Baked penne is an easy classic to make, and just one of the many Italian dishes that I make on a regular basis. We eat a lot of Italian in my house, much to my daughter’s annoyance. But, really, who can pass up pasta, tomato sauce, and melted cheese? If you can, you are way stronger than I am. Of course, I did not use a recipe for the Baked Penne, but I do have a few little quirks that make my dish my own.
I used the Barilla Piccolini Mini Penne, I like the smaller pasta sizes, so I buy the mini versions whenever I can. I used three different meats in the dish, ground beef, ground turkey, and ground sausage. Throw in an 8 oz. bag of shredded cheese, either mozzarella, pizza blend, or a combination. Toss in a jar of spaghetti sauce, and my secret ingredient, a little bit of zesty Italian dressing (a trick I learned from Kraft Foods). Mix in all in a baking dish, bake covered at 350˚ for about 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 10 minutes.
Baked penne is main stay in my house because it is a hit with everyone in the family. This is one of those dishes where the leftovers are just as good, if not better than the first time around.
During a recent trip to Italy, I fell in love, not with a person, but with Gelato! If you have never had gelato, you must try it. It is a creamy, yet icy, yet fruity dessert that is to die for. My favorite, by far, is limone (lemon), followed by fragola (strawberry). By the end of my trip, I had mastered one phrase perfectly, “Due palline di limone, per favore!”, translated to, “Two scoops of lemon please!
Strawberry and Lemon Gelato. Photo taken in Vicenzia, Italy.
I have not found authentic Italian gelato here in North Carolina, so I think it is time that I try to make some. I have found a couple of recipes that I want to try, so I’ll let you know how the gelato turns out.
Who needs a recipe when you have frozen chicken breasts, barbecue sauce, Minute Ready to Serve Brown & Wild Rice, and frozen broccoli? The night before, I had decided to defrost chicken breasts, but did not know what I was going to make. My husband had recently bought a new George Foreman Grill, so I decided to grill some chicken.
I pounded the defrosted chicken breasts flat, sprinkled on some salt and pepper, dredged them through a bowl of barbecue sauce and tossed on the grill. What a mess that was! I then remembered why I stopped using my old grill, some things make a huge mess on the George Foreman Grill. I spent almost as much time cleaning the grill in between pieces of meat, as I did cooking. Despite my frustration with the mess, the end result was great!
While the chicken cooked, I steamed the bag of frozen broccoli in the microwave, followed by microwaving the rice for 65 seconds, not the 60 seconds on the package…it tastes better that way. I threw in a little butter and salt on both the broccoli and rice, and, “Dinner’s Ready!”
No complaints from anyone. It was a simple tasty dinner that was made on one of our busy nights, not too much work on my part.
There are days when I would love to exercise my gourmet chops, and then there are days when I just need food on the table…NOW! These are the days when I have been up since 5 am, worked all day, and when I get home, I have less than an hour to get dinner and help with homework, before dashing back out to cheer practice or a cub scout meeting. Sometimes on those days, if I do not already have a meat pre-cooked, waiting for me at home, I will dash into the grocery store and pick up a rotisserie chicken. In the past, I would just grab some packaged mashed potatoes and a jar gravy…voilà, dinner! Unfortunately, the kids have gotten bored with my go-to meal, and my youngest recently declared that he no longer like mashed potatoes…ugh. Time to find a new twist on my old standby, and I did. I discovered ‘BBQ Chicken Mac’.
I make a dish called ‘Cheeseburger Mac’, so ‘BBQ Chicken Mac’ peaked my interest and I gave it a shot. We loved it and the dish could not be simpler to make.
BBQ Chicken Mac
1 pkg. macaroni & cheese
2 cups diced cooked chicken or shredded rotisserie chicken
1/3 cup – 1/2 cup barbecue sauce (I like honey bbq)
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used pizza blend)
1 tsp. pepper
Prepare the macaroni & cheese according the package directions. Add the shredded cheese, 1/2 cup barbecue sauce, and pepper. Cook and stir until heated through. Toss the cooked chicken with the remaining barbecue sauce and place on top of macaroni. Serve with vegetable of your choice, or a tossed salad.
My younger two kids initially did not want to try my BBQ Chicken Mac, opting instead to just have macaroni and cheese with the chicken separately. After seeing their older brother and me eat, they decided to try it and they both loved it! My daughter had a helping of BBQ Chicken Mac for seconds.