, you ask? Tucked in the top of the meatball, like snow on a mountaintop, is a creamy mozzarella ball. Bet you can’t wait to bite into that!

MOUNTAINOUS MEATBALL

Ingredients:

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup Italian bread, soaked in milk and squeezed out

1 pound ground sirloin

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

2 eggs

1/4 cup dry Italian breadcrumbs

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

3 sprigs Italian parsley, chopped

3 Ciliegine mozzarella balls (cherry size)

2 cups marinara sauce

3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

3/4 cup ricotta

Fresh basil for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Sauté onions in olive oil over medium heat. Set aside. Tear Italian bread into chunks. Add enough milk to cover. Set aside. In a medium bowl, combine ground sirloin, garlic powder, eggs, dry Italian breadcrumbs, sea salt, black pepper, Italian parsley, and the milk-soaked breadcrumbs (with the liquid squeezed out). Mix well. Form into three meatballs the size of a tennis ball. Make an indentation in the top of each meatball. Stuff with a Ciliegine mozzarella ball. Press meat around the cheese leaving only a small bit visible. Place meatballs on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake 30 minutes until brown and firm. Remove from oven and place each meatball in an individual oven-proof serving dish. Reduce oven temperature to 375°. Spoon marinara sauce over meatballs, dividing it equally between the serving dishes. Top with 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, between the three dishes. Bake 15 minutes longer. Remove from oven. Sprinkle on the remaining parmesan cheese. Add a dollop of ricotta cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with fresh basil. Serve with garlic toast.

Individual Lasagna Roll-Ups

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Individual Lasagna Roll-Ups! Lasagna can be a tedious process from start to finish. Don’t get me wrong, some days it is definitely worth the effort. When I want to simplify my life, I take advantage of the effortless idea of creating a roll-up from each noodle. Not only does it make each portion compact, but it also guarantees that every helping has all the goodies tucked neatly inside. And that’s basically what lasagna is all about, isn’t it? Think about how easy it would be for transporting to family gatherings or seasonal parties, should you choose to share. Everyone wins.

INDIVIDUAL LASAGNA ROLL-UPS

Ingredients:

6 lasagna noodles

1 pound Italian sausage, ground

1/2 teaspoon fennel

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 cup onion, chopped

2 tablespoons green pepper, diced

1/4 cup mushrooms, sliced

12 ounces marinara sauce

1 cup ricotta cheese

1 egg

2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, shredded

1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Spray a casserole dish with nonstick oil. Set aside. Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain. Refill pot with cold water to keep the noodles from sticking together. Set aside. In a large skillet, cook Italian sausage over medium-high heat. Add fennel, sea salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. Crumble meat as it cooks. Add chopped onions, diced green peppers, and sliced mushrooms. Pour marinara over all. Stir thoroughly; reduce heat to a simmer for 5 minutes, then turn off heat. Spread the bottom of the prepared casserole dish with 1/4 cup meat mixture. In a bowl, combine ricotta cheese, egg, parmesan cheese, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, and chopped parsley. Transfer lasagna noodles to a baking sheet. Spread cheese mixture over the top of each noodle. Add a strip of meat mixture over the cheese layer. Roll up noodles and transfer to the prepared casserole dish. Spread remaining meat mixture over lasagna rolls. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese. Cover casserole with a lid or foil. Bake covered for 40 minutes. Remove lid and broil 2-3 minutes until cheese is lightly golden. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve immediately.