Candele Lunghe in a Tomato Beef Sauce

Can also be called, ”Worms in Tomato Sauce” for the older boys and girls that delight in a little bit of “ILLLL!” and “YUCK!” and similar squeals of the Halloween season. This is great to make on Halloween, before the kids go out trick or treating. You can make this ahead and just heat it up in the oven, the day of. Or you can even make it over the weekend and freeze it. (Just defrost before baking.) This is great for an adult Halloween party also! If you can’t find candele lunghe you can use bucatini in its’ place. And you can certainly use ground turkey instead of the ground beef, I actually prefer turkey over beef any day, but found free range, grass fed organic ground beef that I couldn’t pass up. You can always make this dish vegetarian also! It’s really important, to use a marinara sauce that isn’t laden with oil, otherwise the pasta will be swimming in oil and you will get an ill and a yuck, but not the kind you were anticipating, that comes with a giggle, lol. Enjoy and have a happy weekend!

  • 1 pound candele lunghe pasta,broken in half, cooked al dente
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 5 small tomatoes, like Campari, roughly chopped equalling a cup
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
  • 1 24 oz. jar good marinara sauce (or a little larger)
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1 juniper berry
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 clove
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Begin by heating up a drizzle of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan, add the beef, juniper berry, bay leaf, clove, paprika, salt and pepper. Saute the meat until browned, breaking it up as needed and cooked through, set aside. In the same pan, add a drizzle of olive oil and saute the tomatoes and the garlic on low heat for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes and garlic are cooked through. Add the jar of tomato sauce and cook for ten minutes. Discard the juniper berry, bay leaf and clove and add the beef to the sauce.

Use a nice amount of olive oil when cooking your pasta, so they don’t stick to each other. Stirring the pasta often. Drain carefully and , use tongs to handle the hot pasta and spread out the noodles on parchment paper, so they don’t stick to each other. Spoon 2 cups of the sauce down in a 13×9 pan and top with a layer of tightly packed candele lunghe.

Spoon on 1 cup of ricotta cheese. Follow by 2 more cups of tomato sauce. Top your sauce with another tight layer of the pasta. Spoon on another cup of ricotta cheese, followed by a layer of pasta. Ending with the remaining tomato sauce. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top and bake in a 350 degree, preheated oven for 30 minutes. This serves 6-8.

Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi with Rosemary Mushrooms

The cooler weather has me craving good old comfort food, that sticks to your ribs and leaves you happy. And gnocchi never disappoint! I had about a cup of pumpkin puree left over from making my “Corn & Pumpkin Soup with Wild Rice” (October 2nds’ post) and wanted to make gnocchi. I never made them before and was excited and I used Hank Shaws’ recipe that was featured on Simply Recipes and it came out great! What a nice recipe! I adapted it a little bit because I was in a rosemary and mushroom mood, and when a rosemary and mushroom mood hits, you gotta go with it! lol Nice recipe to make on a weekend where the leaves and temperatures are falling outside but the temperature inside is nice and warm from the gnocchi boiling away on the hot stove. Enjoy and happy weekend!

  • 1 cup of pureed pumpkin
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups sifted flour plus more for dusting
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon finely minced rosemary plus 1/4 teaspoon finely minced for mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced shallot
  • 10 oz. baby bella mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • sea salt
  • 1 porchini mushroom bouillon cube *optional
  • chives for garnish *optional

First combine the pumpkin, ricotta cheese and eggs. Stir in the rosemary, pepper and sea salt. Put your mixture in the middle of a large board. Using a fork, add in the flour, little by little. I did about 1/2 a cup at a time. Once the dough was too thick to mix, I used my hands to incorporate the flour. If doing this, it’s best to have a buddy next to you, adding in the flour for you. The dough will still be sticky but form it in a ball and transfer it to a board that is coated with flour. If you can, roll your ball in flour or with your hands rub more flour on the surface of your dough. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 4 pieces.

Take each ball and form into about a foot long log, rolling and pulling the dough along. Cut your log into about 1/2 inch strips. As you cut it will flatten the dough so squeeze the ends of each cut strip with your fingertips to make it more of a gnocchi shape.

Bring your water to a boil and add in your bouillon cube. If not using the bouillon, that’s fine, you can use sea salt. You want enough water in the pot, so the gnocchi have room to cook. Drop in your gnocchi, a little at a time, in about 8 batches. I rolled, cooked along the way, each gnocchi roll was cooked in 2 batches. But for ease, having all the gnocchi formed and then boiling them is best. Cook them for 2 minutes each until they start bobbing up towards the surface. You want the broth boiling on high heat. Using a strainer spoon, take the gnocchi out and let them drain in a colander. Cook all of your gnocchi and set them aside, reserving a little bit of the cooking liquid. To make your rosemary mushrooms, in a large, heavy bottomed pan, combine the butter and the shallots. Saute on low heat until softened for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add in in the mushrooms and saute for ten minutes, until they get lightly browned. Add in 2 tablespoons of the broth, if not using broth, you can skip this step. Continue cooking your mushrooms for another 15 minutes. Once your mushrooms are soft, increase the heat to high, until most of the liquid is evaporated. It doesn’t take that long, but it really depends on how much liquid the mushrooms have released. Add in your gnocchi and the rosemary. Season with sea salt and saute until the gnocchi are browned a little bit. Add in the heavy cream and stir until the cream has thickened. Garnish with chives and enjoy nice and hot! This makes 4 servings.

Rigatoni & Asparagus with Lemon Ricotta Cream

Over easy eggs can finish a meal like nothing else. And this creamy and lemony pasta dish is complete once it’s topped with a silky smooth, over easy egg. Once the yolk breaks over the dish and falls into the tiny crevices of the rigatoni, there is nothing more you need! The best part of this dish, it’s so quick to put together! This is great in a pinch for dinner but I think it would be nice served for brunch also. This serves 3-4 people.

  • 1/2 pound rigatoni, cooked al dente
  • 1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed to the length of the rigatoni and blanched
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream
  • freshly grated nutmeg, just a touch
  • fresh ground pepper
  • sea salt
  • 3-4 eggs
  • 3-4 pats unsalted butter

When I cooked my rigatoni, about half way through I threw in the asparagus but if you are unsure of times, you can cook it separately. (Anything to avoid more dishes, lol) Combine the ricotta cheese, heavy cream, lemon zest, juice, nutmeg, salt and fresh ground pepper until well combined. Into the lemon ricotta cream, pour in the rigatoni and toss  gently until each piece of rigatoni is coated. Top each serving with an over easy egg cooked in butter and pass around the freshly ground pepper. Enjoy!

Grilled Dried Peaches over Rosemary Ricotta

I wish I was the type of person that revelled in dessert making. Getting lost in that creative process that ends with a sweet reward. Pies from scratch, cupcakes freshly frosted and cookies cooling are never in my kitchen. All of my effort is given to making the main meal. I’ve made a cheese cake, once, being the first and last time. It had a crack that ran so deep, my soul went into it with all hopes of making a cheesecake ever again, lol. And with inspiration taken from my Atkins dieting days where ricotta cheese and a zero calorie sweetener was such a treat, this recipe was born. It’s like eating a piece of creamy peach cheesecake, without all of the effort. And the touch of rosemary is nice because it makes it more earthy and a little savory but you can always go without if you are not a fan. Serves 2.

  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • a few rosemary leaves, minced *optional
  • 2 dried white peach halves* Trader Joes carries them and I store them in the freezer, great for a mid-winter snack when peaches feel far far away!
  • non-stick cooking spray

Soak the peach halves in water for about 45 minutes. Heat up your grill and spray your peaches and grill for a few minutes on each side. Grill them until you have some nice grill marks. You really have to watch them because they can easily burn. Pull them off when they are ready and let them cool a bit. Once they are cool enough to handle, cut them into strips, cubes would be great also. Combine the ricotta, honey, extract and rosemary. Garnish your ricotta with the peaches and some minced rosemary. Enjoy!

Checkerboard Tomato, Mozzarella & Ricotta Cheese Salad

One of the best things about summer are ripe juicy thin skinned tomatoes. Mmm…so end-of-the-summer-delicious when combined with mozzarella, ricotta cheese, basil and topped with a good extra virgin olive oil, freshly ground pepper and a good crunchy salt like Maldon. I like to serve this with a nice bread, extra olive oil, salt and pepper on the side. And if you want a little extra kick, you can serve a nice balsamic vinegar on the side also. I think this is a nice spin on a traditional Caprese salad and doesn’t take much more effort. If you want, you can always omit the ricotta cheese and throw in more Ciliegine. This serves 2, so double and triple as needed. Enjoy and have a great weekend! :)

  • 9 cherry size tomatoes, halved
  • about 6oz. ricotta cheese
  • about 1/2 a 8oz. container Ciliegine mozzarella, left whole
  • a few basil leaves, minced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • fresh ground pepper
  • sea salt

This recipe is for the amount pictured so it can give you an idea of how much this makes. This is would be great for a party! I used a 1&1/4 inch cookie dough scoop to form the ricotta cheese balls. Once you are ready to scoop, alternate the rows between tomato and Ciliegine and tomato and ricotta cheese. Sprinkle the basil over the mozzarella and ricotta cheese. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and ground pepper. Serve at room temperature.

*If you have any ricotta left over, June 25ths’ post, “String Beans & Pennoni” is a great way to use it up. ;)
You can check it out here at:

Arugula & Eggplant Antipasto

This is a quick antipasto to put together that doesn’t require too much time, as long as you have the eggplant made ahead of time. I happened to have some eggplant slices in the fridge and the arugula and ricotta cheese were calling the eggplants’ name. It’s a rustic dish that gets your appetite revved up, while taming it. Serve with grilled chunks of good bread on the side. Just delicious!

  • arugula
  • part-skim ricotta cheese
  • grilled eggplant slices, cut into squares
  • a few slices salami, cut into strips
  • a few sun dried tomatoes, ripped up or cut into strips 
  • a few basil leaves, ripped up or cut into strips
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • fresh ground pepper

The nice thing about this recipe is you can adjust it to your liking. Love salami? Add some more to your platter! To get your antipasto started, layer the arugula down on your platter, followed by the eggplant. If you need a good recipe for your eggplant steaks, follow the directions for “Grilled Eggplant Steak with Cannellini Bean Salad.” (July 25th’s post.) Dollop your ricotta cheese over the eggplant. Scatter some salami strips and sun dried tomato strips over the ricotta cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and top with the ripped basil leaves and fresh ground pepper. Enjoy!

String Beans & Pennoni

There was about a month that my mom went through a string bean phase. She made them every possible way that she could with tomatoes. Sometimes she put extra onions and garlic, other times lots of dill or parsley. She left them whole, other times she trimmed them short. Sometimes fresh tomatoes were used instead of jarred marinara sauce. I would barely finished the first batch and there was already a call that the next batch was ready. And she always said they were better than the last. lol. I ate alot of string beans, lol. And would remix the recipe sometimes, including a not so tasty string bean salad but mixing it with pasta was the best. And I found myself craving it the other day, and I think once you try it, you may too!

  • 1 pound string beans, trimmed to the size of the pennoni, cut at an angle
  • 1/2 pound pennoni, if you can’t find pennoni, ziti is a great substitute
  • 1/2 a small onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed and minced
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups good jarred marinara sauce
  • 1 cup of part-skim ricotta cheese *optional
  • chopped fresh dill, parsley or basil to garnish, whatever you are in the mood for. *optional

Bring enough water to a boil for the pasta and string beans. This is great to make if you are busy and want a quick home cooked meal. Once your water comes to a boil, add your pasta, string beans, a little olive oil and salt. What’s great is they cook at the same time. In a separate pan, saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil on low heat. Once they are transparent, add the mariana sauce and bring to a boil and simmer for ten minutes. Once your pasta is al dente, drain and toss with your marinara sauce. Divide among your plates. This makes about 4 generous servings. Top with about 1/4 cup of ricotta cheese and some fresh chopped herb. I used parsley because I found a beautiful bunch at the farmers’ market that I couldn’t resist. ;) Enjoy!

Bolognese Pasta Bake

This is perfect if you are making a nice dinner at home to celebrate the special men in your life on Father’s Day, whether they be your own dad, father to your babies, hubby or just an awesome guy. This dish takes some time to make but it is well worth the effort. Give the guys a day off from the grill, not that the gals can’t grill! That reminds me of the time my husband told his whole family how great my steaks are! We piled the steaks on the grill and of course, I was so happy to be surrounded by my family, I kinda forgot about the steaks. Oh yeah, you guessed it. They were as burnt as toast! We all scraped at our burnt steaks making a special music together, the scraping done in unison, lol. The steaks were tough, similar to beef jerky, extra burnt flavor added, lol. So…if you are a looking for that comfort food to comfort the special men in your lives, this is a great dish to make minus heating up the charcoal! ;)

  • 1 pound good ground pork
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped
  • 2 small carrots. finely grated
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 28 oz. can crushed peeled Italian plum tomatoes, if the tomatoes pieces are too big you can crush by hand
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a few grates of fresh nutmeg
  • a few grates of fresh cinnamon
  • about 3 small dried mushrooms
  • 1 allspice ball
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vegeta, or any all-purpose seasoning that you like
  • 1 pound of fun pasta, I used dischi, shells and rotini are great, any pasta that will ”hug” your sauce and cheese
  • 2 pound container part skim ricotta cheese
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a Dutch oven, heat your oil on low heat, add in your shallots and garlic. You want to watch this, don’t neglect it, the way I neglected the grill, lol. Stir often, you don’t want this to burn. And if any piece does burn discard it, it ruins the sauce. Low and slow is the secret to sweating the shallots and garlic. Once the shallots and garlic are translucent add your ground pork, breaking it up. You don’t want to brown the pork just cook it through. Add in your can of tomatoes, bay leaf, a little nutmeg and cinnamon (just a touch), dried mushrooms and the allspice ball. Cook covered for one hour and fifteen minutes on low heat. Stir often so it doesn’t burn. Remove the bay leaf, allspice, mushrooms and discard and add in 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter. Taste your sauce and add seasoning if you need to. Cook your pasta, on the slightly under done side, it will continue cooking in the oven. Add a tablespoon of unsalted butter to your pasta. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Take half the sauce and spread evenly in a 13 x 9 inch pan. Spread half the pasta (3 cups) evenly on top. Spoon half the ricotta cheese (2 cups) on top of the pasta. The trick to good cheese coverage is using a small spoon. And then using a spatula to spread it out evenly. Follow by layers of the remaining sauce, the rest of the pasta and the cheese. On top of your ricotta cheese you want to grate the Parmesan cheese. Grate it fine and cover every inch of the pan, the best part, crunchy cheesy topping. Put the pan in the oven for about 10 minutes, keep an eye on it and add more time if it isn’t as brown as you like. Pair this up with a green salad and dinner is served. Enjoy!

What a beautiful carb!

Ricotta Cheese Platter

Shared messy appetizers are great, piling different flavor combinations on every inch of bread is the best part! But my favorite is ricotta cheese, buttered corn and basil, just delicious! I’ve been obsessed with corn lately! Grilling the corn in their husks till burnt to later reveal steamy creamy yellow kernels of sweetness has been my thing! Eating the corn row by row as a kid, finding odd satisfaction in a clean bare cob.( I still do it now lol) It comes out perfectly clean. I wish I brought that same precision to house cleaning. lol So at first glance the corn looks a little out of place, but when combined with smooth cool ricotta cheese it becomes truly craveable!

  • 1 1/2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
  • a half a cup of fresh “cherry size” mozzarella (ciliegine), halved
  • 6 good small tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil, plus more for drizzling.
  • 4-6 slices good sliced bread
  • a few slices prosciutto, each slice cut in half and rolled up
  • 1 ear of corn
  • a pat of unsalted butter
  • a few basil leaves
  • a little lemon zest
  • fresh ground pepper

In a non-stick pan heat the olive oil and garlic on low heat until beginning to brown. Add into the pan your tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes, increase the heat to medium and saute for another 10 minutes, stirring often until the liquid evaporates and you end up with a thick tomato sauce, set aside. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add your ear of corn and simmer for 10 minutes, once cooled, with care, take a sharp knife and slowly run it down the length of the corn removing the kernels. In another non-stick pan heat the butter until sizzling and add the corn, a little sea salt and a minced basil leaf. Saute until lightly browned and set aside. Take your bread slices and drizzle them lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and throw them on the grill, flipping after a few minutes. Combine the ricotta cheese, lemon zest and ground pepper. Begin assembling your platter! Spread your ricotta cheese in the center and surround with the tomato sauce, corn, halved mozzarella, grilled bread slices, prosciutto, a few chopped basil leaves and finish it off with a drizzle of olive oil and  fresh ground pepper on the cheeses. Enjoy!

Cauliflower & Poppy Seed Ravioli with Roasted Asparagus

The first time I made this, was years ago, thinking the cauliflower would be a good filler for the ricotta cheese. I was trying to save some calories and it was pretty good! But it looked like it needed something and I threw in the poppy seeds and it really made this dish fun. This is great for a hearty vegetarian main course. Serve with crusty bread and fresh butter and a garden salad, and I think everyone will be happy.

  • 1 small head cauliflower, trimmed so you only use the florets, boiled until soft, drained well and mashed
  • 1 1/2 cups part skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 package wonton wrappers
  • 5 roasted garlic cloves (minced), from an olive bar, (only if you have on hand, I was craving olives the other day and threw these guys in the mix and they were left over, ate the good stuff first, lol)
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vegeta seasoning
  • 1 big bunch young and tender asparagus drizzled with olive oil and salt, roasted at 450 for 20 minutes
  • some unsalted butter, for sauteing the ravioli
  • 1 jar good Vodka sauce
  • some mint leaves, (optional)

Combine the cauliflower, ricotta cheese, garlic cloves, Vegeta seasoning (if none on hand, that’s okay just use a good all-purpose seasoning that you like) and the poppy seeds. Stir well incorporating everything. Start making your raviolis! Take a won ton wrapper, add a tablespoon of filling in the center, dip your finger in water and draw a line around the edges and top with another won ton wrapper and seal closed.

Set up your ravioli station with a few large plates, one for the just made ravioli, one for the cooked ravioli. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Throw in about 2 at a time into the boiling water. They cook very quickly, they are done when they rise to the top. Scoop them out with a drainer spoon. Make sure they don’t touch each other, because they do stick. On medium heat, melt your butter and saute your raviolis, a few at a time. Top with asparagus, vodka sauce and some chopped mint leaves. I loved it with the mint, a fun little surprise! This serves 6 with about 4 raviolis each. Enjoy & Happy Weekend! :)