Weekly Recipes: Italian Favorites

By Jim Donahue

I have a passion for all food, as is evident by my body mass. LOL. But several different ethnic varieties of cuisine really peak my interest, Italian being one. Towards that end, today I would like to share with you some of my favorite Italian recipes. I have prepared all of these recipes, and they are easy as well as delicious.

CHICKEN PICCATTA

Ingredients:

12 oz chicken breasts
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/4cup lemon juice
1/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/3 cup capers
1 can artichoke hearts (packed in water, not oil)
1 package sliced mushrooms

Preparation:

Coat chicken with flour. In a large skillet, cook garlic and oil over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until garlic is pale gold.

Add chicken and brown 2-3 minutes on each side.

Add lemon juice, artichokes, capers and mushrooms.

Simmer, covered, for about 30-35 minutes.

Turn and baste the chicken occasionally. Cook until chicken juices run clear.

If you have never tried capers (I hadn’t), this is a great way to start. They add a nice spiciness to the sauce.

EASY CHEESE LASAGNA

Ingredients:

1 jar (28 oz) spaghetti sauce (look for a lower-calorie/lower fat one)(I like to use a spicy spaghetti sauce because otherwise the lasagna tastes bland to me)
6 uncooked lasagna noodles
1 15oz container of fat free ricotta cheese (I use FF cottage cheese)
1-2 cups chopped raw vegetables, such as mushrooms, broccoli, bell pepper, zucchini
8oz shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 375. Spray an 11×7 dish with cooking spray.

Spread 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of the dish.

Arrange 3 noodles in a single layer over the sauce.

Top with another 1/3 of the sauce, all of the ricotta cheese, the vegetables, and 1/2 of the mozzarella cheese.

Lay the next 3 noodles on top. Spread the remaining sauce over the noodles. (Some people also drizzle 1/4 – 1/2 cup of water around the edges, though I don’t.)

Cover the dish tightly with foil. Bake about 1 hour or until noodles are tender. Take the foil off.

Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese, and bake uncovered for 5 minutes longer.

Let stand 5 minutes before cutting.

Tips: It’s important to put the foil on the pan tightly because it’s the steam that cooks the noodles.

If you remove the foil but find the noodles aren’t completely cooked (poke them with a knife), use a spoon to push the noodles back down under the sauce.

Recover the pan with the foil and return.

DEEP-DISH PIZZA CASSEROLE

Ingredients:

1 pound ground round
1 15oz can chunky Italian-style tomato sauce
1 10oz can refrigerated pizza crust dough
6 1oz slices part-skim mozzarella cheese

Preparation:

Cook meat in a skillet over medium-high heat until browned, stirring until it crumbles.

Drain any grease. Add tomato sauce and cook until heated.

While the meat cooks, spray cooking spray on a 13×9 baking pan.

Unroll pizza dough and press into the bottom and halfway up the sides of the baking pan.

Line the bottom of the crust with three slices of the mozzarella cheese.

Top with meat and tomato mixture.

Bake, uncovered, at 425 degrees for 12 minutes.

Top with remaining 3 cheese slices and bake an additional 5 minutes or until the crust is browned and the cheese melts.

 

CHEESY CHICKEN STUFFED SHELLS

Ingredients:

8 jumbo pasta shells
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups reduced-fat Ricotta cheese
1 small skinless chicken breast, cooked and cubed (good use of leftover chicken)
1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and with extra water squeezed out
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 cup reduced-fat mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350.

Cook the pasta shells in boiling water. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop them cooking further.

Coat a 13×9 inch pan with cooking spray. Spread 1/2 cup of tomato sauce over the bottom of the pan.

For the filling, in a large bowl stir together the egg whites, Ricotta cheese, cubed chicken, spinach, garlic powder, and the Italian seasoning.

Stir in 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese and 1 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese.

Spoon the filling into the shells and place the filled shells in a single layer in the baking dish.

Spread the remaining tomato sauce on top of the shells.

Sprinkle the shells with the remaining cheeses.

Bake about 30 minutes.

That’s all for today. If you would like to send me a recipe for publication, email me at donahue@guardianexpress.net

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