Goodcookbecky's Blog

Letting the juices of life (or food) drip from my chin!

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Desperation Dinners

Desperation Dinner: You know this kind of dinner.. your pantry has some ingredients but not enough to make something you have in mind.. so you substitute.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not work.  This is one that worked and boy did it ever work!  My family loves Lasagna, but I had neither ground beef or sausage to add to the filling and we didn’t want just plain or just spinach lasagne – no, that is too close to being healthy!  We like to live on the side of not good for you!  Well, actually, we are in process of changing that… but last year we lived!!!

My brother was in town for Thanksgiving – he lives in Harrisburg, PA and we do not see him very often.  Since he is single, he comes to see us about every other year.  He had a craving for lasagna, but I did not have the meat as I mentioned before… but I did have this: Pepperoni!  I made the lasagna as usual, except used pepperoni instead of the sausage.  Baked it as usual and the result was wonderful!  It is now my families favorite lasagna.

Pepperoni Lasagna

by goodcookbecky

Serves 8


  • 2 (28 oz) cans spaghetti sauce (I like Hunts Traditional in the can- sometimes on sale for a dollar)
  • 1 (9 oz) box Barilla No Boil Lasagna (or other pasta will work- even the ones you should pre cook but you don’t have to trust me)
  • 1 (15 oz) container Ricotta cheese
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (4 oz) package Hormel sliced pepperoni
  • 1 (16 oz) bag Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, optional


Preheat oven to 375 F.

I like to use my large pampered chef stoneware casserole. The sides are over 2 inches and the lasagna so far has never bubbled over like it has in a pyrex dish- but you still can use it, just place a cookie sheet under it if that is all you have.  The beauty of the stoneware is that you do not have to spray it with non stick spray.

To make the lasagna, ladle half a can of spaghetti sauce into the bottom of your baking dish.  Place the (uncooked) lasagna noodles on top of the sauce, slightly overlapping.  Combine the ricotta cheese, egg, oregano, basil and half the Mozzarella cheese in a bowl and spread half of the cheese mixture over the lasagna noodles.  Top with half of the pepperoni slices.  Ladle the remaining sauce from the first can of spaghetti sauce.  Top with noodles.  Repeat layers.  End with lasagna noodles, pasta sauce, and remaining Mozzarella Cheese.  If you would like an extra crunch add about 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil.  Bake at 375 for 50-60 minutes.  Uncover and cook until the cheese is melted for another 5 to 10 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Cover with foil again and let sit for about 10-15 minutes.

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Happy New Year

My husband was recently looking at pizzas in various shapes on New Years Eve.  He challenged me and my daughter to make one for 2012. Challenge Accepted! I used my usual pizza dough (but doubled it) let it rise and then formed the numbers 2012 out of the dough proceeded to top them and bake as normal.  I think it turned out rather well.

My pizza dough (link)  This is my pepperoni Calzone recipe but use the dough recipe for pizza dough.

Toppings: crushed whole tomatoes, pepperoni, cheese

Bake 375 for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.  I treated it as I would a square pizza cutting them in slices.  The dough was rather thick, but it worked and tasted well for the occasion.

Happy New Year!



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If you are a coffee and chocolate lover like I am, then I am sure you are in LOVE with this popular Italian dessert.  Layered Mascarpone cheese mixture layered with coffee flavor induced lady finger cookies with a dusting of cocoa between the layers – a taste of heaven (I hope I can get it in heaven)!  Be sure to use really fresh eggs (yes they are used in the raw form – but so far I have not had any issues with it.)

As for lady fingers: Try to find the hard ones, but in a pinch you can use the soft ones (I did this time).  I found mine at Trader Joe’s, that is also where I bought my cheese.  I have a friend who has chickens and I lucked out with really really fresh eggs that way! It also has a little alcohol in it, so I don’t let my kids eat it (bummer for them!)

I use the recipe that is provided by Bel Gioioso.  They make a quality Mascarpone cheese and this is the recipe from their cheese container – if you cannot find that brand you can use any other brand.  I am just telling you where I first found the recipe.  The first time I made Tiramisu was in Washington State when my son was just an infant.  Now he is 8.  How time flies!


adapted from Bel Gioioso’s Tiramisu recipe

Serves 6


  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 8 oz Mascarpone cheese
  • 1 package Trader Joe’s soft lady fingers (or hard if you can find them)
  • 1 cup strong coffee or espresso
  • 2 Tbsp cognac (or brandy)
  • 1/8 cup cocoa powder (dust using a fine mesh sieve)


Separate your egg white and egg yolk into two separate bowls.  Add the sugar to the yolks.  Beat on medium for about 3 minutes.  Add the cognac, Mascarpone cheese, and 1 Tbsp cooled espresso or strong coffee.  Beat another 3-5 minutes on medium speed until it is well combined.

Add 1 Tbsp of sugar to the egg whites.  Beat on medium high until it is stiff and soft peaks form.  Fold the beaten egg whites into the egg and cheese mixture.  Use a rubber spatula to fold the cheese over the whites carefully, so as to not deflate the egg whites, but still well enough to combine the two into one nice filling.

Dip one side of your lady fingers into the remaining cooled coffee or espresso.  Do not drench them – just a quick dip will do the job.  Line a small (8×8 inch baking dish) with a layer of the coffee flavored lady fingers.  Top with 1/3 of the Mascarpone mixture.  Sprinkle the cheese with a dusting of cocoa.  Repeat with lady fingers, Mascarpone filling and cocoa two more times.  Topping it with the cocoa and then cover the dish with plastic wrap or foil (I used foil and tented it so that it would not touch the top of the tiramisu- because it filled the dish nearly to the top) and refrigerate at least 1 hour for it to set up.


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Pasta E Fagioli Soup

I love the soups that are offered at Olive Garden.  The cookbook author, Todd Wilbur has a wonderful series of cookbooks that I have in my collection and enjoy browsing through.  His book Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 has the Pasta E Fagioli Soup recipe that mimics the Olive Garden version very closely.  I did not have every single ingredient on hand, but I had similar ones that worked.  I did not have the V-8 juice that the original recipe calls for, so I substituted stewed tomatoes for diced and increased the tomato sauce to make up for it.   The flavors were very good and everyone enjoyed it.

Pasta E Fagioli Soup

adapted from Todd Wilbur (Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 pg 247)

Serves 8


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, julienned (cut into matchstick shapes)
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (15 oz) cans stewed tomatoes with juice, cut up
  • 1 (15 oz) can red kidney beans (with liquid)
  • 1 (15 oz) can white beans (with liquid)
  • 1 (32 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cups hot water
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 lb elbow pasta (I didn’t have the ditali pasta the original called for)
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese for serving


Preheat a large 12 inch skillet over medium high heat.  Brown the ground beef in the skillet and pour off any fat.  I used a lean cut of ground beef, so there was very little fat.  Add the chopped onion, celery and carrots and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the remaining ingredients (except the macaroni).  Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour.

During the last 20 minutes of cooking the soup, cook the elbow macaroni in 2 1/2 quarts of boiling water according to package directions.  You will want the pasta to be slightly under done.

Drain the pasta and add it to the soup.  Simmer for 10 more minutes.  Serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and crusty French bread.

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Spaghetti Pie

Here is another allrecipes hit!  A dear friend of mine made it and posted the recipe on Facebook.   Of course we made changes to the original.  Here is the adapted version.

We were on our way to church yesterday, when one of my kids decided it was time to get sick – so home I went with sick kid and then had to figure out what to make for dinner – I had ground beef, onions, roasted peppers, ricotta cheese, and spaghetti- so I could make this dish.  I even had enough filling to make another one for a neighbor that just moved into the house next door.  She was appreciative.

Some changes that could me made are using Italian sausage instead of the ground beef, adding more spaghetti sauce to keep it moist.  It had good flavor and we will make it again.  Enjoy!

Spaghetti Pie

adapted from allrecipes

Serves 8


  • 8 oz Spaghetti, cooked (I used Angel Hair)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 lb ground beef (or Italian Sausage, Turkey sausage)
  • 1/4 cup chopped pepper (or roasted peppers from a jar)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 – 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce (next time)
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese (originally cottage cheese)
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese


Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Drain and place in the bottom of a 10″ pie dish. While the pasta is still hot stir in the 2 Tbsp butter, 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese and 2 eggs and combine.  I would also stir in 1 cup of spaghetti sauce into the pasta after you combine the egg, Parmesan and butter with the spaghetti.

Cook the ground beef or Italian Sausage in a large skillet with the chopped peppers, onions and cook until the meat is browned.  Drain the fat.  Add minced garlic, salt, pepper, dried oregano, and crushed red pepper flakes;  cook mixture for another two minutes.  Add can of diced tomatoes and tomato paste as well as remaining 1/2 cup of spaghetti sauce.  Heat the mixture through.

Dollop the spaghetti in the pie pan with ricotta (or cottage cheese) and spread out over the pasta.  Top with meat mixture.  Sprinkle the top with Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.

Bake in a preheated oven, at 350F for 20-30 minutes.  Enjoy with a green salad and garlic rolls.

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Veal Parmesan

This is my husband’s all time favorite meal.  The shame is that veal is not often found in restaurants anymore and many grocery stores stopped carrying it as well.  I do find veal at Baron’s Market.  My favorite use of veal is for Wiener Schnitzel (Viennese Breaded Veal Cutlets).  This week I made Veal Parmesan.  Breaded Veal Cutlets topped with Parmesan Cheese over pasta and served with your favorite spaghetti sauce (I really like Hunt’s Traditional Sauce when I don’t have time to make it from scratch).

Veal Parmesan

Serves 4

  • 3/4 lb pasta (like angel hair or spaghetti) cooked according to directions
  • 16 oz of your favorite spaghetti sauce
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 veal cutlets, pounded thin
  • salt and pepper
  • flour
  • 2 eggs
  • dry seasoned breadcrumbs
  • Canola Oil/Vegetable Oil


  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil (for pasta).
  2. While the water is heating, pound the veal cutlets until they are thin (1/8 inch).  Season the cutlets with salt and pepper, dip in the flour to coat.  Shake off excess.  Dip in beaten eggs.  Coat in breadcrumbs (if you wish stir in about 1/4 cup grated Parmesan into the breadcrumbs).  Heat about 1/4 inch canola or Vegetable oil in a large skillet until hot.
  3. Start cooking the Pasta in boiling salted water.
  4. Fry the cutlets, two at a time, about 2 minutes each side  or until golden brown.  Remove the cutlets to a platter and cook remaining two.
  5. To serve, place a bed of pasta on the plate, drizzle with heated spaghetti sauce.  Top with veal cutlet and grated Parmesan cheese.  Top with more sauce and more Parmesan cheese.  Enjoy.

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Guest Post: Chicken Meatball Lasagnettes

Recently I have made a new friend on Twitter, who recently posted a recipe for the best things he had ever eaten.  That says a lot in my world and I was very impressed with this foodie’s posts and interest in food.   I’ve asked him if I could re-post his most recent recipe here and he gave me his blessing.  When you have a moment browse his site for recipe ideas and fantastic pictures!  I someday would like to attain to that level of photography.  Here is a link to his site:

The Recipe: Chicken Meatball Lasagnettes with Creme Fraiche Bechamel and Chicken Jus

Original Source: Barbara Lynch’s book Stir (link)

Here is my friend’s post on this recipe and his wife’s picture – Directly imported from their site ( big thank you for allowing me to re-post this the peche!  I hope to make this soon myself!  Dear Reader: Lasagnettes are really just mini lasagnas.

Let’s get this out of the way. This is the best meal we’ve ever made.
You know when you make something to eat, and you know it’s going to be good? But then you taste it, and it blows your mind and taste buds. And your soul?

This recipe is that something. It earned our eternal devotion to Barbara Lynch, the amazing chef and restaurant owner in Boston who is also the author of Stir. It’s light, creamy, salty, savory.
You must make this. And even if you don’t make this (which you can count as the greatest mistake in your life), read the recipe, because you can see the way Chef Lynch thinks. This recipe is all about building deep, concentrated flavor. For the jus alone, you’re going to cook down 16 cups of chicken stock into 2 cups of dark liquid gold.
I’ve included our changes/shortcuts/modifications. You should buy her cookbook so you can see exactly her approach for yourself. It’s a fantastic collection of great food (see her seared scallops with celery root gratinee).
This is a dish of components. This may look overwhelming, but break each element down. It’s not a big deal. Make this over a couple of days. Everything keeps perfectly for a day or two or three. You’ll have eaten every bite of it by day three.
chicken jus
  • 1 chicken, 7-8# (or whatever you can find)
  • 1 onion, chopped roughly
  • 1 carrot, chopped roughly
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped roughly
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped. Roughly if you feel like it.
  • 2 c dry white wine
  • 16 cups low-sodium chicken stock (do not use regular chicken stock. You’re condensing this down to 2 cups, so you want to control the salt)
  • 1 T coriander seeds
  • 1 T black pepper corns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a few fresh thyme sprigs
  • Kosher salt
  • Black Pepper
Preheat your oven to 350F. Get a roasting pan ready or use a cookie sheet covered with foil (easy cleanup).

Cut off all the meat you can from the chicken. I didn’t strip ours clean (wing meat, really?). I focused on the breast, thigh, and leg meat. Set the meat in the refrigerator.

Remove all the skin from the chicken. Chop up the bones a bit (you want to expose some marrow), so that you have 8-10 pieces. I chopped off the wing tips because they seemed like they’d burn in the oven.
Throw the chicken on the pan, and get it in the oven. Roast until you get golden pieces (40 minutes was good. Go longer if you want. Or shorter.) See, you’re not wasting the meat you didn’t pick off — you’re roasting it into deep flavor for the jus.
Throw the bones in a pot. Heat over medium-high. Add in the onions, crrot, celery, and garlic.
Keep stirring them for about 10 minutes.
Add the wine. Reduce it by half.
Add the broth, stock, coriander, and bay leaves.
Reduce it over a good simmer until reduced to four cups. This may take a couple of hours. You could drink during this time.
Strain the jus through a fine strainer. Mash the broth out of the vegetables. Don’t leave any of the flavor behind.
Add the broth to a smaller saucepan. Reduce to 2 cups.
Add the thyme for 2 minutes right before serving.
Season to taste with salt and pepper
chicken meatballs
  • chicken meat
  • 1T vegetable oil
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped. Then chop it more finely.
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped.
  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 1 c panko
  • 8 T grated Parm
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 T chopped thyme
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
Heat a pan over medium-low heat. Add the oil. Then the shallot and garlic for 8 minutes. You want them really tender but not browned. Take the pan off the heat.
In a small bowl, add the panko and cream together. Stir. Leave it alone to think about what comes next.
Grind the meat in a food processor until chopped finely. Dump it in a bowl. Add everything left on the list, along with 1 tablespoon of salt and 3/4 teaspoon of pepper. Mix together. Gently add the panko mixture.

Chef Lynch suggests frying a small bit of the meat as a patty in a skillet. Taste for seasoning (we needed more salt).

Heat the oven to 350 F.
Line a baking sheet with foil. Form 3/4 inch meatballs and place on the sheet. Don’t let them touch each other. Bake for 8 minutes or so. Ours needed to go for another 90 seconds.
creme fraiche bechamel
  • 4T unslated butter
  • 1/4 c flour
  • 3/4 c whole milk
  • 1/3 c heavy cream
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/3 c creme fraiche
  • white pepper (yes, you could use black, but it’s not the same)

Melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and whisk for 5-8 minutes. It’s going to smell nutty, but don’t let it get very dark.

Add the milk, cream, and 1 teaspoon of salt. You could cook this for 7 minutes, but ours set up like glue in 2 minutes, and we thinned it out with a bit of milk and cooked it for the rest of the time.

Take it off the heat. Stir in the creme fraiche. Taste it. Season with salt and pepper as needed.

Push the salt a tiny bit, especially if you’re afraid of salt.

  • Flat fresh pasta sheets; make your own (you’re so fancy, aren’t you?) or buy it like we did (could you use lasagna noodles here? Probably so. Don’t let the lack of fresh pasta stop you from making this. But try to find fresh. Try really hard.)
Heat a pot of water to boiling. Salt it.
Cut 4-inch rounds out of the raw pasta. Keep the scraps for another pasta dish.
Cook for 3 minutes. Plunge into an ice bath. Dry each piece.

to assemble the awesome

Heat the oven to 300.
On a baking sheet, place down parchment or a Silpat and spray a tiny bit of vegetable oil on top. This stuff will stick like a mother, and you don’t want it to fall apart at the very end.
Lay down a round of pasta. Cover with 1 tablespoon of bechamel. Cover with 3-4 meatballs. Lay down another bit of pasta. Meatballs. Bechamel. Pasta. Meatballs. Bechamel. Pasta. Stack it as high or as low as you want. You could cut the meatballs in half, but don’t.
Place a tablespoon of water on the baking pan. It’ll steam a bit. Bake for 15 minutes. Maybe a little less.
Use two spatulas to pick up the lasagnettes. Place them in a shallow bowl.
Spoon jus over the top. Spoon some around the base.
Top with some shaved Parm.
Sit down somewhere quiet. Use a big spoon. Get every component in that first bite. Savor. Pay attention to everything that’s happening in your mouth.
When all the lasagnette is gone, go ahead and tip the bowl into your mouth. Don’t let a bit of the jus go to waste.

Isn’t it brilliant?