Monday, December 30, 2013

A Departure from Holiday Eating


Ah, the holidays. There is nothing like the richness and decadence of holiday eating. However, when you get too much of it, you really need a change of pace. What could be a better departure from holiday eating than Italian food? Still rich and decadent...just different. Yum!

World's Best Lasagna


1 pound sweet Italian sausage
3/4 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
2 (6.5 ounce) cans canned tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
12 lasagna noodles
16 ounces ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


In a Dutch oven, cook sausage, ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water. Season with sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons parsley. Simmer, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain noodles, and rinse with cold water. In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, remaining parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

To assemble, spread 1 1/2 cups of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Arrange 6 noodles lengthwise over meat sauce. Spread with one half of the ricotta cheese mixture. Top with a third of mozzarella cheese slices. Spoon 1 1/2 cups meat sauce over mozzarella, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers, and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil: to prevent sticking, either spray foil with cooking spray, or make sure the foil does not touch the cheese.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake an additional 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Source:, submitted by Johnchandler. You can find the recipe here.

Notes: Good stuff. With over 7,800 reviews and still rated 5 stars, you know it has to be a good one! I didn't get the best picture (I was hungry and in a hurry, so I didn't take the greatest care when serving up my portion of lasagna). So, don't judge this based on the picture. This lasagna is good stuff!

Chicken Parmesan


4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 eggs
4 cups panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, or more if needed
1 cup olive oil, for frying
1/2 cup prepared tomato sauce
1/4 cup fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup grated provolone cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil


Preheat an oven to 450 degrees F.

Place chicken breasts between two sheets of heavy plastic (resealable freezer bags work well) on a solid, level surface. Firmly pound chicken with the smooth side of a meat mallet to a thickness of 1/2-inch. Season chicken thoroughly with salt and pepper.

Beat eggs in a shallow bowl and set aside.

Mix bread crumbs and 1/2 cup Parmesan in a separate bowl, set aside.

Place flour in a sifter or strainer; sprinkle over chicken breasts, evenly coating both sides.

Dip flour coated chicken breast in beaten eggs. Transfer breast to breadcrumb mixture, pressing the crumbs into both sides. Repeat for each breast. Set aside breaded chicken breasts for about 15 minutes.

Heat 1 cup olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer. Cook chicken until golden, about 2 minutes on each side. The chicken will finish cooking in the oven.

Place chicken in a baking dish and top each breast with about 1/3 cup of tomato sauce. Layer each chicken breast with equal amounts of mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and provolone cheese. Sprinkle 1 to 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese on top and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Bake in the preheated oven until cheese is browned and bubbly, and chicken breasts are no longer pink in the center, 15 to 20 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read at least 165 degrees F.

Source:, submitted by Chef John. You can find the recipe here.

Notes: This was really good. Serve this with some spaghetti and your favorite marinara sauce, and a little side salad, and some garlic bread, and you are set!

Parmesan Cheese Straws


1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1 lb sheet of ready rolled puff pastry
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves (optional)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water and set aside.

Unfold the pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll it out to a 14- by 10-inch rectangle. Cut it in half lengthwise and brush both halves with the egg and water mixture.

Sprinkle the cheese and oregano, if using, over one rectangle and place the other rectangle on top, egg side down. Roll gently with a rolling pin to seal. Cut the pastry crosswise into 26 strips, each about half an inch wide.

Twist the strips and place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheet, pressing down the ends.

Brush with the egg and water mixture and bake in the oven for 10 minutes, or until golden.

Makes 26

Source: I believe my mom got this out of Parade magazine.

Notes: We had served this with our appetizer night. You can eat it on its own, or use it to dip into dips. However, we felt that this would be the perfect side dish to go along with an Italian dinner.

1 comment:

  1. These are both incredibly good recipes. The Lasagna is a basic, long cooking sauce, best restaurant quality lasagna. Very crave-worthy. And easier to make than you might think. Authentic.

    Loved the Chicken Parmesan. Niel always likes his restaurant made, but this was really good. Why, oh why, did it take me so long to discover Panko crumbs...all the crunch without the heavy fried taste. Yum.