Home Cooking · Italian

If At First

Homemade Veggie Lasagna

A few months ago I attempted, and failed at, making homemade ravioli.  I was resolved that once I got my stand mixer I would try again to make my own rolled dough, and after a month of psyching myself up I finally did it!  Having the stand mixer not only greatly reduced the extreme mess, it also allowed me to focus more on what the dough looked like to insure the right balance of flour, egg, and oil.  I also made sure to take the time to let the pasta rest, and in the end I had dough that was rollable and edible.   I thought about making ravioli, or tortellini again, but wanted to make sure I could handle the basics first.  So I cleared off the space where my microwave once sat, laid out the parchment paper, and got to work.   I divided the dough into three sections to make the rolling more manageable and occasionally got out my hubby’s measuring tape to see how thick the dough was.  For the filling I used a combination of vegetables, based on what I found in the local section of the grocery – gotta love hothouse vegetables in December!


I’m not sure if I’m ready to try long noodles or shapes yet, but I’m hoping that after a few more goes at lasagna and ravioli I’ll have the rolling technique down enough to start cutting the dough.  If that ever happens I can promise a very happy blog post.

Home Cooking · Quick Weeknight Recipes

Take You There

Ricotta Kugel

I apologize in advance for the brain dump of a post that is to follow, but this is what happens when one decides to see The Hobbit and then go to work the next morning.  I keep telling myself that functioning on four hours of sleep is practice for later in life, but the truth of the situation is I am not as young as I use to be and midnight showings are no longer worth the exhaustion that follows.   However I’m sure by time the next Hobbit movie comes out, I’ll have forgotten all about this and still go to the midnight showing.

Today’s recipe has nothing to do with The Hobbit and everything to do with one of the few dishes I’ve had to make over and over and over again in an attempt to make it edible.  I was in college the first time I attempted to make kugel, using a recipe from a book that will remain nameless because it was just bad.  The dish was cloyingly sweet, putting it a far cry from the amazing kugel I had experienced in Poland only a few months prior.  I tried tweaking that recipe, and recorded my attempts, but it never came together.  I then switched to a recipe I found on AllRecipes.com which had the right level of sweetness but was too dry and more rock-like than pudding-like.   With that I decided to combine elements of both recipes while adding/subtracting a few things until I finally came up with the variation that worked best for me.


This recipe still has an element of sweetness to it, without going too far into the “should be a dessert” category.  For the rest of my Hanukkah inspired recipes please check out: Spinach Potato Knish, Cream Cheese Bread, and Sweet Potato Latkes.

Update: This post was written just prior to the horrible incident that happened today in CT.  My thoughts and prayers, and those of my family, go out to the families and victims of today’s horrible crime.  I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around the senselessness of what happened and can only hope, wish, pray, and dream that something like this never happens again.  

52Weeks · Home Cooking · Italian

We’re Gonna

(My attempt at) Homemade Pasta

I’m a horrible Italian.  Why?  I can’t make homemade pasta without cursing, yelling, and occasionally throwing something.  I can do pie crusts and when the moon is properly aligned with Venus I can roll pizza dough, but there is just something about pasta dough that I can’t quite conquer.  I’ve attempted pasta a dozen or so times and have had something edible at the end of it maybe three of those times.  On all those other occasions I had to call in Chinese or Thai in order to insure there would be dinner.  I have tried a variety of recipes, from Pioneer Woman to Joy of Cooking to Martha to Fabio and the end result is always the same: super sticky dough that requires so much flour that they turn in to a gluten mess once cooked.  However last week I tried again, thanks to the /52weeks homemade pasta challenge.  I thought about skipping it and just moving on to the baking challenge, but I had promised myself that I would give every week my best try and so I did.

The bad things:

  • few survivors – had to make some dry pasta to supplement
  • very chewy
  • I can’t make pasta

The good things:

  • great ricotta filling made with the last of the fresh basil and assembled by my amazing husband
  • delicious onion sauce
  • awesome arm workout trying to roll out the dough

I used the standard 1 cup to 2 eggs ratio, and doubled it with the idea that there would be enough for two dinners and two lunches.   For the filling I had two cups of ricotta cheese, 8 basil leaves, and a touch of pepper.  Once I finally figure out this pasta thing I promise I’ll post a real recipe…just not sure when that will be!I’m thinking that if I had a stand-mixer I could get the pasta attachment and then maybe (maybe) I would finally be able to make homemade pasta on a semi-regular basis.  Until then it will be good old store bought pasta for this family!


Take My Hand

Swiss Chard Pasta

I want to start this post with a quick garden update, mostly because I actually have a garden to give updates on!  At this point I have 14 tomatoes, including one that is starting to redden.  I also have 21 peppers, including two on my red bell pepper plant!  With the peppers I think I should have the first one in the next week or so with the rest following soon after.  I am starting to work some pepper recipes and can’t wait to test them with my own fresh veggies!  I’m just hoping that the strong wind we have been having lately doesn’t take out any of my lovelies.

This recipe doesn’t feature tomatoes or peppers however it does feature a vegetable that is in season and often overlooked.  I had my first taste of Swiss Chard about 15months ago, at Old Town Alexandria’s Majestic.  It was served as part of an amazing cannelloni dish along with fresh cheeses and a wicked cream sauce.   Quick disclaimer:  my memory has been labeled as freaky however the reason for such detail is my first experience with Swiss Chard happened to be my first “real” date with Joe so…I remember these things.  However it wasn’t until reading about a dozen blog posts about amazing CSA reens that I finally got the courage to try cooking it on my own.  I stuck with a basic pasta dish in order to make sure the chard had a chance to shine.  Finding out the sauce turned a pleasant pink shade was an added bonus.

Ingredients: (serves 4-5)

  • 1/2 lb Ziti (or other tubular) noodles
  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1/2 vidalia onion, well diced
  • 1 lb Swiss Chard, well rinsed and coarsely chopped (cut off the bottom of the stem)
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese


  1. Cook the pasta according to the directions until al dente.  Drain and return to pan.
  2. Meanwhile heat the olive oil over medium heat, once hot add the garlic and onion.  Cook 5 minutes, until garlic starts to turn golden.  Add the swiss chard is slow amounts, letting it wilt before adding more.  Cook until the chard is tender, about 7minutes.
  3. In a small bowl mix the ricotta cheese with the vegetable stock.  Pour over the drained pasta and toss before mixing in the chard mixture.  Season to taste with salt and pepper then top with the Parmesan Cheese.  Serve warm!

This recipe is quick and simple and a great way to try out a new green most would work well in this recipe.  I am looking forward to testing out some other chard recipes to see what else I can turn pink and will hopefully have tons more to share.


Shake like a Giovanno

Stuffed Shells

In doing the post for this past month’s International Incident Party I started thinking about all the different meals I had growing up and realized I don’t make many of them very often.  Stuffed shells would be one of those meals, and it’s mostly because I’m afraid it won’t be as good as the ones my mom makes.  So I decided to branch out and make them totally different, that way they aren’t directly competed with my mom’s shells.  These are also perfect for a Meatless Monday since they come together rather quickly and should please even the pickiest eaters.
– 1 lb large shells
– 1 lb ricotta cheese
– 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
– 1/4 cup onions
– 1/2 cup mushrooms
– 2 cloves garlic
– 2 cups of favorite tomato sauce 
– 1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1. Cook the shells per the directions on the box.  Rinse and set aside to cool.
2. Preheat oven to 375 and place 1/3 cup of the sauce on the bottom of a large casserole dish.  
3.  Place the cheeses, onions, mushrooms, and garlic in a food processor and blend well.  Stuff the cheese mixture into the shells.  To stuff use one hand to gently pinch the shell open and use the other hand to spoon in the cheese mixture.  Pastry bags can also be used to stuff the shells.  
4. Place the shells in the casserole dish cheese side up, gently layering the shells if needed.   Top with the remaining sauce and cover.  Bake in oven for 35minutes.
5. Remove from the oven, top with the shredded Mozzarella Cheese and bake an additional 20minutes, uncovered or until cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbling.  Serve and Enjoy!

While these might not be mom’s shells they are still amazing and make a great quick dinner.  The vegetables inside can be switched up, try some sun-dried tomatoes or green peppers for a slight twist on things.