Spinach, cheese and ravioli bake

Michigan May temperatures are still chilly, though the sunshine has been warming me up for some outdoor gardening and exercise. I had some ingredients ready to go for another dinner dish, but decided to pair them up and make a classic comfort meal last week. I have made variations of this dish, already on this blog, but just made up this recipe and it was equally delicious.

I also wanted to test out my new box cheese grater, which is a huge improvement over other types of old-fashioned graters.  This easy pour grater by Venn Kitchen has four stainless steel grating sides which are very sharp.  The base is also non-slip with a design that can be used in two directions–vertical or horizontal, depending on personal preference.  Also included and what gives this grater a market advantage, is the unique compartment which collects the grated ingredients neatly and easily.

I loved the grater which I used for this recipe, and it made the whole dish come together so fast.

Here is how to make this comforting meatless pasta dish.  Gather these ingredients:  Pasta sauce, frozen mini cheese ravioli, shredded mozzarella cheese, shredded Parmesan cheese, frozen spinach

Start by shredding the cheeses.  I used one cup of shredded mozzarella and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.  Layer the casserole dish with a thin coat of pasta sauce.  Add a layer of ravioli, top with cheese and then the spinach layer.

Layer 2-3 more times to complete the dish. Finish the top of the dish with grated Parmesan. Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 45 minutes or until the casserole is bubbling hot.

Serve with a side salad.  This recipe freezes well for future leftovers.

For more information on Venn Kitchen products, follow them on Facebook.


Zoodles with a spiral slicer

I finally purchased a Paderno spiralizer slicer and it has been a wonderful addition to my kitchen tool collection.  My three blade slicer is able to cut vegetables very quickly into angel hair noodles, shoestrings and even spiral cut strands.  My first attempt at using the tool was extremely successful, as I made zucchini noodles in place of pasta one evening for dinner.

I sautéed the zoodles with some sliced mushrooms, seasoned with black pepper and parsley flakes in one tablespoon olive oil. I cooked the zucchini noodles until soft and served with pasta sauce.  The noodles were extremely tasty, and confirm the recent enthusiasm from many chefs for using this spiral slicer.

I will be experimenting with apples, potatoes, carrots and cucumbers in the coming months. The slicer is an interesting way to prepare and cut these foods for appealing presentation and to increase food excitement.

For more information on this slicer, it can be purchased online at Williams Sonoma cookware.

RPM Italian-Chicago

As someone who loves to enjoy a quiet delicious meal at a lovely restaurant, I highly recommend RPM Italian.  We made reservations weeks in advance as nightly the dinner hours are jammed with guests. Located in River North, the upscale atmosphere is decorated in black, white and grey, with wood and leather accents. The menu is billed as contemporary Italian with fresh pastas and Italian classics.  Within the dining areas, the feeling is romantic and chic. We arrived at the start of the evening and within 15 minutes every table was seated.


We dined for two hours with a comfortably slow pace to our six course meal. The servings were plated very attractively with our waiter explaining the menu and the various options.

We started with hot antipasti and then the bread course.  We shared a green salad and the pasta course, where we selected the carbonara. Giuliana’s salad was crisp and tasty.  The pasta was prepared tableside and was a petite portion perfect for tasting.

IMG_7890    IMG_7893


I chose the slow cooked crispy roasted chicken with broccolini for my entrée, while my husband thoroughly enjoyed the Italian classic spaghetti and meatball with pomodoro basil sauce.

IMG_7899     IMG_7901

For dessert, we were treated to a gelato and sorbetto assortment. We sampled coconut, pistachio, and salted caramel gelato along with raspberry sorbetto.

RPM Italian was a top choice on my restaurant review list of places to visit, and it certainly met my expectations of fine dining and pleasurable evenings on the town.


vegetable lasagna (mushroom and spinach)

Summer pasta dishes are often lighter when served during the summer months.  We prefer to eat less pasta during the summer overall, but sometimes the selection of summer vegetables encourages me to add them to even more main dishes than in the winter.  This recipe is one of my favorites when summer vegetables are ready for being the main attraction.

Here is how I made this dish:

In a large skillet, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and add these ingredients:  one medium chopped white onion, about 3-4 large carrots cleaned and chopped into smaller size pieces, and 3-4 stalks of celery diced.  After cooking down for a few minutes, add 1 tablespoon minced garlic and 2 tablespoon tomato paste.  Cook together.

Next add about 15 chopped white mushrooms, which have been cleaned well.  Add salt and pepper to the mixture, while cooking at least 5 more minutes until the mushrooms cook down.  Next, add one 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes.  Heat until all ingredients are well blended and warm.

While these ingredients are cooking, make the cheese layer for the lasagna.  I used 5 ounces of shredded Parmesan cheese, mixed with 8 ounces of shredded mozzarella cheese, 8 ounces of ricotta cheese, one egg, and one drained and squeezed box of frozen spinach.  All of these ingredients will mix well into a bowl and be ready for the layering process.

In a large 13 by 9 by 2 inch baking dish, use some of the tomato mixture to line the bottom of the pan. Next add 3-4 no-cook dry lasagna noodles.  For the next layer, add tablespoons of the cheese mixture over the noodles and spread to form a layer.  Next add another layer of tomato sauce, and noodles, and cheese.  Layer until the ingredients are used fully. Make sure the top layer of the lasagna is the tomato sauce. For the final topping to the lasagna, I added more shredded mozzarella, fontina, and Parmesan cheese.

Baking directions:   For the first half of the baking time, cover the dish with tin foil completely.  For the second half of the baking time, remove the foil.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 50 minutes.

Summer variations:  Use fresh chopped tomatoes, Use fresh spinach which has been sautéed down in a skillet prior to adding to this dish, Use fresh onions of all types, Use fresh chopped zucchini.  Many fresh herbs can be used. Some of my favorites are fresh oregano, parsley, thyme, chives and sage. A variety of mushrooms can also be used.

Cheese variations:  Fontina cheese is delicious in this recipe.  Fresh mozzarella can also be used.



Champagne Chicken Fettuccine

Over the years, I have tried to search for new ways to serve simple pasta dishes.  Pasta is often an easy entrée that can be made upscale with only a few additions.  Rachel Ray published a similar recipe last year, that I adapted and revised.  Her recipe called for Gorgonzola dolce cheese and sage leaves.  My recipe added chicken and grated fontina cheese. Her inspiration led to a delicious entrée that we thoroughly enjoyed recently.

To prepare the recipe:  SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESIn a large deep skillet add 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon margarine, and saute one package of chicken Tenderloin.  As chicken begins to brown, season with salt, pepper and parsley flakes.  Next, add 1/2 medium red onion chopped and minced garlic to taste.  I added 1/4 teaspoon.  Allow to cook about 2-3 minutes until the onion softens.  Start the fettuccine noodles (1/2 bag) to boil in a separate pot of boiling water. Boil the noodles 1-2 minutes less than the recommended cook time.

Return to the chicken in the skillet.  Evaluate the cooking process.

Add one cup of champagne. I usually purchase a lesser expensive bottle, as the flavor seems to be diminished during the cooking process. I save the more expensive bottles for drinking.

The champagne should be kept at a low simmer with the chicken.  Be sure to loosen any bits that may stick to the pan during this cook time.


Prepare to add 3/4 cup cream or half and half.  I add the cream slowly while using a flat whisk to incorporate into the sauce.  The sauce should be simmering for 6-8 minutes, with reduced heat.  Drain the noodles and add to the sauce.  Quickly add 1/2 cup of Fontina cheese and shredded Parmesan cheese.  Toss with the noodles to cover.  Garnish with freshly ground pepper and parsley flakes.  This was delicious.  Serve with a side salad, and crusty bread for a complete meal. Don’t forget a glass of champagne too!

This recipe made 4 pasta servings.


Ina’s bolognese sauce

Ina Garten is known for dishes made from simple ingredients with little fuss. I found this recipe for her weeknight pasta sauce in her cookbook titled, “how easy is that?”

This is a great recipe and just as promised it is both easy and very tasty.  I am sure everyone you know has a favorite way to make pasta sauce.  Ina’s is not that different though is uses red wine.  Personally, I think the flavor of the wine gives the sauce a real depth of flavor.

Typically, red sauce is one of those recipes that can be adapted very easily to taste.  I did change-up some of her suggestions, and found it to be equally delicious. I did not add the grated nutmeg and cooked the sauce in an electric skillet.

I used orecchiette small shells as she suggested and loved the outcome.

To make this comfort meal, gather these ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 pound ground round, 4 minced cloves garlic, 1 tablespoon oregano, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1 1/4 cups red wine, 28 ounce crushed tomatoes, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, salt and pepper

orechiette pasta, 1/4 cup chopped fresh Basil, 1/4 cup heavy cream, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


To begin, heat oil in electric skillet,  Brown meat until well cooked.  Stir in garlic, oregano, and red pepper. Pour one cup of wine and release brown bits. Next, add tomatoes, paste, salt and pepper.  Boil and simmer on lower heat for 10 minutes.

Boil pasta as directed.  To finish the sauce, add basil, cream and last amount of wine.  Simmer 10 minutes.

Mix with the pasta or serve on top of the pasta with added Parmesan.