My Favorite Macaroons–Traditional Style for Passover

macaroons for passover

I am not sure why I only make these macaroons during Passover. They are definitely my favorites; they are very easy to make, look totally professional, and are the Passover cookie in my book. These can be made ahead of time and stored. I usually make a few days before the Seder because I dip them in melted chocolate (just the tops). You don’t have to dip, you can leave plain. I dip up to 1/2 the macaroon in the chocolate. They are sweet and crunchy on the outside, and moist and chewy on the inside. After Passover, if there are any left over, I freeze them. Cannot have them lying around. Of course you may make these any time of year…they are always welcome on the menu.

*When dipping, just turn macaroon upside down (with top part into the chocolate). I usually go just a bit more than the top (probably 1/2 the macaroon into the chocolate). Use as much or as little as you like.

*just a little note, silpat is awesome to use for this recipe instead of parchment paper. You must cool completely before trying to lift off the paper. Also before you dip into chocolate I like to cool down completely.

This could be a fun recipe to do with your kids. A little messy but whatever — desperate times call for desperate measures right? They may not come out uniform but the kids could fun have making them and dipping them.

Stay Safe and Be Smart

Ingredients:

3  large egg whites (When I bake, I always leave eggs out so that they are at room temp.)

1/2  cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 package (14 oz.) sweetened, flaked coconut ( I like this Angel Flake Baker’s Brand, but they’re all fine)

*1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips (You can really use any semi-sweet chocolate to melt. It’s just easy with the chips.)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (you can use non stick cooking spray, like Pam, but I just line with parchment, which works really well).

In a large bowl, whisk together egg whites, sugar and salt until frothy. With a fork, stir in coconut until moistened.

Using a level tablespoon (measuring ones are perfect), pack the mixture into the spoon, so all macaroons are equal size. Drop mixture onto prepared sheet (cookies will not spread). Bake until golden brown, about 25 – 30 minutes. Towards the end, check on them to be sure they don’t burn. I make a little peak with my fingers on the cookies before I bake them (this makes for easier dipping). You can also just leave the top round — this is perfectly fine.

*To melt chocolate on stove top: I bring a small saucepan of water to a rolling boil, and on top of it put a small stainless (oven proof) bowl filled with the chocolate.( works like a double boiler if you don’t have one) When it completely melts, take off heat. Once macaroons are completely cool, you can dip the tops. Just make sure chocolate and macaroons are cooled off first. Just dip top of cookie in chocolate and place on a plate to cool. When I am all done, I refrigerate the macaroons to set the chocolate. You can leave in fridge until you are ready to serve and take out with enough time to bring to room temp. Before serving, I usually use a cool cookie sheet with parchment paper to cool off cookies once they’ve been dipped.

*should yield about 20 – 25 cookies. You can double if you’d like.

Peach Farfel for Passover – crowd favorite

 
This is most definitely a “must have” Passover recipe.  It has been a winning recipe ever since my friend Audrey gave it to me many years ago. This one is probably one of the most favorite Passover staples. Recipes are funny in that -they tend to spread out to a wide group of people and people start passing them down to their people and so forth and so on and before you know it no one remembers where the original recipe came from , they just remember that it was on their Passover table and they can’t imagine a Seder dinner without it.  Enjoy this one; it is sweet and makes for a delicious side dish with poultry or beef. This has always been a crowd pleaser. I know, the amount of eggs is obscene on this holiday! This one has 7 eggs in it!!!!!

Make this part of your Passover tradition, you’ll be happy you did.

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Ingredients:

1 box matzoh farfel (I think it’s in a canister now) you will need 16 ounces of the farfel

2 15 oz. cans sliced peaches

7 eggs

2 cups sugar

1 tsp. salt

2 sticks margarine, melted

2 tsp. vanilla

4 cups hot water

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place dry farfel in a bowl, then pour hot water over it. Let stand until absorbed.

In a separate bowl, combine eggs, syrup from peaches, salt, sugar, margarine, and vanilla. Add farfel and combine well. In a well sprayed 9 x 12 baking dish, pour 1/2 the mixture, then arrange a layer of peaches on top. Add remaining mixture on top, then top with remaining peaches. Sprinkle with just a bit of cinnamon if you’d like. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Serve hot out of oven, or room temp. It is quite delicious at room temperature, if you don’t have the room in your oven, and it makes for a pretty awesome leftover.

Can be assembled, cooked 1/2 way through, then cooked the rest of the way through on the day of the holiday.

Chicken Cacciatore

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My daughter Jennifer turned me on to this delicious and I do mean delicious recipe. Original recipe from Giada de Laurentis . I took a few liberties with it and it turned out just perfectly. I only used 4 thighs and 2 breasts with skin on and bone in, if you’re not comfortable with the skin I would take out skin but leave the bone in.  I am certain that  there is enough sauce for at least 1 more thigh and 1 more breast , there was more than enough sauce.  I served over brown rice and it was just perfect. . I used my Le Creuset pot and it was a one pot meal. Thanks to Jenn for pointing it out to me, this one is a keeper.

Ingredients:

4 – 6 chicken thighs with skin on and bone in– I actually used 8 smallish thighs last night and no breasts this is your call

2 -3 chicken breasts skin on and bone in — if breasts are large cut in 1/2 or have butcher do it

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

1 box ( 8 oz.) of Mushrooms, I used sliced Cremini ( Baby Bella)

3 tablespoons of Olive Oil

all-purpose flour for dredging

1 large red bell pepper, chopped

1 onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

3/4 cup white wine

1 28 oz. can of diced Tomatoes with juice

3/4 cup chicken broth

1  1/2 teaspoons of dry oregano

*1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper — totally optional but added a nice little kick

*3 Tablespoons drained capers — added a wonderful layer of briny flavor also your call if you don’t like capers

*fresh basil for serving 

Directions:

First thing I do is dry all the chicken pieces on paper towels, this will help hold the salt and pepper and make a crackly crust. Sprinkle dried chicken pieces with Salt and Pepper generously. Dredge the chicken pieces in flour to coat lightly. In a large heavy pot ( I used my Le Creuset) heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the chicken pieces to the pot and saute till just golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. If all the chicken doesn’t fit , do it in 2 batches, I did thighs and then I did breasts. Transfer the chicken to a plate with tongs and set aside. Add the bell pepper, onion and garlic to the same pan and saute over medium heat until the onion is translucent and pepper is soft, about 8 minutes. Then add in mushrooms  season with salt and pepper and cook for another five minutes.  Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 4 minutes.  Add the tomatoes with their juice, broth, and oregano.  Then return the chicken to the pot and turn chicken pieces to coat in the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Continue to simmer over low-medium heat until the chicken is just cooked through, at least 30 minutes, I cooked for 40, and chicken was perfect.

Using tongs, transfer the chicken to plates. If you’d like you can boil the sauce without the chicken till it thickens, my sauce was perfectly thick. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve.

The last time I made this I prepared in the morning and took it out at about 4 p.m. in the afternoon — brought it to a low simmer on the stove top for an hour or so and it was totally delicious and heated through. A low simmer should be perfect and the lid of pot was open a bit for steam to get out and I stirred it every once in a while. Making the night before is also perfect! The longer the flavors marinate the better.

I served over rice but you can serve over pasta as well. Fettucine would be most perfect here.

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Passover 2021

Things seem to be moving in a good direction with vaccines on the horizon and so many of us already vaccinated. This Passover may be a little smaller than in the past but at least for some of us we can be together with family and friends. Keeping it smaller of course is fine for now.

As always I will start posting my Passover recipes. I may sneak in a new one if I can make it in time .

I have been posting these recipes since 2011 and I try and compile a list of all the recipes. If you’re a subscriber you can just put Passover into the search bar on my site and most of the recipes will come up. If you’re searching for a particular recipe i.e. My Favorite Macaroons that recipe will come up if you put it in the search bar. If you’re having difficulty you can always google the recipe title along with cooking with candi and it should come up this way. If you still can’t find it email me in comments with any questions or comments I would love to hear from all of you.

These are my tried and true recipes which have been in my family now for quite some time. The first night of Passover is March 27 and I will be posting some of these recipes over the next week.

Have a very Happy Holiday from our house to yours.

Here is my list of tried and true:

Passover Recipes

Homemade Chicken Soup with not so Homemade Matzoh Balls

Passover Popovers

Traditional Ashkenazi Charoset

Slow Cooked Brisket

Happy New Year Brisket-– perfect for any holiday any time of the year–perfect for any holiday any time of the year

Un- Stuffed Cabbage–Probably one of my personal favorites in place of Sweet and Sour Meatballs and also frees up the oven because this is made on stove-top

Grandma Regina’s Farfel–My Grandma Regina lives on in this recipe and is always on our Seder Table– it’s a little difficult to make but totally delicious if you get it right

Honey Roasted Chicken

Chicken Marbella

Old School Meatballs

Apricot Honey Mustard Chicken

Peach Farfel — a must just ask anyone who’s ever made it

Bree’s Slow Cooked Steaks— I sometimes make this in place of brisket– I use the slow cooker so it frees up my oven

Karyn’s Cranberry Apple Crisp for Passover--a must have for every table you can even serve it as dessert if you prefer

Judy’s Apple Matzoh Kugel for Passover

Sweet Matzoh Pudding

Spinach Souffle for Passover–so very easy and it’s a vegetarian but it is Dairy so if you’re kosher this won’t work for you

Passover Cobbler

My Favorite Macaroons— Traditional Style for Passover

Julie’s Brownies for Passover

Chocolate Bark Surprise

Marcy’s Matzoh Crunch Candy-– super delicious and easy and very addictive– a most amazing dessert for Passover

Meringue Cookies

Ellen’s Passover Apple Cake

Matzoh Brei

Enjoy it all and I am looking forward to hearing from you and if you’d like post a story on Instagram and tag me — thanks in advance

Chicken Stew in One Pot

This is one of  my go to meals when the weather turns a little cold and throughout the winter months and as it is still snowing out here in Colorado it’s most perfect.   When I need something to make that’s very easy, healthy and comforting. Food for the soul I like to say. I serve this with crusty bread,  and a green salad. It’s very filling and makes a beautiful presentation for 2 or 6. Hope you enjoy, it’s really very easy , just chop up a few vegetables (carrots, onions, and celery, a basic *mirepoix) open a few cans and buy the chicken, don’t be intimidated by ingredients! This recipe inspired from Giada de Laurentis’s chicken stew. I have made a few changes to suit my taste. Perfect weeknight meal.

*should serve 4-6 nicely with 4 nice size chicken breasts

*Basic Mirepoix is a combination of chopped carrots, celery and onions used to add flavor and aroma to stocks, sauces, soups and other foods. Usually comprised of 50% onions, 25% carrots, and 25% celery.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 stalks celery, small bite size pieces

1 carrot, peeled, cut into small bite size pieces

1 small white onion chopped

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 can chopped tomatoes ( I use San Marzano diced) large 28 oz. can with juice

16 oz. chicken broth (1/2 box) but you may need a bit more so hold on to rest of the box.

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon dry thyme

I use 4 chicken breasts with ribs ( I usually go to butcher order 2 chicken breasts with bone in, split in two) if you go to supermarket, either buy 2 large breasts, or 4 smaller ones. Skin on and Bones in! app. 1 1/2 – 2 lbs. total weight. You will be removing the skin, it will add to the flavor of the stew.

1 can red kidney beans drained ( if using organic, do not need to rinse) 15 oz.

1 can black beans drained ( if using organic , do not need to rinse either) 15 oz.

nice crusty whole grain bread

*hot sauce like Cholula is great served on the table so people can adjust seasonings on their own

*last night I served over rice as I didn’t have any bread in the house

Directions:

Heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy 5 1/2 quart. pot. ( Le Creuset again) heat over medium heat. When oil is hot add the onions, celery , and carrot (Mirepoix mixture). Saute the vegetables until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. You will taste again towards the end, so if you want to hold off on this step you can. Stir in the tomatoes with their juices, chicken broth, tomato paste, bay leaf and thyme. Then add the chicken breasts , press to submerge in the sauce.

Bring the liquid to a slow simmer. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer gently uncovered until the chicken is almost cooked through, turning the chicken breasts over and stirring mixture occasionally, app. 30 minutes. Using tongs if you have them, if you don’t , buy them, remove the chicken to a plate and allow to cool ( about 15 minutes) Discard the bay leaf, add the beans to the pot ( remember to drain) and bring to a simmer until the liquid is reduced to a stew-like consistency, probably another 15 minutes or so.

Discard the chicken skin and bones from the chicken breasts. Shred or cut the chicken into bite size pieces. Return the chicken meat to the stew. Bring the stew back to a slow simmer. Season again with salt and pepper to taste.

I usually cook , then turn off heat, and bring it back to simmer right before serving.

This should serve 6 well. I serve with a nice crusty whole grain bread. Everything is in the pot, veggies, and protein. Enjoy! it’s delicious. Don’t be put off, it’s really easy to prepare, can be made ahead of time.  If it’s made a few days ahead you may want to add the chicken broth to thin out.

Baked Pasta with Lamb

This recipe comes from The Barefoot Contessa new cookbook Modern Comfort Food. It is delicious and a worthwhile departure from baked pasta with beef. Lamb gives it a rich layer of flavor that is just perfection on a plate. The book is worthwhile and has some great recipes in it if you’re still buying cookbooks. Perfect Sunday night dinner or any night dinner. Enjoy!

BTW this is what I did if you want to see her recipe in full you can look at it on The Food Network . I made a few changes to suit us.

Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil

1 large yellow onion — chopped

2 cups diced carrots ( 3 large)

1 pound ground lamb

3 cloves minced garlic

1 Tbsp. chopped fennel seeds , rough chopped

2 Tbsp. Tomato Paste

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

2 1/2 cups dry red wine, Chianti or Malbec

1 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 lb. Whole Mozzarella ( I used Fresh ) but don’t worry if it’s not and 1/2 lb. Grated Mozzarella

Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper ( or coarse black pepper)

1 pound box of pasta such as Rigatoni, Ziti, Penne etc

2 Extra large eggs

2/3 cup heavy cream

1 lb. Mozzarella , divided

1/2 cup Italian Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven ( Le Creuset) over medium heat. Add the onions and carrots and saute till softened for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally . Add the lamb, garlic and fennel seeds and cook for another 10 minutes, breaking up the lamb with a wooden spoon until no longer pink. Stir in the tomato paste, tomatoes, 2 cups of the wine, the oregano, red pepper flakes, 1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer partly covered for about an hour, stirring occasionally. When it is finished cooking after the hour , remove from heat and add the final 1/2 cup of red wine.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees . Prepare pasta according to box directions until barely al dente. Drain and allow to cool for a few minutes before adding to the cheese.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and cream. Add the cooled down pasta and mix well. Add the 1/2 lb. grated mozzarella into the mixture. Add the cooled down lamb mixture, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper and toss well. This is why you need a large bowl.

Transfer whole mixture to a 10 x 14 baking dish and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Slice the whole mozzarella and arrange it on the top ( see pics) Bake for 40 – 45 minutes, until the sauce is hot and bubbling and some of the pasta is crusty on top. Times may vary

Braised Chicken with Coconut Milk and Tomatoes in One Pot

Bone in Chicken Thighs work beautifully here as they cook up rather quickly and are very tasty . I browned them first and gave them a nice crust and then they get braised in a beautiful tomato sauce with coconut milk and amazing spices. It’s stew like in consistency and I served over rice. Any rice will do . I added some red peppers and it was enough of a meal on it’s own with the rice. Bread would be lovely if you’d like to soak up the remaining sauce . A nice green salad would work well here as well.

Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 1/2 – 2 lbs. bone-in , skin-on chicken thighs, at room temperature

Kosher Salt and Black Pepper

2 Tablespoons grapeseed or Canola Oil — I used Grapeseed

1 medium red onion thinly sliced

4 garlic cloves minced

1 2 “piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced

1 teaspoon ground Cumin

1 teaspoon Curry Powder — I use Spicy Curry Powder use whatever you like

1/2 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

1/2 pint of grape or cherry tomatoes– I left them whole

1 Red Bell Pepper– cut into thin strips

1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes with their juices

1/2 (13 oz.) can full-fat coconut milk — save the rest of can if you feel the sauce needs more– I didn’t use it

1 Tbsp. Tomato Paste

*handful of roughly chopped fresh cilantro — totally optional

Directions:

Pat chicken thighs dry and I placed on a baking sheet and sprinkled kosher salt and coarse black pepper all over

In a deep 12 inch pot or pan — I used my cast iron Le Creuset –perfect. add the 2 Tablespoons Grapeseed Oil till oil gets hot enough to add chicken ( medium-high heat) I use tongs and place the chicken skin side down, let them brown up nicely without disturbing them for about 5 minutes using the tongs you can look at them and make sure they’re lightly golden not burning. Flip and brown the other side for about 5 more minutes . If too hot you can lower the heat. When finished transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.

Turn heat to medium-low add the onion and cook until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, curry, cumin, cinnamon and red pepper flakes, cook for a minute or so then add in the red pepper strips and cook down for a few minutes till peppers are softened.

Add the can of tomatoes with their juices , the tomato paste, fresh tomatoes ( I left them whole), and the coconut milk , stir until combined and scrape up all the brown bits that may have formed on bottom of the pan. Nestle the chicken back into the skillet ( do not submerge the chicken) Simmer uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has had a chance to thicken slightly ( if too thick add a little more coconut milk) Taste the sauce for Salt and Pepper. Cook anywhere from 30 – 40 minutes more. If you have a meat thermometer you can test for chicken doneness (165 degrees) I probably cooked for 40 minutes. Then if not crispy enough put whole pot under broiler in the oven for a few minutes but be careful not to burn the chicken.

I divided rice into bowls and plated chicken and sauce on top , Sprinkled a little cilantro and we thoroughly enjoyed this very flavorful dish.

Making Pizza at Home with store bought dough

Making pizza at home with store bought dough is one of my favorite things to do. It’s easy once you get the hang of the dough and I found a few tricks along the way which help make it easier. The real trick to the dough is letting it rise and come to room temperature. If you try to work with cold dough out of the fridge it won’t work . You will need a rimmed sheet pan as well. I keep some dough in the freezer and take it out the night before and let it defrost in the fridge and the next day about 4 hours before I am using I place it on the counter ( in the sun even better) and let it rise and come to room temperature. There are many places to buy dough and you’ll have to find the best one by your home. I buy in Whole Foods when I am in Colorado and in NY Trader Joes , Whole Foods and your local pizza place or bakery will probably be happy to sell you a ball of dough. .Dough will need at least 3 – 4 hours to rise outside of the fridge. Nothing will happen to it so just set it out on the counter — I open the bag and let it rise away. My ingredients are simple and if you follow instructions you should be fine. Don’t be discouraged if the first few times it doesn’t come out perfectly — it took me a few times with the dough to really get the hang of it. Give it a try!

This is what I do and these are my instructions:

Ingredients:

1 bag Pizza Dough — for 4 people I make for 2 and we always have extra slices

16 oz. Pizza Sauce — if I have homemade I use that if not I always have a jar of Raos Arrabiata or Marinara on hand

Italian Seasonings — dry app. 2 tsp. you’ll have to eyeball it

flour for stretching dough — this is a must

Olive Oil Spray for spraying baking sheet — I like this better than using olive oil — either one will work on baking sheet

Parmesan Cheese

Shredded Mozzarella — app. 8 oz. more or less

Directions:

Let dough rise. Read notes above. Keeping the store bought dough on a counter for at least 3 hours or more. It will keep rising in the bag so I usually open the bag to give it room to rise. If you’re defrosting it do so overnight in fridge and then take it out the next day. You’ll notice it rising in fridge ( at least it should)

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees — very important to get oven hot so make sure you’re oven is pre-heated

Spray baking sheet with Olive Oil Cooking Spray or using a brush lightly coat bottom of baking sheet with Olive Oil . I use a 12x 17 rimmed baking sheet . You don’t need a pizza stone.

Stretch the dough. On a clean surface ( counter top ) I put down a light amount of flour (enough for both sides) and you can always add more , the dough will help to expand the dough. Place raw dough on top of flour, coating each side. Begin stretching the dough by pinching the outside in a circular motion to spread it out. I put my fists under the dough to stretch ( you don’t need a rolling pin) You can alternate between pinching the dough with your finger, pressing it out on your work surface, and using your knuckles to pull the dough from underneath in circular motions. Usually a few motions will get the dough stretching. When it’s large enough gently transfer to the prepared sheet pan. I spread it out thin in center and more dough around perimeter ( crust) if there are holes in your dough pinch together dough or fold over the dough in that spot and get rid of them . I spread it out all the way to cover entire baking sheet . Don’t worry about your dough being a perfect shape. All pizza is delicious and beautiful.

Bake the naked pizza dough in the oven at 450 degrees for 7 minutes. During this time prep your toppings. I am sort of a purist so it’s sauce, cheese , and seasoning. Never add the toppings to raw pizza dough.

After par-baking the pizza dough, remove from oven and raise temperature of oven to 500 degrees. ( make sure it gets to 500) I add my sauce — spreading it out on dough, I leave a little room around perimeter ( see photo) , dried Italian seasoning ( if you’re using) parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese . Obviously if you have other toppings you want to use this is the time to add.

Bake the pizza at 500 for another 10 minutes — all ovens vary so check on it after 7 minutes.

I like my cheese fully melted and a little brown in spots. Let it cool off for a few minutes before slicing .

I use a pizza cutter and get 8 slices .

Let me know how this comes out — tag me on Instagram story — I would love that.

these are some photos from current pizzas and past pizzas–sometimes they come out better looking than other times but they always taste incredible! No such thing as an ugly pizza in my book.

Italian Chopped Salad

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The weather is starting to warm up and sometimes it’s nice to have a salad for a meal. I love a chopped salad as much as the next one, and I especially love an Italian chopped salad with delicious Italian ingredients.  Delicious ingredients , and I made my dressing the day before , cut salami and cheese the day before. Just had to assemble salad the day we were eating it. When you do all the prep before it’s pretty easy . Also if you just like to use one kind of lettuce use whatever you like. I like a combo of iceberg and romaine lettuces in here and sometimes I just use romaine . It’s key to chop/shred lettuce into bite size pieces. This is obviously a loose recipe so change out whatever you’d like to suit yourself. You can absolutely leave out the meat if you’d like and go vegetarian here.

Ingredients:

1 head romaine lettuce cut into bite size pieces or whatever lettuces you like

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1/2 head iceberg lettuce , shredded or chopped up

1 cup rinsed canned red kidney beans, patted dry

1 cup rinsed canned garbanzo beans, patted dry

8 ounces of hard salami, cubed–use a really good salami. If you have an Italian deli near you that’s the best .

6 ounces of provolone cheese, cubed–also use as good a provolone as you can find.

baby plum tomatoes or cherry tomatoes cut into small pieces

*of course some chopped up green or black olives would be really nice

Red Wine Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon honey

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 cup olive oil

Freshly Ground Pepper to taste

Mix the vinegar, lemon juice, honey and salt in a blender. With the machine running , stream the olive oil in gradually. Taste for salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble all ingredients in a large bowl for a nice presentation and dress salad as you’d like or do it individually.

Unstuffed Shells

While I really love stuffed shells ( see recipe ) sometimes I just don’t feel like futzing with stuffing those big shells. This was delicious and had all the flavor of the stuffed shells I usually make without all the work. This is a great family meal and made as is should serve 6-8 depending on your eaters and what else you serve with it. No hassle and delicious and of course you can substitute ground turkey or ground chicken , I like ground beef and use the 85/15 version because I like a little fat in the sauce but lean ground beef is fine. Turkey can be very dry so try and get dark meat or at least 85/15 .

Prep Time was about 1/2 hour all in and cooking time another 45 minutes app. Serve with a nice green salad and you’re good to go.

You can prepare the dish, according to the directions, cover with foil and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Bake the following day according to the directions. I don’t add mozzarella on top till I am baking.

Leftovers can be left up to 3 days in the refrigerator and I promise they’ll be gone by then.

Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

1 small yellow onion — diced small

1 pound ground beef — use whatever you’d like see note above

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 24 oz. jar marinara sauce — or homemade sauce if you have it on hand I personally love Raos Arrabiata which has a slight kick or you can use just plain Marinara — whatever brand you like and whatever type you like

16 oz. shell pasta , uncooked usually 1 bag or 1 box

1 8 oz. block cream cheese, room temperature and that’s important because you’ll need to mix with other ingredients — leave it our for a few hours

1 cup Ricotta — I use part skim just not fat free

1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese

1 egg, whisked

1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning

app.1- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt — for meat sauce and for cheese — divided I added about 1/2 teaspoon to sauce and 1/2 teaspoon to cheese — you can taste both for salt and pepper and add or decrease to your own taste

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper — a little for sauce and a little for cheese mixture

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

app. 2 cups grated low moisture mozzarella cheese — part skim is fine just not fat free

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees if you’re baking now. Spray 9×13 Baking Dish with non stick spray. Set aside

Meat Sauce Assembly:

Add the olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add in the onions and cook for about 5 minutes till soft and translucent. Add in the meat and cook till no longer pink, I sprinkled some kosher salt and black pepper here as well. Just a little because you’ll add more to the cheese. Taste sauce for Salt and Pepper when finished. Add in the minced garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Drain any excess fat or liquid from the pan and place back onto the heat. Add in the marinara sauce and stir to combine. Turn the heat to low and let it simmer while you do the next steps.

Pasta:

Prepare Pasta al dente according to the package directions and allow to drain thoroughly

Cheese Mixture:

In a large bowl stir together the cream cheese, Ricotta Cheese, Parmesan Cheese, egg, Italian Seasoning, salt , black pepper and crushed red pepper. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and taste for salt here as well. Next add the cooked cooled drained pasta to the bowl and stir until evenly combined. If pasta is too hot when you add it the cheese will start to melt so let pasta just be cooled down enough.

Assembly:

Spread half of the meat sauce in the bottom of the prepared pan. Top with pasta mixture and then spread on the remaining meat sauce. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil from the top of the dish and bake for an additional 10 – 15 minutes till cheese is slightly browned and casserole is bubbling .

*if not browning quickly you can place under broiler for a quick few minutes but be careful –you wouldn’t want to burn it so keep an eye on it

Enjoy!

I was bringing this casserole to someone so made it in an aluminum tin usually a large pyrex is perfect .