Pasta with Sausage & Cannellini Bean Sauce

I made this sauce recently for both shell pasta and for a homemade gnocchi. The taste of the delicious sausage, paired with the creaminess of the cannellini beans was divine. It was so easy to make and really worth the effort!

Ingredients:
1 lb. Shell Pasta (Medium)
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
½ lb. Sweet Italian Pork Sausage, Casing Removed & Crumbled
½ lb. Hot Italian Pork Sausage, Casing Removed & Crumbled
1 Container Fresh Baby Spinach, Cleaned (approx. 5-6 oz.)
½ Cup Roasted Red Peppers, Sliced
1-15.5oz. Can Cannellini Beans
1 Cup Beef Broth
½ Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese,

Directions:
Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions (approx. 8-10 minutes). While pasta is cooking, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the crumbled sausage and cook for 6 minutes, until cooked through.

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Add the fresh spinach, roasted peppers and cannellini beans to the sauté pan. Saute for approx. 2-3 minutes, until the flavors have combined.

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Add the beef broth and cook for approx. 2 minutes, until heated through.

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When ready, drain the pasta and add to the sausage and bean mixture. Stir well to combine and heat through. Remove from the heat and add the grated parmesan cheese. Taste and season as desired.

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ENJOY!!

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Easy Foccacia, Sicilian Foccacia & Foccacia Sandwich

This recipe is incredibly easy to make (using premade pizza dough), and delicious. It can be used as the basis for Sicilian Focaccia (like Sicilian Pizza), or as the bread for a delicious Focaccia Sandwich.

EASY FOCACCIA
Ingredients:
2 Recipes Pizza Dough (either homemade or premade)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Dried Italian Seasoning

Directions:
Spray a large 12” round pan (2” deep) with nonstick cooking spray.

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Place two recipes of pizza dough in the pan. (1 ½ recipes works well too)

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Let the dough rise for about ½ hour, then push the dough down to cover the bottom of the pan. Press the dough down with your fingers so the dough becomes dimpled. Let the dough rise for approx. 1 hour and press again.

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When ready, sprinkle extra virgin olive oil on top of the risen dough. Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and dried Italian herbs to cover the top.

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Place in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake for approx. 30-40 minutes, until the dough is golden brown. Remove from the pan and place on a dry surface to ensure that the moisture on the bottom of the focaccia is absorbed.

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Cut and enjoy the cooked focaccia, or use as the basis for a focaccia sandwich (below).

SICILIAN FOCACCIA
Ingredients:
2 Recipes Pizza Dough (either homemade or premade)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Dried Italian Seasoning
1 ½ Cups Medium Provolone, Shredded
2 Cups Crushed Tomatoes

Directions:
Use the directions above to this point.

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Once the extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt and dried herbs are drizzled on top of the risen dough, layer approx. 1 cup of crushed tomatoes on top of the dough.

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Place in a preheated 350 degree oven, and cook for approx. 30-40 minutes, until cooked through and golden brown.

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After removing from the oven, top with the shredded provolone and dollop with additional crushed tomatoes. Return to the 350 degree oven and bake for approx. 15 minutes, until the cheese has melted.

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Remove from the pan and place on a dry surface to ensure that any moisture on the bottom of the focaccia is absorbed.

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Slice and enjoy!

FOCACCIA SANDWICH
Ingredients:
2 Recipes Pizza Dough (either homemade or premade)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Dried Italian Seasoning
Fresh Mozzarella, Prosciutto, Soppressata, Provolone, Roasted Peppers

Directions:
Using the cooked focaccia, slice in half, horizontally. Place the sandwich on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet. (Note – this sandwich can be cooked on a panini press instead of oven baked).

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Layer the bottom half of the focaccia with fresh mozzarella and sliced thin prosciutto.

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Continue to layer with sliced soppressata.

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Layer with sliced provolone.

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Cover with the top half of the focaccia. Place in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake for approx. 20 minutes, until the cheese has melted.

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Remove from the oven and slice. Serve with roasted peppers or sliced tomatoes, if desired.

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ENJOY!!

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

We went to a restaurant recently for Nicholas’ birthday. We enjoyed the most delicious bowl of buffalo chicken meatballs, served with crumbled gorgonzola and a light blue cheese sauce. This is my take on that recipe.

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Cup Diced Carrots, 1 Cup Diced Onions, 1 Cup Diced Celery
1 Cup Diced Scallions, 3 Tbsp. Sliced Garlic
1 Tsp. Kosher Salt
3 lbs. Ground Chicken
2 Cups Crumbled Feta Cheese (or substitute with crumbled Gorgonzola Cheese)
½ Cup Chipotle Hot Sauce
1 ½ Cups Seasoned Breadcrumbs
3 Eggs
1 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
Hot Sauce Topping: 2 Cups Hot Sauce, 1 Stick Butter
Blue Cheese Drizzle: ½ Cup Blue Cheese Dressing, ¼ Cup Heavy Cream

Directions:
Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the diced carrots, diced onions, diced celery, diced scallions and sliced garlic.

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Saute for approx. 30 minutes, until the vegetables have become tender and begin to caramelize. When ready, set the cooked vegetables aside and let cool.

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Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the ground chicken and crumbled feta cheese. (I only used feta cheese because the kids don’t like gorgonzola).

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Add the chipotle hot sauce to the mixture and stir to combine.

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Add the seasoned breadcrumbs and combine.

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Add the eggs and combine.

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Add the parmesan cheese and combine.

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Add the cooled vegetables to the mixture.

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Stir to combine.

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Take a small quantity of the meat mixture and place in a sauté pan.

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Cook thoroughly and taste to make sure the mixture is seasoned perfectly (before you make dozens of meatballs!)

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When seasoned perfectly, use an ice cream scoop to form perfectly sized meatballs. Place the meatballs on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet. Place in a preheated 350 degree oven and cook for approx. 25 minutes (until lightly browned and cooked through).

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Meanwhile in a saute pan, prepare the hot sauce topping.

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Roll the meatballs in the hot sauce topping.

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In a serving bowl, spoon the hot sauce mixture in the bottom of the bowl. Place a serving of meatballs on top of the sauce mixture. Add crumbled gorgonzola (or feta cheese) and blue cheese drizzle (ranch dressing can be substituted for blue cheese if desired). Garnish with celery leaves and serve warm.

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ENJOY!!

Jarred Tomatoes

I was given a gift of fresh jarred tomatoes last year by a friend who was born in Milan, Italy (Rose Oxley). This was a gift that I truly enjoyed. I opened the jar to make a tomato topping for focaccia…the taste of the jarred tomatoes was amazing! I decided to try this for myself. This recipe took a while to prepare, especially since I made such a large batch. I can tell you that it’s definitely worthwhile – it’s been wonderful having the fresh jarred tomatoes available all year round. The tomatoes also make a great gift for those that appreciate the effort!

Ingredients:
1 Case of Quart Mason Jars with Lids & Bands (12 per case) & Jar Lifter
1 Case Roma Tomatoes
36 Basil Leaves (3 per Jar)
Lemon Juice (2 Tbsp. per Jar)

Directions:

Multiple cases of Roma Tomatoes:

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Jars: Clean the mason jars in the dishwasher to sanitize.

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Meanwhile, simmer the lids and bands in hot water until ready to use.

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Tomatoes: Core the top of each tomato, then score the bottom of each tomato.

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Place the fresh tomatoes in a large pot of boiling water for approximately one minute.

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Remove tomatoes and place then in an ice bath.

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This will allow you to easily peel the skins.

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Once the tomatoes are peeled, you can slice or chop any way you desire (or pack whole). **Place the clean basil leaves on the bottom of each jar, then fill the jar with the tomatoes to ¼” from the top. Add 2 Tbsp. of lemon juice to each quart jar and with the back of a wooden spoon, remove all air bubbles in the jar. Make sure the rims are clean after filling the jar. Place the lids and the bands on the jar and gently close (but do not over tighten). Place the filled jars in a stockpot with boiling water (make sure there is 1-2” of water above the height of the jar). Boil for approx. 45 minutes. Remove and let sit on your counter overnight. Once the jars are cool, check to make sure the seals are closed (ie. press on the lid and make sure it doesn’t pop up and down). Place labels on the jars (if desired), and store in a cool/dark place for 12-18 months.

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ENJOY!!

Baby Back Ribs – Oven Roasted

When you want to enjoy the flavor of baby back ribs without using an outdoor grill, try this cooking method. These ribs are “fall off the bone” delicious!

Ingredients:
2 Racks St. Louis Style Pork Spare Ribs (Approx. 2.5 lbs. per Rack)
Rub: 2 Tbsp. Kosher Salt, 2 Tbsp. Black Pepper, 3 Tbsp. Paprika, 3 Tbsp. Cayenne Pepper
Barbeque Sauce (I use Open Pit brand)

Directions:
Place the raw spare ribs on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet.

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Mix the rub ingredients in a small bowl, then sprinkle the rub mixture on both sides of the ribs.

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Cover the top of the baking sheet with aluminum foil, making sure to seal all edges.

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Place the ribs in a preheated 300 degree oven and cook for approx. 3 hours.

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When ready, remove from the oven and let cool for approx. 10 minutes. Slice in 1-2 rib sections.

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Brush on your favorite barbeque sauce. My family enjoys the barbeque taste of “Open Pit”. Return to a preheated 350 degree oven and bake for 25-30 minutes.

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Remove from oven and place on a serving platter with additional barbeque sauce.

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ENJOY!!

Chicken Pot Pie

When I think of “comfort food”, I think of chicken pot pie. This recipe is quick and easy, using premade pie crust and a roasted chicken.

Ingredients:
1 Frozen Deep Dish Pie Crust
1 Rolled Pie Crust (for top of pot pie – I use Pillsbury Brand)
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
½ Cup Diced Carrots, ½ Cup Diced Onions, ½ Cup Diced Celery
½ Cup Diced Scallions, 2 Tbsp. Sliced Garlic
1 Tbsp. Salt
4 Tbsp. Butter
2 Cups Chicken Broth, 3 Tbsp. Flour
1 Cup Frozen Peas
½ Cup Heavy Cream
2 Cups Roasted Chicken, Chopped
Egg Wash – 1 Egg, Beaten and 1 Tsp. Water

Directions:
Place the premade deep dish pie crust in a 350 degree oven for approx. 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

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Meanwhile, in a large skillet, sauté the diced carrots, onion, celery, scallions and garlic in olive oil. Season with salt.

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Saute for approx. 20 minutes, until vegetables soften and begin to caramelize. Add the butter and sauté for approx. 5 minutes.

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Add the broth and sauté for 3 minutes.

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Add the flour and stir well. Saute for 2-3 minutes.

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Add the frozen peas and cream, and stir well to combine flavors. Remove from heat and let mixture cool slightly.

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Meanwhile, add the chopped roasted chicken to the bottom of the pie crust.

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Spoon the vegetable mixture over the roasted chicken.

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Place the rolled pie crust on top of the mixture, sealing the edges well. Brush on the egg wash mixture.

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Place in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake for approx. 30-35 minutes, until the top pie crust is cooked through and browned.

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Let cool before slicing.

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ENJOY!!

Homemade Limoncello

I have made various homemade liqueurs in the past. Homemade limoncello is one of my favorites, and one of the easiest to make. Just purchase decorative bottles and plan ahead since the mixture requires time to steep. When I make this recipe, I usually double or triple the quantity so I have plenty of bottles to give away.

Ingredients (1 Recipe):
12 Lemons
1 750-ml. Bottle Vodka
Simple Syrup Mixture:
3 Cups Water
2 Cups Sugar

Directions:
Remove the peel from the lemons, making sure that you don’t include the white pith from the lemon (which is bitter).

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The picture below shows the original peel from the lemons. The white pith (still showing) was removed before steeping.

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Place the lemon peels in containers (or a large pitcher) with vodka, and cover to steep for one week at room temperature.

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When ready, prepare the simple syrup mixture. In a large pan over medium heat, combine the water and sugar, and stir until the sugar has dissolved, approx. 3 minutes. Cool completely. Pour the sugar mixture into the pitcher with the vodka. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight. Remove the lemon peel from the vodka mixture and transfer the limoncello to individual, sealed bottles.

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Place your labels on the bottles (if you desire), and refrigerate. The limoncello is best after being refrigerated for an additional week, and will be good if refrigerated for several months.

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ENJOY!!

Chicken Cutlet Milanese with Mixed Green Salad

The combination of a well seasoned and cooked chicken cutlet, along with a deliciously flavored mixed green salad makes a wonderful weeknight meal. This is also a nice light meal to serve at a dinner party.

Ingredients:
Chicken Cutlet:
4 Boneless Chicken Breasts
Salt & Pepper to Taste

Breading Ingredients for Chicken Cutlets:
1 Cup Flour & 1 Tbsp. Salt
3 Eggs, Beaten & 2 Tbsp. Water
1 ½ Cups Seasoned Breadcrumbs & ½ Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

Salad Ingredients:
2 Cups Iceberg Lettuce (Sliced)
2 Cups Arugula Lettuce
½ Red Onion, Sliced Thin
2 Tomatoes, Seeded & Sliced Thin
½ English Cucumber, Seeded & Sliced Thin
¼ Cup Dried Cranberries
¼ Cup Cashews, Salted
1 Apple, Diced (I used Fuji Apple)
½ Cup Gorgonzola Cheese, Crumbled

Salad Dressing:
Salt (Approx. 1 Tbsp)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Approx. ½ Cup)
White Wine Vinegar (Approx. ¼ Cup)

Directions:

Step 1 – Prepare the Chicken:
Remove the boneless chicken breasts from the package and cut off any excess fat.

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Line a cutting board with plastic wrap, top with chicken breasts, and cover with another layer of plastic wrap.

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Flatten the chicken breasts with a meat mallet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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Step 2 – Prepare the Ingredients for Breading the Chicken:
Place the flour and salt in the first bowl, the beaten eggs and water in the second bowl, and the seasoned breadcrumbs with grated parmesan cheese in a third bowl.

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Dredge each side of the pounded chicken breast into the flour first, then the egg mixture, and lastly the bread crumb mixture. Place the breaded cutlets on a baking sheet, prepared for pan frying.

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Step 3 – Cook the Chicken Cutlet Milanese:
Bring 1 cup of olive oil to a medium heat/simmer . Test the oil to make sure it is ready for frying (sprinkle some of the breadcrumbs on the oil and make sure the oil sizzles). When ready, place the breaded chicken cutlets in the oil in batches, turning over when lightly browned (approx. 2 minutes per side).

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Remove the chicken from the sauté pan and place the cutlets on a wire rack over a baking sheet to drain.

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Sprinkle each warm chicken cutlet lightly with salt.

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The chicken can be kept warm in the oven on a low temperature if desired, until the salad has been prepared and is ready to serve.

Step 4 – Prepare the Salad:
Place all salad ingredients into a large mixing bowl.

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Step 5 – Dress the Mixed Green Salad…In This Order:
1) Sprinkle the mixed greens with salt (I used about 1 Tbsp. of Fleur de Sel).
2) Drizzle the salad with Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I used about ½ cup).
3) Drizzle the salad with good White Wine Vinegar (I used about ¼ cup).
It’s important to taste the salad and adjust the seasonings as desired.

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Mix the salad well.

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Step 6 – Serve the Chicken Cutlet Milanese topped with the dressed Mixed Green Salad.

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Step 7 – Enjoy!

Beef Braciole & Penne with Braciole Sauce

BEEF BRACIOLE:
I often incorporate either beef braciole or pork braciole into my Sunday meat sauce. The filling ingredients can be modified to incorporate any flavors that you prefer. Make sure you allow enough cooking time for the meat to become tender (generally 2-3 hours, simmered in the sauce). The sauce that remains is deep and flavorful, and pairs beautifully with a penne pasta.

Ingredients:
Braciole Filling:
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
8 oz. Pancetta, diced
2 Cups of Onions, Chopped
3 Garlic Cloves, Minced
1 Cup Seasoned Breadcrumbs & 1 Cup Parmesan Cheese, Grated
2 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley, Minced
2 Tbsp. Fresh Basil, Minced
1 Tsp. Salt & 1 Tsp. Black Pepper

Beef Braciole:
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
6 Beef Round Sandwich Steaks (Pounded Thin)
Salt & Pepper

Braciole Sauce:
1 Cup Red Wine (Cabernet Sauvignon)
3 Cups Marinara Sauce (see recipe)
2 Tbsp. Parmesan Cheese, Shredded (Garnish)

Directions:
Step 1 – Make the Braciole Filling:
In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil and add the diced pancetta. Saute for approx. 2 minutes, until pancetta becomes golden brown. Add the chopped onion and sauté for approx. 4-5 minutes, until onions become tender. Add the minced garlic and sauté for 1 minute.

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Add the breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, fresh parsley, fresh basil, salt and pepper. Stir and remove from heat. Let filling cool. Place in a bowl.

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Step 2 – Prepare the Braciole:
Meanwhile, pound each round steak until thin and tenderized. Sprinkle salt and pepper over both sides of the steak.

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Layer the cooled filling on each piece of steak and roll up, jelly-roll style.

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Tie with butcher twine to secure each braciole. Heat the remaining 3 Tbsp. of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the braciole and cook until browned on all side, approx. 5 minutes. Add the wine to the pan and bring to a boil. Stir in the marinara sauce.

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Lower the heat and simmer for approx. 2 – 2 ½ hours, until the braciole is tender. Be sure to stir during the cooking time, basting the braciole with the marinara sauce while cooking. The braciole will be done when the meat is tender. Remove the braciole from the sauce. Let cool for a couple of minutes before slicing (use a serrated knife). Spoon sauce over sliced braciole and serve with shredded parmesan cheese.

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PENNE WITH BRACIOLE SAUCE:
I made this penne dish with my beef braciole, and was delighted with the deep flavors that developed from the braciole sauce. The long cooking time and the red wine incorporated in the sauce creates tremendous flavor. Cook the pasta to the al dente stage and finish cooking the pasta in the sauce. Add freshly shredded parmesan cheese for the best flavor.

Ingredients:
1 lb. Penne Pasta
3 Cups Beef Braciole Sauce (see Beef Braciole Recipe)
½ Cup Parmesan Cheese, Shredded

Directions:
Step 1 – Prepare the Pasta:
Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil.

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Cook the penne according to package instructions to the al dente stage (approx. 8-10 minutes) and drain when ready.

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Step 2 – Warm the Braciole Sauce and Combine:
Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, warm the beef braciole sauce. Add the drained pasta to the braciole sauce and cook for approx. 2 minutes, until the penne has cooked through and the sauce has adhered to the pasta. Remove from the heat and add the shredded parmesan cheese. Serve warm.

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Step 3 – Enjoy!

Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Spinach Stuffing

This is a delicious pork tenderloin recipe, combining the savory flavors of bacon, spinach and onions. This is a perfect dish for a holiday buffet because the sliced tenderloin looks great on a decorative platter. The sliced tenderloin also pairs beautifully with pasta or risotto for a great weeknight dinner.

Ingredients:
2 lb. Boneless Pork Loin
Salt & Pepper to Taste
Thick Cut Bacon to Wrap Pork Tenderloin

Spinach Stuffing:
6 Slices of Bacon, Chopped
1 Medium Onion, Chopped
2 Boxes of Creamed Spinach, Defrosted (Birds Eye Brand)
1/2 Cup Feta Cheese, Crumbled
1/3 Cup Parmesan Cheese, Shredded

Directions:
Step 1 – Prepare the Pork Tenderloin:
Prepare the pork tenderloin “butterfly” style, which means cutting the loin so that it lays flat in a rectangle. Flatten and tenderize the loin with a meat mallet.

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Step 2 – Prepare the Stuffing:
Meanwhile, prepare the spinach stuffing. In a skillet over medium heat, cook the chopped bacon until browned. Remove the bacon from the skillet and discard the bacon fat (leaving 2 Tbsp. in the skillet). Saute the chopped onions in the bacon fat until light brown. Add the defrosted creamed spinach to the onion mixture, stir to combine over low heat. Return the cooked bacon to the spinach mixture along with the parmesan cheese and crumbled feta cheese. Cool the stuffing.

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Step 3 – Stuff the Tenderloin:
Spread the spinach stuffing all over the inside of the pork tenderloin. Top with additional shredded parmesan cheese.

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Step 4 – Prepare the Tenderloin for Baking:
Roll the pork tenderloin up, jelly-roll style, and wrap the tenderloin with thick cut bacon. Season the tenderloin with salt and pepper. (I used two pork tenderloins below).
Place on a greased baking sheet, lined with aluminum foil.

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Place in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake the pork tenderloin for approx. 1 – 1 ½ hours (until the internal temperature reached 150 degrees F. When ready, remove the stuffed tenderloin from the oven, and let rest for approx. 10 minutes.

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Step 5 – Prepare Tenderloin for Serving:
Slice into 1” thick pieces.

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Serve with pasta or risotto if desired.

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Step 6 – Enjoy!