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sausage and peppers pasta dish

Shortcut Italian Sausage and Peppers Recipe

sausage and peppersWhen you’re in a hurry and don’t have much to choose from in your home, a quick and easy Italian meal can be just the thing to save the day. This recipe for Italian sausage and peppers can be made in just around twenty minutes. All you’ll need for this recipe is some bell peppers, precooked sausage, pasta, and tomatoes (canned or fresh). Preparation will just take a few minutes, and dinner is served. Read on for directions and the ingredient list!

Ingredients

italian sausage

  • * 4 Italian sausages, precooked. Try using chicken sausage for lower fat, or vegetable stuffed like portobello mushroom.
  • * 1 box uncooked pasta
  • * 1 16 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • * 1 12 can crushed tomatoes
  • * 1 teaspoon fresh basil
  • * 4 whole bell peppers, 2 red, 2 green
  • * 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • * 6 sundried tomatoes, diced
  • * 1 teaspoon minced garlic

To cut the fat in this recipe,

try using chicken sausage, turkey sausage, and reduce the amount of olive oil by replacing with water. You can also opt for a multigrain pasta for up the fiber intake, and pass on the parmesan cheese on top. This will drastically reduce the calorie count of this meal!

Stock up on your favorite Italian sausage and freeze them so this meal can be made at a whim!

peppers

Directions

With traditional Italian sausage and peppers, you would use uncooked Italian sausage as well as onions, with or without tomato sauce. This recipe is a little bit different in that you’ll be adding pasta and your own quick sauce to make it an easy meal (which tastes great leftover).

Directions:

1. Wash and de-seed the bell peppers. Cut the peppers into strips, then cut into smaller wedges or squares (not diced, approximately 2″ x 2″). Add the olive oil and peppers to a saucepan on medium heat. Saute the peppers and oil for five minutes, then adding the minced garlic.

2. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Set aside while the sausage and peppers are cooking.

3. Add the sausage to the pepper mixture, along with the basil. Saute the sausage for 3-4 minutes, until thoroughly heated. Add the crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes to the mixture on medium heat. Simmer the sauce for 8-10 minutes.

4. Combine the sausage and peppers with the cooked pasta. Serve immediately and top with grated parmesan cheese.

sausage and peppers pasta dish

tomato sauce

How to Make Great Tasting Tomato Sauce

tomato sauceFrom Scratch (Sort Of), Easy Homemade Tomato Sauce – Beats Any Jarred Sauce Brand!

Homemade tomato sauce is as easy as simmering just a few fresh ingredients. If you can open cans and use a stove, you can make this easy sauce recipe. Open up a few cans of premium tomatoes, add fresh (or high quality dried) spices, and you’ve got yourself a simple meal and recipe starter. To learn how to make your own homemade tomato sauce from scratch, read below for instructions, freezer storage tips, and recipe recommendations. Is this sauce really the best way to make a sauce from canned tomatoes? We’d like to hear your suggestions, comments, and recipe tips in the guestbook!

Intro photo of delicious homemade tomato sauce by nedraggett on flickr.

fresh tomatoesHow to Make Homemade Tomato Sauce

(Tomato sauce be used for any pasta or Italian recipe dish!)

It’s pretty easy to make your own sauce from scratch for chicken parmesan, eggplant parmesan, a plate of spaghetti, or any other Italian recipes that you might be making. If you think that those jarred, pre-made varieties just aren’t cutting it for you, then give this version a try. It’s really easy even when you’re in a pinch. However, do note that the longer you let the sauce sit, usually the better it tastes. The next day it might taste even better, as the spices start to seep into the sauce.

fresh pasta with homemade sauceReady to give this version a try? This will make enough for quite a few large plates of pasta, and can be used for chicken parmigiana, marinara, pizza sauce, calzone sauce, or as the perfect backup meal in the freezer.

  • Prep time: 5 min
  • Cook time: 1 hour 25 min
  • Ready in: 1 hour 30 min
  • Yields: 12 servings of sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic
  • 1 Can (32 oz) Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil (or a handful of freshly cut basil leaves)
  • 1 Can (32 oz) Diced Tomatoes well drained
  • 1 Tablespoon dried Italian spices (McCormick makes a good version)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper
  • 1 white onion diced (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Instructions

  1. In a large saucepan, begin to saute the minced garlic over medium heat. When the oil starts to sizzle, keep a careful eye on it to make sure the garlic doesn’t burn. Stir frequently until the garlic is just lightly browned. If you are using onions, add them before the garlic until they are softened — around 5-7 minutes.
  2. Add the diced tomatoes to the mixture. Use a fork to crush the tomatoes, or use a potato masher for stubborn tomatoes that won’t crush up. This will add texture to the sauce and a lot of flavor. Continue to cook over medium heat.
  3. Add the crushed tomatoes. Continue to simmer on medium low heat for about 10 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients to the sauce, and simmer for about one hour- one and a half hours. Serve immediately with chicken parmesan or other Italian recipes.
crockpot meatballs

Italian Crockpot Meatballs Recipe

Crockpot meatballs are one of easiest recipes to get going in just around 30 minutes for an quick and easy Italian dinner. Just get some fresh bread, parmesan cheese, and boil up some spaghetti (or your favorite pasta) for a delicious meal. The bonus: you’ll have incredible sandwiches for leftovers, and, meatballs are easily frozen or incorporated into other pasta dishes.

The tastiness of crockpot meatballs lie in the spices and tomato mixture marinating into the meat, while the sauce has time to age and taste better. Meatballs often taste better the next day, when the flavor really sets in, but will still taste excellent the same day.

Ingredients

This recipe doesn’t call for many ingredients. You can also decide for yourself how much fat you’d like in the meatballs. Some people like a leaner, more dense meatball, while others like a slightly fattier meatball made with a higher fat content ground beef. Usually between 85%-90% is a safe bet.

  • * 2 pounds ground sirloin beef
  • * 1 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • * 3/4 cup grated cheese
  • * 5 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • * 3 eggs

For the sauce:

  • * 2 cans crushed tomatoes
  • * 1 can diced tomatoes
  • * 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • * 5 fresh basil leaves, large
  • * 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • * 1 tsp coarse ground black pepper
  • * 1 tsp sea salt

Directions for the sauce:

1. Combine the olive oil and minced garlic over medium heat. Sauté the garlic lightly until just brown. Add remainder of the ingredients to the crockpot.

2. With a fork or vegetable masher, mash the tomatoes until it is part of the sauce, not just chunks.

3. Bring the sauce to a near boil, stirring occasionally, then simmer on low.

Meatball Directions

Meatballs almost always taste better the next day. Why? The sauce combines and has time to truly combine and absorb into the meatballs, while the spices fully become part of the sauce, not just separate specks of spice.

meatballsUnlike many other crockpot meals, this one might take a while from start to finish. However, it’s preparation time is minimal. Once you shape the meatballs, you’ll be ready to just throw them in the sauce and let them simmer until dinner.

1. Combine the beef in a large bowl with the bread crumbs, grated cheese, and eggs. Stir well.

2. Using clean hands, combine the ingredients, along with the basil. Smoosh the ingredients and beef well together until thoroughly combined.

3. For leaner meatballs and a less greasy sauce, preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Place the meatballs on a wire rack resting on a cookie sheet. Cook for approximately 20 minutes, until the meatballs have cooked slightly to release some of the fat while cooking. You can also cook the meatballs in the crockpot only for a more tender, juicy meatball.

4. Add the sauce to the crockpot and turn the sauce on high. Add the cooked (or uncooked) meatballs to the sauce. Cook on high for 2 hours, then switching to low for an additional 4 hours. More time may be required for meatballs not cooked in the oven first (approximately an extra 90 minutes).

5. Test a meatball before serving. Internal cooked temperature should be 160 degrees F. Cut open the meatball to see if the inside is pink as well. If the inside is slightly pink, cook the meatballs another hour and recheck. Serve immediately with your favorite pasta or in a sandwich!

6. Cool the crockpot meatballs thoroughly before placing in a fridge. A hot crockpot can heat up a fridge in no time and spoil your other food.

Remember to stock up on your favorite cheeses like provolone, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese, and buy a box of your favorite pasta. With a loaf of Italian bread and a salad, this is more than a complete meal!

Happy eating!

Baked Chicken Parmesan Recipe

The problem with most homemade chicken parmigiana recipes, like most Italian food, is the high calorie and fat content. By baking, you can reduce the amount of fat drastically. This healthy, homemade baked chicken parmigiana recipe doesn’t lack any of the taste, and actually can be crispier than the pan fried version. Top it with some fresh tomato sauce, serve with some pasta, and you’ve got an entire Italian feast on your hands!

The great thing about chicken parmigiana is that the ingredient list is very short. All you’ll need is some great fresh garden salad, bread and pasta to go along with it for a full Italian feast.

Ingredients:

  • * 1 fresh mozzarella ball
  • * 1 package of lean chicken breasts, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
  • * 2 Tablespoons of fresh chopped basil
  • * 1 (28 oz) can of crushed tomatoes
  • * 1 (28 oz) can of diced tomatoes
  • * 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • * 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • * 2 whole eggs, beaten
  • * 1 Tablespoon minced garlic

Have this simple baked chicken parmigiana dish ready and on the table in no time flat with these simple directions!

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly spray a large glass baking pan with cooking spray, or lightly rub with olive oil.

2. Prepare the beaten eggs in a separate dipping bowl, and the breadcrumbs in a separate dipping bowl. Dip each piece of chicken in the egg mixture, then the breadcrumbs. Coat both sides. Place in the glass cooking dish.

 

3. After all of the pieces have been dipped and coated, place the chicken in the oven for approximately 30 minutes, until the chicken is fully cooked and not pink. Internal temperature for chicken should be 165 degrees F when chicken is done.

4. Meanwhile, while the chicken is cooking, place minced garlic and olive oil in a large saucepan. Lightly brown the garlic and olive oil on low heat, then add the diced tomatoes. Cook the diced tomatoes until slightly softened, then add the basil and crushed tomatoes. Simmer the sauce for approximately 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Add salt and pepper to taste.

5. Top the chicken with small pieces of fresh sliced mozzarella. Bake the chicken for an additional 5-10 minutes, until melted. Serve immediately with fresh cooked pasta and tomato sauce.

 

Fresh ingredients can make all the difference between taste and blandness. Use fresh basil to give sauce a good garden fresh taste, while fresh mozzarella can pack huge flavor by just using a small sliver. If you’re trying to cut back on calories, the use of fresh garden spices instead of the dried variety will actually make your recipes taste better instead of missing flavor when switching to lower fat variety cheeses.

You can reduce the fat and calories even further by using nonstick cooking spray and lower fat variety mozzarella cheese. Whole grain pasta and bread are also great substitutions.

Make It Into a Chicken Parmesan Sandwich!

Ingredients

  • Chicken parmesan cutlets (already cooked)
  • 2 cups marinara or homemade tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella or provolone cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil (optional)
  • 1 loaf french bread
  • or 1-2 loaves ciabatta bread

Instructions

  1. Take the already prepared chicken parmigiana while it’s still hot and preheat an oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut the french bread or ciabatta bread in half. Spread the olive oil onto each half. You can optionally shake parmesan cheese or basil onto the bread. Place the cutlets on top of the bottom side of the bread, then top with sauce, one teaspoon at a time to your liking until covered. Do not use too much or the bread may get soggy. Find the sauce recipe here.
  3. Top with mozzarella or provolone cheese, then bake on a baking sheet for 8-12 minutes, until the cheese has melted and the bread has lightly browned. Serve immediately.

Easy Pasta Primavera Recipe

pasta primaveraMake Your Own Garden Fresh Veggie Pasta Primavera in Minutes!

Pasta primavera is one of the best Italian style dinner dishes if you’re craving garden fresh vegetables along with pasta. This recipe can be easily prepared in just minutes for dinner, and tastes great leftover. Serve it with some fresh Italian bread and you’ve got a great Italian meal on your hands! Read on for directions, and be sure to switch it up with any veggie selection you crave or that’s in season.

Ingredients for Vegetable Pasta Primavera

summer squash

A few basic ingredients make up this simple, classic Italian dish. There are hundreds of different variations of pasta primavera or vegetable primavera on the web, most of which consist of a light base, along with fresh squash, carrots, broccoli, and other spring vegetables. As the seasons change, you’ll be able to switch out vegetables for what’s in season, whether it’s mushrooms, parsnips, fresh garden tomatoes, or peas.

  • * 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • * 1 whole zucchini, peeled
  • * 1 whole yellow squash
  • * 1 fresh garden tomato
  • * 1 teaspoon minced garlic (or one fresh garlic clove, small, minced)
  • * 1/2 cup fresh chopped basil
  • * 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • * 2 Tablespoons fresh grated parmesan cheese

Directions

This recipe doesn’t take long to make. If you have around 25 minutes to spare, you can have this recipe on the table. It’s also versatile, so you can switch up the veggies in any combination. Add broccoli, garlic, cherry tomatoes,

1. In a large skillet, saute the olive oil and garlic for 3 minutes on medium heat. Add the vegetables to the skillet and cook for approximately 10 minutes.

2. Prepare pasta according to package directions. Set aside.

3. Add the basil, black pepper, and parmesan cheese to the mixture of vegetables. Cook on medium until the sauce starts to thicken. Add additional cheese to thicken the sauce if desired, or add one teaspoon of heavy cream, simmering slowly.

4. Add the pasta to the vegetable mixture. Heat on low, and stir to combine. Top with additional grated cheese if desired. Serve immediately.

Homemade Neopolitan Pizza Dough Recipe

Buying pizza dough in the stores just isn’t as good as the homemade stuff. It’s easy to make your own homemade pizza dough, and it won’t take that long either. This recipe will also make a batch of a few doughs for several pizzas, so you can enjoy homemade dough for several meals!

This classic style pizza is a Neopolitan recipe. Neopolitan style pizza crust is not oily, but bulky and doughy. It’s also low in salt compared to other pizza recipes. To spice the crust up, if desired, add fresh basil, garlic, additional salt (we use sea salt), pepper, parmesan, rosemary, or sun dried tomatoes. Letting the dough sit out a little longer may also yield a different sourdough-like taste.

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make it:

* 4 cups white flour, sifted

* 1/2 teaspoon salt

* 1 1/2 envelopes yeast

* 1 3/4 cup warm water

For the toppings, you’ll need:

* 3/4 lb mozzarella cheese (thin sliced)

* 2 Tbsp. olive oil

* 1/4 tsp salt

* Marinara

* Pepperoni, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, or other favorite toppings

Directions

This pizza is incredibly easy to make. The recipe here will make 2 x-large pizzas, or 3 large pizzas. Double the recipe and store some of the dough balls in the freezer, wrapped in plastic wrap for quick, easy pizza dough available whenever you need it. Be sure the dough is securely wrapped to prevent the dough from drying out. Try placing it in a sealable bag in addition to plastic wrap.

1. Place the flour on a smooth cutting board or pastry board. Combine the yeast and warm water in a container and throughly mix. Add the yeast water to the flour in a large bowl, and knead the mixture together.

2. Work dough into a ball, and cover. Let the dough rise in a warm place for 2 hours, until the dough has roughly doubled in size.

3. Place the dough on a floured surface and pound lightly to deflate the air from the dough. Divide the dough into 2 pieces. Stretch one of the doughs over a pie plate or on a pizza/cooking stone. Flour the bottom of the stone, or lightly grease a pan with olive oil.

4. Sprinkle the dough with oil, sauce, cheese, and toppings. Use oregano, salt, pepper, basil and spice if desired. Cook at 400 degrees F. for 20 minutes, or until the crust has lightly browned.

Tips for a Better Pizza

Here are some ideas to make your pizza taste a little better next time around:

* Use fresh mozzarella cheese instead of pre-bagged shredded cheese. Fresh mozzarella has a better taste, and tastes great on pizza.

* Use fresh spices instead of dried. Dried spices are good when nothing else is available, but when possible, try fresh basil and oregano on your pizza. This adds immense fresh flavor.

* Make your own pizza sauce. Instead of using a jarred sauce, make your own. A delicious sauce can be made cheaper and much better than the store bought pre-made variety. Use crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, and spices and experiment to find a combination you like.

* Try brushing the crust with Extra Virgin olive oil. This adds flavor to the dough, and the better the olive oil, the better your pizza will taste. It will also moisten the pizza slightly.

* Instead of making a round pizza, you can make a square or rectangle. This will make the middle of the pizza have no crust, which might please some of those people that don’t like eating crusts.

* Add baby spinach leaves, broccoli, and other vegetables to vary up your pizza. Try making a theme pizza, like pineapple chicken, BLT pizza, or spinach and mushroom.

Dig in!

Tortellini with Peppers and Eggplant

tortellini with eggplant and peppersIn just around 35 minutes, you can have this delicious tortellini with peppers and eggplant dish right on your table. You won’t even have to make the tortellini from scratch, just buy the best cheese tortellinis you can find. Also, choose fresh eggplant and peppers at local farmstands. Avoid soft spots in your eggplants, and choose blemish free peppers (it doesn’t matter if they are shaped normally).

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch strips
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch strips
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic (fresh)
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 pound cheese tortellinis
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley (or 1 Tablespoon dried parsley)
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmigiana cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. On medium heat, place a large skillet over the flame with olive oil. Add the minced garlic and saute for one minute. Add the eggplant and peppers and saute for 5 minutes. Add in the salt and pepper, sauteing the veggies until slightly softened (usually another 2 minutes).
  2. Add the red pepper flakes, stir for one minute.
  3. Add the tortellini and the vegetable broth. Simmer and stir occasionally, until the tortellini have absorbed most of the broth (about 15 minutes).
  4. Stir in the parsley and parmigiana cheese. Serve immediately with extra parmigiana cheese.

The intro tortellini photo is by jeffreyw on flickr.

To get in the mood for this recipe while you cook, be sure to pick up one of our original Italian t-shirts today!

How to Make Lasagna in Under 20 Minutes

There’s nothing better on a night that you’re super busy than having a backup lasagna that you can throw into the oven and just bake without preparation. Contrary to what you might be thinking, lasagna couldn’t be simpler to make. Just boil the noodles, spread the sauce, the cheese, and repeat layering. It’s a pretty basic process! And, with most boxes of lasagna, you’ll get just about two pans worth of lasagna (if you’re using small trays anyway). Enough of all that, here are the ingredients and directions on how to make lasagna in under 20 minutes! If you guessed that this is just the preparation time, you would be right! A dish this good does take some time to cook in the oven, but for homemade lasgana, isn’t it worth it?

Ingredients:

  • One box of 16oz lasagna (they have whole wheat versions available in stores)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 12 oz can diced tomatoes (I recommend Muir Glen)
  • 1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • One large container of ricotta cheese (use part skim for a lower fat cheese, 32 oz.)
  • One block of mozzarella, approximately 16 oz (the harder mozzarella, not the soft fresh variety), shredded

Directions:

  1. Boil the lasagna according to the package directions.  Add salt to the boiling water to avoid the pieces from sticking.  Note: Since your lasagna will be baked, it’s best to cook your pasta just until done, or al dente for best results (and to avoid mushy pasta!).
  2. Drain the pasta after it’s done cooking, set aside. Mix the eggs and basil in a large bowl. Add the ricotta cheese to the egg mixture.
  3. In a saucepan,  cook the garlic and olive oil on low for approximately 3 minutes. Do not let the garlic burn. Add the drained diced tomatoes to the oil and garlic. Simmer the diced tomatoes for 10 minutes, then crush them with a fork or large wooden spoon. Add the crushed tomatoes to the mixture.
  4. Spread a small amount of the sauce mixture on the bottom of the pan. Layer the pieces of lasagna in a glass pan, alternating the direction of each piece. Place a dollop of sauce on top of the pieces, then spread it out. Add a dollop of ricotta mixture on top of this, spreading this out while trying to keep the sauce and cheese mixtures separate.  Sprinkle the cheese on top of the lasagna, then layer with another layer of pasta. Repeat the ricotta, sauce, and cheese layering until the pan is full, topping the final layer with shredded mozzarella.
  5. If you plan on freezing your lasagna, skip this step, and wrap aluminum foil over the top of the pan and freeze. You can defrost the lasagna ahead of time before cooking, or throw it directly into the oven and heat for an additional 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Place the lasagna in the oven for approximately 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

Now, all you’ll need is a good salad and loaf of Italian bread, along with one of our Italian t-shirts and you’ve got a great Italian meal on your hands. Make a double batch and you’ll have plenty of this to freeze, and an easy meal on hand for those busy nights! Also, this will feed a large group of at least 6 hungry people per small dish of lasagna.