Here we go again. Another quick, easy and delicious creation using up random ingredients from the refrigerator. I love making a meal out of leftover ingredients, do you?. This time, I had a few meatballs, some sauces and some cheese so it made perfect sense to throw it all together in a casserole. Out came this Easy Baked Pasta with Chicken Meatballs, Marinara, Pesto & Mozzarella Cheese. I know that’s a long title, but I had no clue what to name this dish.
I had a little bit of my basic marinara sauce leftover in the fridge, not really enough to do anything special with. Of course, it would have been simple enough to toss with some spaghetti and parmesan and call it a day. But I felt like being a bit more creative and wanted something different. Something with melty, gooey, cheese!
So I did a quick check through my bare refrigerator (I really, really need to go to the grocery store) to see what else I could find. I had exactly 6 chicken meatballs from a package I got at Costco, as well as half a jar of Pesto sauce (from Costo too, it’s really good if you don’t happen have any homemade), some pre-shredded mozzarella cheese and a chunk of parmesan cheese. In my pantry, I had an opened box of rigatoni with about a cup of dry noodles left in it. Sounded like enough ingredients to throw together a tasty little casserole.
While the rigatoni cooked, I browned the pre-cooked meatballs in a skillet. When the pasta was done, I drained it, put it back in the pot, added the meatballs, mixed it with the sauce, dumped it all in a small casserole dish and topped it with cheese. 20 minutes in the oven and dinner was served!
How’s that for a quick and easy dinner? Now I REALLY have to hit the grocery store (I don’t even have any eggs)!
Easy Baked Pasta with Chicken Meatballs, Marinara, Pesto & Mozzarella Cheese
- 6 meatballs (I used chicken, any kind will do, Could even use Italian sausage)
- 3/4 C. marinara sauce (homemade or from a jar)
- 1/4 C. Pesto (homemade or from a jar)
- 1 1/4 C. dry, rigatoni pasta (or you could use penne or ziti)
- 1 C. shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 C. parmesan cheese
- Garnish with chopped fresh basil, if desired
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and return to pot.
While pasta is cooking, brown meatballs in skillet (I used precooked meatballs from Costco). I cut them in half so they're not too big.
To the pasta, add meatballs, marinara and pesto. Stir to combine.
Pour into small casserole dish. Top with cheeses and bake for 20 minutes, until hot and cheese is melted.
Garnish with chopped fresh basil, if desired (I used a little rosemary for the picture because I didn't have basil)
I love a good homemade Italian tomato sauce. In the summer when tomatoes are at their peak I love to make my favorite no-cook tomato basil sauce. In the winter when tomatoes aren’t so good, I’ll make a big batch of this Basic Marinara Sauce that can be used in lots of different recipes. There’s just something so satisfying to me about making a pot of homemade marinara instead of opening up a jar!
This recipe is from Giada’s cookbook, Everyday Italian, and it’s a great sauce that is used as a base for many dishes. I changed her recipe ever so slightly to my liking. I’ve used it as is over spaghetti, I’ve added meatballs, used it in lasagna, etc. You get the idea. It’s a delicious, basic tomato sauce and can be customized to compliment the dish you’re making with it.
Giada uses canned crushed tomatoes in her recipe. I seem to usually have whole tomatoes on hand so that’s what I typically use, but it doesn’t matter, use what you have. I think the key in this recipe is to taste the sauce as it simmers and add a little sugar if you think its a bit too acidic for you. I also like to add dried basil to this recipe since I pretty much use basil in all my Italian cooking and if I don’t add it in this recipe, I usually add it to whatever dish I’m making with this recipe.
Once the sauce is cooked and cooled, I like to freeze it in one cup portions. That way, when I’m ready to make something with it, I just pull out as many cups as needed to defrost and I’m good to go.
Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis, Everyday Italian
- 1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 2 32oz. cans whole tomatoes (or crushed tomatoes)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- sugar, to taste, if you think it's needed, start with a tsp. and add accordingly.
In large pot, heat oil, add onions and garlic and sauté until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add celery, carrots, salt and pepper. Saute until vegetables are tender, about another 10 minutes. Add tomatoes (if you're using whole tomatoes, crush them first), bay leaves, and dried basil.
Simmer uncovered, 30 minutes. Taste and if you think it needs some sugar, add a little bit to your liking. Simmer an additional 30 minutes.
Season with more salt and pepper to taste, if needed.
I like to use whole tomatoes and crush them because I like to leave them a little chunkier than the crushed tomatoes texture. Either canned crushed or whole tomatoes works well.
This past weekend I asked my husband to pick up some passionfruit juice while he was out. I really wanted to make you all a Hurricane cocktail for Fat Tuesday yesterday. What he came home with was a bottle of V-8 Fusion Tangerine Passionfruit Juice. Not exactly what I was looking for. Then it snowed and I didn’t get back out to the store. Needless to say I didn’t make any Hurricanes for Fat Tuesday. But, not to be defeated…I made this delicious Tangerine Passionfruit Rum-tini instead.
This turned out to be one tasty little martini. Not too sweet or too strong. It has a nice fresh, citrusy flavor. A good martini for those of you who prefer your drinks less sweet. And for a more refreshing cocktail, try pouring it into a tall glass filled with ice and topped off with club soda…kind of like a mojito without all the work!
Tangerine Passionfruit Rum-tini
- 1 part white rum
- 2 parts V-8 Fusion Tangerine Passionfruit juice
- 1/2 lime, juiced
- splash of cherry juice (from the cherry jar)
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well, strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish with slice of lime and maraschino cherry.
Do you ever buy some kind of produce at the grocery store that looks good but have no idea what you want to make with it? Happens to me all the time. I always think once I have it, I’ll figure out what I want to make. And that’s exactly what happened recently with leeks. I made a visit to my local farmers market and picked up a couple leeks but had no idea what I wanted to do with them. I also had a couple potatoes leftover from making Clam Chowder last week so I thought a Potato Leek Soup would be a logical thing to make.
First, I have to admit I’ve never had potato leek soup before. Weird, huh? So with that in mind, I had no idea what it’s suppose to taste like. But that’s what I love most about cooking. Experimenting in the kitchen, making up something to eat without any real plan. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. This time it did.
I started off by sautéing the leeks in butter/olive oil with a bit of chopped garlic. Then I added some chicken broth, white wine, thyme, salt & pepper, diced potatoes and let that simmer until the potatoes were cooked. Once the potatoes were cooked, I blended the soup in the pot with an immersion blender, added some cream and gave it a taste. It had a nice, mild taste. Is that what it’s suppose to taste like? I don’t know. For me, I needed a bit more “zing” so I added some Old Bay Seasoning and that seemed to do the trick. If you don’t have Old Bay, it’s perfectly fine to omit. I liked it, so I added it to the recipe below.
- 2 leeks, sliced and cleaned
- 2 lg. Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced
- 2 Tbls. butter
- 1 Tbls. olive oil
- 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme (remove leaves from stems)
- 1 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 3 C. chicken broth
- 1/2 C. white wine
- 1/2 C. cream (I used light, but you could use heavy, or half & half)
Slice the white and light green portion of the leeks. Soak in water to remove sandy debris, then drain.
Melt butter and olive oil in soup pot. Add leeks and sauté until they soften. Add garlic, salt and pepper and cook another minute or two.
Add chicken broth, white wine, thyme, and Old Bay seasoning. Bring to low boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until potatoes are cooked and soft, about 15 minutes.
Blend soup with immersion blender. Add cream. Stir to combine and heat through. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.
Garnish with a bit of fresh, grated parmesan cheese, if desired.