Goodcookbecky's Blog

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

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Italian Meatballs

img_4050I have recently made a few new recipes.  Two of them by Bobby Flay – and both of them outstanding! This one is for Spaghetti and Sauce.  We LOVED the meatballs!  I will be making them again in the future – maybe even in bulk to freeze them for the future.  I did  not use veal as it is sometimes hard to find.  I doubled the recipe because we had more than 4 people eating dinner… Now I wish I had made even more!

Spaghetti and Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

adapted from Bobby Flay

Serves 8

Meatballs Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 8 cloves garlic, finely minced and sauteed
  • 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 cup olive oil/canola oil

Homemade Sauce Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large sweet onions, chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 (28 oz) cans whole peeled tomatoes, with liquid, pureed in a food processor
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 small bunches fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • basil leaves for topping, optional


For the meatballs:

In a large bowl, combine ground beef, ground pork, eggs, grated Parmesan, cooked garlic, dry bread crumbs, minced fresh parsley, salt, and pepper.  Use two large serving forks to break up the meat and mix all the ingredients until it is evenly seasoned.  Do not overwork it as it will become tough.  Form 1 to 1 1/2 inch meatballs with your hands.

Heat a non stick skillet with 1 cup of cooking oil over medium high heat.  Cook the meatballs in batches, turning them over with tongs and continue cooking until golden brown. You do not need to cook them through entirely, as you simmer them in the sauce.  Drain the meatballs on a wire rack for a few minutes while you finish cooking the remaining meatballs.

For the sauce:

In a large stock pot, cook the onions in olive oil over medium heat and cook until softened.  Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add processed tomatoes, bay leaf, parsley, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste.  Bring the sauce to a boil and add in the browned meatballs.  Reduce the heat to just a simmer and cook the sauce and the meatballs for 45 minutes or longer.

Serve over cooked pasta and top off with basil and additional grated Parmesan cheese.

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Macaroni and Cheese

IMG_6928I purchased an arsenal of cheeses recently and wanted the gooey goodness of macaroni and cheese.  The four cheeses I used were Fontina, Gruyere, White Cheddar, and Romano.  I topped the macaroni and cheese with fresh breadcrumbs.  Baked it in the oven for 30 minutes at 375 °F.  It did not take long for the vultures um I  mean family members to descend upon it and finish it off.

Four Cheese Macaroni and Cheese


Serves 6


  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 3/4 cup milk, heated in microwave 2 minutes
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 oz grated Fontina cheese
  • 3 oz grated Gruyere cheese
  • 3 oz grated white cheddar cheese
  • 3 oz Romano cheese
  • 8 oz cooked elbow macaroni (just underdone)
  • Topping:
  • 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs (from French bread)


Cook the elbow macaroni according to instructions, but drain before they are completely cooked through, but no longer crunchy.

Preheat the oven to 375 °F.

In a large skillet, heat the butter over medium heat to melt it.  After the butter has melted, whisk in the flour and salt.  Cook for about 1 minute.  Add the warm milk to the roux slowly, whisking constantly to get the lumps out.  Cook until it is bubbly and begins to thicken.  Reduce the heat.

Add the grated cheeses and stir until the cheese is melted. Turn the burner off. Combine the cheese sauce with the drained elbow macaroni.

Butter a baking dish and pour the macaroni and cheese into the prepared dish.

Sprinkle the top with the remaining Romano cheese.  In a small bowl, combine the melted butter with the breadcrumbs and stir to combine.  Sprinkle the buttered breadcrumbs over the top of the macaroni and cheese.

Bake in 375 °F preheated oven for 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the breadcrumbs are golden brown and toasted.

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Veal Parmesan

IMG_0203My husband requested Veal Parmesan for his birthday celebration.  I love veal, but it is hard to find.  I have a wonderful little market nearby though that believes in good customer service, and have fantastic quality foods available (Baron’s Market).  They were kind enough to special order it for me.  It made my entire family happy!

Okay, on to the Veal Parmesan.  I looked for a recipe online and the recipe by Emeril Lagasse had one of the highest ratings.  I read the reviews and adjusted the seasonings to be less spicy as some reviewers said it was too spicy.  Here is what I did, I left the seasoning in the sauce the same, but breaded it in the classic European way, salt and pepper on the Veal, pounded thin – dredged in flour, then egg and milk, and plain breadcrumbs, frying them in hot canola oil on both sides.  I served this over cooked angel hair pasta, the sauce, the cutlets, a little more sauce and fresh mozzarella finished off in the oven to melt the mozzarella.  It was not a cheap meal to make, but it was for a special occasion and the 22 dollars spent of the veal was spread over a family of 5- and 7 servings once you take into consideration that you would easily pay 20-25 dollars per serving in a nice restaurant for a single serving it was almost a bargain!  For the budget conscious out there, you can make the same dish using chicken cutlets. If you are sensitive to spice, feel free to reduce the red pepper flakes by half.  It does have a nice kick to it still.

Veal Parmesan

adapted from Emeril Lagasse

Source: (

Serves 6-8


  • 8 thin veal cutlets, about 2 1/2 ounces each
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup plain dry bread crumbs (add more as needed)
  • Vegetable oil


  • 1/4 lb pancetta bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic, about 3-4 cloves
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 (28-oz) can Italian-style tomatoes
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • 1 Tbsp fresh chopped basil
  • 1 tsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp fresh oregano
  • 1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced


For the sauce (can also make ahead of time):
In a large sauce pan cook the pancetta bacon in 1 Tbsp of oil.  When it is cooked to a golden brown, remove the bacon from the pan.  Add the chopped onions to the pan and cook until it is translucent for about 6 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds to a minute.  Add the wine and deglaze the pan stirring bits from the bottom with a wooden spoon, for about 2 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, basil, parsley, oregano, and dried pepper flakes to the saucepan.  Bring the sauce to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and add the cooked pancetta back to the sauce.  Keep the sauce over low heat while you are making the veal cutlets.
For the cutlets:
Pound the cutlets out with a meat mallet between two layers of plastic until they are 1/8″ thick. Season the cutlets on both sides with salt and pepper.
Prepare three bowls: 1 with all purpose flour (seasoned with 1 tsp salt if desired), 1 with egg and milk whisked together with a fork, and the last bowl with dried breadcrumbs.
Dredge the seasoned cutlets first in the flour, then in the egg mixture and lastly in the breadcrumbs, coating both sides in each before moving to the next.
Heat a large non stick skillet that has about 1/4 inch of oil in it over medium high heat.  I like to drop a breadcrumb in the oil to test if it is ready to fry the veal- if it sizzles it is ready.  Then fry 3-4 cutlets at a time in the skillet, turning after 2 or 3 minutes (when the breading is golden brown on the bottom) and fry other side until golden brown.  Remove the cutlets to a wire rack over a baking dish and place in a warm oven to keep warm while you cook remaining cutlets.
Cook your choice of pasta, according to package directions.  I used angel hair, but Emeril used herbed egg noodles.
Top each cutlet with a spoon full of sauce and place a slice of fresh mozzarella on each cutlet.  Place the veal cutlets that are now topped with mozzarella under a broiler to allow the cheese to melt, watching carefully.  To serve: arrange the pasta on the dinner plate.  Ladle some sauce on the pasta.  Top the pasta with the veal cutlet.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if desired and a little fresh basil, cut in ribbons.

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Panera’s Mac and Cheese

I don’t know a bout you, but I love Panera!  I love their sandwiches, soups, and sides.  Their macaroni and cheese is quite outstanding and creamy.  After ordering the side recently I went home wanting to find a copycat recipe for the dish.. but I didn’t have to… as it turns out, Panera is quite willing to share the recipe with everyone.  I made it too – I did not have the exact cheeses – I used yellow American cheese instead of white American cheese, and it still turned out quite close to the one they sell.  They use shells in the recipe, but you could use any pasta you like. The surprising ingredient in the Panera recipe is a dash of Frank’s Hot Sauce.  It is very subtle though.

Here is a link to Panera’s Recipe.


Baked Ziti

I think the last time we had Ziti, my husband cooked it!  At that time, I was in bed recovering from a very painful spill  down the stairs of my house – I do not care to repeat that – the falling down stairs on my back part – not the hubby cooking part – he did a fine job- he just prefers to program computers – and THAT is something I can’t do!  I love to cook! It has been 2 years since my fall and I am doing much better now, though I still have not learned to walk – that is.. I fell again this summer, but did not injure myself nearly as badly this time! I am a klutz!

I found this particular recipe in Cook’s Country: Best Potluck Recipes (pages 114-116) link

I adapted the recipe a little, because it was meatless, and my husband loves meat in his Ziti.  The other change I made was I used Ricotta cheese instead of cottage cheese (it is a texture thing for me).  The recipe was easy to follow , though it had a lot of steps, but the results were very good.

Baked Ziti

adapted from Cook’s Country  Best Potluck Recipes (p 114-116)


  • 1 (15 oz) container Ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided use
  • salt
  • 1 lb ziti, or other tube pasta
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (28 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped, divided use
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • pepper, to taste
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 tsp cornstarch
  • 8 oz whole milk mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4 inch dice (not pre-shredded)


Preheat the oven to 350F and adjust the oven rack to about the center position.

In a medium bowl, stir together the Ricotta cheese, eggs, and 1 cup of the Parmesan cheese and set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the pasta according to package directions, until it is just underdone.  Drain and set aside (in the colander).

In a large skillet, heat the oil and cook the garlic for a minute or two until the garlic is fragrant but not browned.  Stir it the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes.  Add the oregano and simmer the sauce for 10 minutes over medium low.  Turn off the heat and add 1/2 cup basil and sugar.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

In another skillet cook the ground beef seasoned with 1 tsp of salt.  Cook until done and drain off any fat.  Set aside.

With heat off, stir the cream and cornstarch in the stockpot you used to boil the pasta (so you don’t have to dirty any other dishes).  Turn the heat on to medium and stir constantly for 3-4 minutes until the mixture is slightly thickened.  Turn off the heat and remove the pot from the heat source.  Add in the cheese mixture and 1 cup of the sauce, half of the mozzarella dices and drained ground beef.  Add the pasta to coat it thoroughly. Pour the Ziti into a 13×9″ baking dish. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the casserole.  Top with remaining mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese.

Spray a piece of tinfoil with cooking spray (to prevent the cheese from sticking to the foil during baking), and cover the casserole tightly. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 for 30 minutes and then remove the foil, return to oven to bake another 30 minutes until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly.  Let sit for 10 minutes after baking.  Sprinkle with remaining 2 Tbsp of chopped basil. Serve with fresh French Bread or garlic bread and salad.

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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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Italian Sausage over Pasta

Quite a few years ago, we had dinner with some friends and they made a wonderful sausage dish that can easily adapted to what you have in your fridge.  It works really well with peppers, onions, zucchini, but also could go with mushrooms or eggplant.  Feel free to change it to suit your own family’s tastes.  It looks lovely over tri-color Rotini Pasta.

Italian Sausage over Pasta

Serves 6

  • 1 (12 oz) box tri-color Rotini Pasta, or other pasta
  • cooking oil
  • 6 mild Italian Sausage links
  • 1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 bell pepper (yellow, or orange or red) sliced thinly
  • 3 medium zucchini, sliced into coins
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
  • Parmesan cheese, for topping


Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Cook the pasta according to package directions.

Heat a large non stick skillet, over medium high heat.  Add 1 Tbsp of cooking oil to the skillet and brown the Italian sausages, turning from time to time to brown until cooked through.  Remove the sausages and set aside.

Add a little more oil to the skillet if needed.  Saute the onion, bell pepper, and zucchini until the onions are translucent and the vegetables are cooked to your liking.  Add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce.  Heat through.

To serve: Top the pasta with cooked sausage and ladle the vegetable tomato sauce over the sausage and pasta.  Top with shredded Parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!

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Homemade Pasta

I have wanted to make this for a few years now, and even attempted it a few times (before I got a Kitchen Aid Pasta attachment for my mixer), but never successful enough to blog it… today I did it!!  I was so excited and nervous about trying this.   But hey, I can make pasta! Who knew?  Well, some of you are saying oh sure you can!  But I had my doubts~ I learned what not to do next time too!  I used the recipe that came with the Kitchen Aid booklet.  You could substitute semolina for a portion (or all) of the flour if you wanted.  I even made Ravioli with the pasta, but that is another blog post!

One key to making pasta is allowing the time to let it rest before you roll it out.  The Kitchen Aid Pasta Attachment is a good investment if you plan on making your own pasta in the future.  I do like being able to control what goes into my pasta (especially filled ones) – not only from a taste standpoint, but from a health standpoint – using ingredients I can pronounce… well most of them!  The mixer does all the hard work and you are free to use both hands to feed the pasta through rather than having to crank with one hand on a manual pasta maker and only having one hand free to feed and catch- unless you have the assistance of an eager child.

link to Kitchen Aid (click on Pasta Roller and Cutter for recipe)

Here it is:

Kitchen Aid’s Recipe for Basic Egg Pasta

4 large eggs

1 Tbsp water

3 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

In the bowl of your Kitchen Aid Mixer, place the eggs, water, flour, and salt.  Use the flat beater to beat the combination for about 1/2 a minute (level 2 power).  Change the flat beater to the dough hook and continue to beat (level 2 on mixer) for about 2 minutes.  Remove the dough from the bowl and knead by hand for a few more minutes.  The dough will look pretty ragged still.  Cut the dough into fourths and place a clean damp kitchen towel over the dough to prevent it from drying out.  Rest the dough covered for at least 20 minutes.  In this time you can make the filling if you are making Ravioli.

Clear a large counter so you have room to work (I used the length of my island as I am lucky enough to have one).  Make the pasta according to instructions on the machine.  Start with the width of the pasta roller at 1 and feed one portion of the pasta through the roller.  Fold the pasta into thirds, and feed through the machine again.  Repeat about 3 times.  After that it should be about the right shape for you.  Increase the number on the pasta roller to 2 then three and so on feeding the pasta sheet through the machine after each adjustment.  I stopped at number 7 for my ravioli, but could have gone 2 more notches for even thinner pasta.  Use the pasta cutter attachments to make linguine or spaghetti. 

I used a ravioli stamp I had purchased to make ravioli.  Since it was my first time I learned a lot.  First of all, do NOT stack the ravioli on each other as you make them… they would be best if you put them on a floured board and let them dry a little.  If you do what I did, and stacked them all on top of each other you will end up cooking the whole mass together and then cut it into two or three portions… some of the pasta will be al dente and others will break open if you try to separate them (don’t ask me how I know this- it is … well, just don’t!)

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Homemade Ravioli

I looked at several recipes online to see what went into the filling of Ravioli and made up my own recipe from that.  Using some good ideas and adding seasoning that I like… The filling I came up with is pretty good though.  Feel free to exchange cheese and make it yours.  Fontina melts nicely and has a good flavor, but Mozzarella will also do the job nicely.  I happened to have Prosciutto ham in my fridge, but it is not cheap, cooked sausage or seasoned ground beef will do the job. I did not add salt to the filling as the prosciutto has a nice salty flavor, but if I used a milder meat I would season with salt as well.

Becky’s Ravioli Filling

  • 1 (15 oz) container Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 large egg, beaten with a folk
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated Fontina cheese (this one melts nicely and I used the small grate on my box grater)
  • 1 cup deli sliced Prosciutto ham, diced

Combine all the ingredients and stir to combine them.  Refrigerate until you are ready to fill the pasta.

To make the ravioli, I used one sheet of pasta, dotted the lower half with the filling and folded the pasta lengthwise over the filling and sealed with water.  Stamped the ravioli out with my ravioli stamp (or you could use a knife and cut them that way)  I had a lot of wasted pasta between the ravioli, and next time I think I may lay a second pasta sheet on two rows of ravioli instead of folding one sheet in half over the pasta, but it turned out great. Just check that they have sealed properly and pinch the sides where they are not sealed.

Lesson I learned:  DO NOT stack the ravioli on each other as you make them… they will stick together.  For best results lay each ravioli on a dry floured pastry board.  Flash freeze them for later use (What is flash freeze? Place them on a sheet pan and freeze them in your freezer.  Once they are solid you can package them into bags for later use – this way they won’t freeze to each other.)  To cook bring salted water up to a boil.  Add the ravioli to the boiling water, reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 5 minutes.  Serve with Parmesan cheese or your favorite sauce.

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Skillet Italian Chicken with Orzo

I love orzo pasta. It seems that any time I make something that contains orzo it instantly is transformed into a comfort dish that will be a repeat. My son was convinced that I was making pizza as dinner approached – and he didn’t believe me when I told him I was making chicken. It did smell like pizza. The scent of oregano, and tomatoes wafted through the air.

I found this recipe in Cook’s Country Magazine April/May 2010 issue (30 Minute Supper card). I increased the amounts to accommodate my family of 5. In the end I had a large amount left over because the chicken breasts that I used were twice the size of the usual. It was yummy with just a little kick of spice. The orzo is dry roasted until slightly browned. Then the chicken breasts are browned and then finished in a simmer with the Orzo and tomatoes. You do not need to heat up your oven – if you skillet with fit everything. My skillet only had room for 3 of the giant chicken breasts, so I transferred them to a baking dish and did cook them in the oven, but only because the chicken pieces were so large. I should have split them and used just three. So if you are cooking this for a larger group you can bake them in the oven covered with foil (I had the temperature at 350 and baked them for 25-30 minutes).

Skillet Italian Chicken with Orzo
adapted from Cook’s Country Magazine April/May 2010 (Recipe card)
Serves 6
6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (try to get small ones)
3/4 tsp dried oregano
1 /2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp (each) salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups orzo (I like Barilla brand)
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes
1 3/4 cups low sodium chicken broth
3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
shredded Parmesan cheese for serving

Dry the chicken breast halves with paper towels.
Combine the oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper in a small bowl and sprinkle each chicken breast half with the mixture on both sides. (Use less red pepper flakes if you don’t like it with much kick).
Toast the orzo pasta in a large non stick skillet about 3-5 minutes shaking the pan from time to time until the orzo is golden brown. Remove the orzo and set aside for later use.
Heat 1 Tbsp of the oil in the pan and heat over high heat until the oil is shimmering. Cook the chicken breast halves for 3 minutes on each side. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
Pour remaining oil in the skillet and add the garlic, stirring for about 30 seconds until the garlic is fragrant. Add the diced tomatoes (with their juices), chicken broth, and toasted orzo pasta and bring the mixture to a boil. Top the pasta with the chicken breasts and any juices from the plate. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. Cook over medium-low for about 10 to 15 minutes until the pasta is tender and the chicken is cooked through. Top each serving with basil and shredded Parmesan cheese.

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