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Italian Dishes

Clam Linguini

Important: Use linguini or other thin noodle. The best kind is the fresh pasta found in the refrigerated section. Contadina is my favorite, but there are other brands. You’ll need about a ½ pound of pasta to feed two people.

Start your pasta water boiling while you fix the rest of the dish.

Mince 2 to 3 cloves of fresh garlic.

Next, sauté or toast the garlic in 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a deep skillet. It burns easily so be careful!

When the garlic is done, add 2 tablespoons fresh, minced parsley.

Add two cans (5.5 ounce cans) of minced clams including juice and heat slowly.

Add a dash of pepper flakes (two or three sprinkles.)

Add about ¼ cup chardonnay. Splurge and get a decent wine—not one from the “cooking” wine section of the store (salt is added to ”cooking wines”).

Simmer this whole mixture for a couple of minutes. It’s going to be mostly water.  Add 4 to 6 tablespoons of heavy cream.

When the pasta is done, add it to the pan with the clams. You need to simmer again, very low for at least 5 minutes. You don’t want to boil off the juice, but you want most of it to soak into the pasta. I usually heat it for about 5 minutes and then turn it off and let it sit another five or ten minutes.

Serve with parmesan cheese and garlic bread.

Note: You can substitute shrimp for the clams—if you do, you’ll need to add bottled clam juice or about 1 cup of chicken broth. Add the chopped shrimp right after the parsley and cook through before adding the clam juice and chardonnay.

Posted: July 19, 2006
Filed in Italian Dishes, Seafood Dishes

Fettucini Alfredo Sauce

I’ve been playing with recipes for Alfredo Sauce for years. I found one that I liked in the cold section of my grocery and relied on that until recently when the price went way up and they slashed the size of the container. So this is my recipe so far. Subject to change. And it may be a bit hard to follow because the measurements are somewhat inexact at this time. Boil the noodles and have them ready before you begin the sauce. If you want grilled chicken in the dish, grill and dice it ahead of time. Mushrooms should always be cooked ahead of time, separate from the sauce. If you add uncooked or slightly cooked mushrooms to alfredo sauce it gets very thin and watery.

Okay, here it is, the almost masterpiece:

1/4 cup butter melted in heavy-duty sauce pan

To the butter add:
2 ounces cream cheese

Stir constantly with a wire wisk while melting the cheese/butter over low heat.

When the cream cheese is melted, it will result in a somewhat thick sauce. Slowly add half and half, about 1/4 cup at a time, up to about 3/4 cup. Continue stirring with the wire wisk as you add. You want the mixture to thin before you add the “real” cheese.

Begin adding shredded parmesan or romano cheese, about 1/8 cup (not packed) at a time. Add and stir with the wisk slowly to give it time to melt into the mixture. I used between 4 and 5 ounces total. If the mixture gets too thick while you’re adding the cheese, add a little half and half (drizzle some in–I’d guess about 1/8th cup) and then more cheese until the consistency is right. You don’t want it too thick–it will thicken as it cools and adheres to the noodles. I like mine just a little thinner/runnier than pancake mix.

The above amount easily serves two people as a main course (with chicken) with plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day. If you serve salad and bread, I’d say the above can accommodate four people.

The first few times I made this dish with cream–it results in a thicker sauce that doesn’t reheat as well (tends to separate). The half and half is also marginally better for me. 🙂

When the sauce is the consistency you want, toss the noodles and chicken in the dish. Grilled shrimp, crab and/or grilled scallops go very well in this dish also.

Posted: October 27, 2008
Filed in Italian Dishes

Half Lasagna, Half Spaghetti Bake

I like lasagna. I don’t like all the layering and the big long noodles and getting everything just so. Thus, I invented a fake lasagna that isn’t a spaghetti bake either because I used shell noodles. It was much easier to make than lasagna because I didn’t have to layer anything perfectly or line up noodles.

Brown the following in a skillet:

Two mild Italian sausages removed from the skins (Just push the meat out the skins of the sausage and into the pan.) Break up the sausage with a fork. If you don’t remove the skins, it doesn’t work because you can’t chop it small.
1/2 pound of lean hamburger. Break up the meat as it cooks into pieces.
3 minced garlic cloves

When the meat is browned add:

1/2 tablespoon Basil
dash of oregano (about 1/2 tsp or to taste)
1 tsp sugar
1 can of diced unsalted tomatoes (12 to 16 ounces)
1 large can of tomato sauce (13 ounces) I accidentally used the salted can so didn’t add any other salt
1 small can of tomato paste (8 ounces)
Large bunch of chopped baby spinach leaves (optional)

Mix it all in with the meat. You might add a little water, just enough to clean the cans.

Then mix into the pan:
1 tub of ricotta (16 ounce, whole milk kind)

In a large bowl:
Grate at least 12 ounces to a full pound of mozzarella (I had 8 ounces of mozzarella, but then grated a bunch of monterey jack because I didn’t have enough cheese)
mix/sprinkle in about a cup of grated Asiago (or Romano or Parmesan)

Stir/fluff the cheese so that the asiago is mixed in there with the other cheese(s).

Prepare a pound and a half of your favorite pasta (I used big shells, one bag and not quite a half a bag of little shells. Maybe it was a 1/4 of a bag of the little ones. This isn’t a science, it’s more what is in the cupboard at the time…)

Drain and rinse the pasta and then mix in the meat and ricotta cheese. Stir well.

In a baking dish, put in a layer/large spoonful of the meat/pasta. Then put in a healthy layer of the grated cheeses. Then a layer of the meat/pasta and then more cheese. Keep doing these layers until you have the baking dish full and are out of ingredients. Bake at about 350 until the cheese bubbles on top.

It’s not complicated, but I cooked this on the fly using whatever I had on hand!!!

Husband rates this one: “We can have this again.”

Posted: April 13, 2012
Filed in Italian Dishes

Pasta Fugioli

Summertime isn’t my favorite time for soup, but when you have tomatoes…you gotta use’m up! My neighbor actually made this little soup and brought some over. I’ve changed it here and there, but it’s a good summer soup with lots of veggies (you can put almost anything in here.)

2 cans chicken stock (4 cups)
2 cans water (4 cups)

Bring to almost a boil. Dip 5 to 7 tomatoes into the stock for about 5 minutes so that you can peel them. I do this using the soup stock so that the flavor and whatnot from the skins goes straight into the soup. When the tomato skins split, remove them from the stock using prongs. Set them in a bowl to cool.

Add three celery stocks (these do not have to be cut as you will remove them after cooking.) to the broth and simmer.

Dice two small zucchini and add to the broth, continuing to simmer.
Add 1 tsp thyme
Add 1/2 to 1 tsp finely diced fresh rosemary (This is a strong flavor so you might want to start with 1/2 tsp and go up from there if you like it.)

When the tomatoes are cooled, dice them carefully, saving as much juice for the stock as possible. Add the diced tomatoes to the stock.

Add 1 tablespoon sugar.

Optional: Dice in some cooked sausage. I used Wisconsin beef sausage (sliced about an ounce, grilled it, and then diced it.)

Simmer, covered for about an hour.

You can add meatballs, cooked beans (white northern, pinto or red) and other vegetables (onions, garlic, parsley). After the soup has simmered, remove the celery stalks and discard.

Prepare two cups of dried pasta by following the directions on the bag. Little shells, small elbow pasta or any small noodle will do.

Add the noodles right before eating.

It’s a simple soup, but a very nice tomato based soup. It is quite good, even on a hot summer day!!

Posted: June 17, 2008
Filed in Italian Dishes, Soups

Pasta Primavera

An excellent pasta dish with or without meat.

Start water boiling to prepare a pound of pasta. I use linguini or pasta bowties for this dish.


Fresh asparagus spears
1 cup fresh broccoli
1 medium chopped onion
½ cup chopped carrots
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 sweet yellow pepper or 1 sweet red pepper or half of each
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
2 or 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
½ tsp salt
1 cup grated Romano cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
¾ cup whipping cream
½ to ¾ cup chicken broth

Use the chicken broth to steam:

Fresh asparagus cut to 1 ½ inch pieces
Add pinch of sugar and pinch of marjoram

Sauté in 2 tablespoons olive oil:

1 medium yellow and red/yellow sweet pepper

When the vegetables are crisp-tender, add the cream, salt and chicken broth from the asparagus/broccoli. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add asparagus, broccoli, and pasta. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of Romano cheese and toss. Add basil, another 2 tablespoons of Romano cheese and toss again. Remove from heat and let sit covered for 5 to 10 minutes. This allows the cream and flavors to blend into the pasta.

Serve with Romano sprinkled on top of each serving. This dish is enhanced by adding shrimp/scallops or grilled chicken!

Posted: July 19, 2006
Filed in Italian Dishes

Pizza Dough

We all know that pizza dough is an art. I’m convinced that when it comes to pizza dough, bread and some cookies, the magic formula is different depending on where you live. So here is my pizza dough for almost-sea-level-Austin. I don’t think sea level is the only factor that causes a difference in dough. Just like green chiles are best grown in New Mexico and Kona coffee grows in Hawaii, you have to adjust the magic to where you live. If you can.

* 2 cups white whole wheat flour
* 1 1/2 cups bread flour
* 1 teaspoon salt, scant
* 1 1/4 cup warm water
* 2 tablespoons yeast
* 1 tablespoons honey
* 1 tablespoon sugar
* 1/4 cup olive oil
* 1 egg yolk

Mix the warm water, yeast, honey and sugar. Let sit for five minutes. If the yeast doesn’t bubble, (froth) start over. It didn’t take. If the water is too hot, it will kill the yeast. Too cold the yeast will not grow. Magic, as I said.

After the yeast has frothed, add in the egg yolk and the olive oil.

Stir the flour and salt together in a bowl. Add about one cup of flour at a time to the yeast/water. Stir. Then add another cup and stir. Add another cup of flour and stir. You may or may not need all of the last half cup. The dough should be barely sticky. If it’s sticky, add the last 1/2 cup. Knead well until everything is mixed. You can coat the dough with olive oil, place in a glass bowl, and cover it. Set it in a warm, dark place to rise. Rising should take about an hour and the dough should double.

Once the dough has doubled, punch it down and divide into two sections. Each section should be large enough for a pizza (you can divide it as much as you want, of course.)

Move your pizza stone to the lower third of the oven. Pre-heat the oven to 550. You need to *really* preheat it. This can take a half hour or so.

While it is preheating, spread the dough to pizza shape. Use extra flour if you need to. Prepare your toppings and get the pizza ready. If you are saving some of the dough for later, wrap in plastic and refrigerate (or freeze if you won’t use it the next day.)

Use corn meal on the pizza stone so that the dough doesn’t stick to it or the pizza paddle. Slide the pizza onto the stone and cook for about 10 to 12 minutes until the cheese bubbles. Slide the pizza paddle under it and place on a cookie pan to cut.

Posted: February 14, 2011
Filed in All-American, Italian Dishes

Simple Pasta Salad


This is a simple recipe because I use any Italian dressing as the seasoning. My favorite is Olive Garden dressing, but I use the Good Season’s Boxed kind quite often because I can use Walnut Oil in place of the olive oil. Walnut oil in the diet is a great help for Dry Eye syndrome. The boxed kind also keeps in the pantry for a long time. Just mix a packet when you need Italian Dressing!

Chop the following ingredients into bite sized pieces:

Onions (green onions or regular onions. Purple or red onions add a nice touch of color.)
Fresh Mushrooms
Baby Carrots

Boil pasta of your choice and rinse in cold water. Toss pasta and veggies with dressing. Add green olives and sprinkle with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. Chill.

For added flavor try adding Italian sausage tortellini or cheese tortellini in place of some of the plain pasta. I usually use Buitoni brand and use about half of a package of tortellini. You can also use colored pasta to make the dish more interesting. On occasion, I will also put in halved grape tomatoes, pepperoni or grilled chicken.

Green, yellow or red peppers look very good in this salad.

Serve with warm buttered bread or garlic breadsticks!

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Posted: July 19, 2006
Filed in Dry Eye Recipes, Italian Dishes

Spaghetti Sauce

The perfect spaghetti sauce is hard to come by.  I started out with a recipe from my neighbor and went from there.  You can use different tomato ingredients (puree versus paste versus sauce).  The main taste comes from the mix of tomatoes, herbs and fat.  If you’re a vegetarian, you’ll want to add olive oil to this recipe in place of the meat.  Fat–whether in the form of olive oil or meat juices changes plain tomato sauce and gives it depth.

This is a crockpot recipe.  If you simmer in a pan on the stove, you’ll want more water in the mix (ie use puree and add some water and then let it cook down).  When I have fresh tomatoes from the garden (or frozen ones) I use tomato paste in place of the tomato sauce, because fresh and frozen tomatoes have a ton of water in them.  When I don’t have fresh tomatoes, I use tomato sauce as the base.  You need to fill your crockpot about halfway with either tomato paste/tomatoes/sauce or just tomato sauce.   Here’s what I do:

3 or 4 large cans no-salt-added tomato sauce (depends on the size of your crockpot)

1 small can tomato paste

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Hold in reserve 1 tablespoon white sugar–taste it when it’s nearly done; you may want this additional tablespoon of sugar.  I almost always put it in.

1/2 tablespoon to 1 tablespoon dried basil

1 tsp oregano

4 medium garlic cloves, minced

4 bay leaves

Grill 6 Hot Italian Link Sausages.  Cut in half and add to the crockpot.   Even if you don’t like to eat the sausage, herbs from the Italian sausage, along with pork flavor really help flavor the sauce.  My neighbor also grills a boneless pork chop or two and adds them to the pot.  They are quite good soaked in sauce!


You can leave the meatballs out–but again, it’s the meat that really help flavor the sauce.

1 pound or slightly less, hamburger

1/4 to 1/2 cup extremely well-minced onion

1/4 to 1/2 cup extremely well-minced celery

2 slices of finely shredded bread

8 ounces grated parmesan or romano cheese

1 egg

1/2 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp thyme

Mix all ingredients very well in a bowl.  Form into 1 inch balls.  Heat a skillet with 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Place meatballs in skillet.  Cook very brown on one side before trying to turn.  Some cheese may melt onto the skillet and cause the meatballs to stick a little, so use a fork or thin spatula to work them carefully over onto the undone side.  Cook well on at least two sides.   As the meatballs are done, gently spoon them into the crockpot.  Once all the meatballs are in the sauce, add a scant amount of water to the bottom of the skillet.  Scrape the oil and remnants and pour into the crockpot.

After the meat has been added to the sauce, cook on low for several hours (at least 3).  You may want to add a little salt, but if you added Italian links, there will be plenty of salt in the sauce.  Also check the ingredients on the tomato products–many of them contain salt.   The cheese in the meatballs also contains quite a bit of salt, so you may not need any additional.

Once the sauce is done, serve over spaghetti noodles.  Good sides?  Salad and French bread!

Posted: December 8, 2008
Filed in Italian Dishes

Superbowl Snacks

…Because it’s not just about the game! This year is colder than most at the Texas home of BMBooks. I really wanted sushi, but who wants to eat cold fish and cold rice on a cloudy, cool day???

Rather than make a stupendous meal, I prefer to nibble my way through the game:

Spinach Balls (I thought the recipe was on my site, but obviously I forgot to post it. I will post this recipe soon. In the meantime, you can check through other recipes and see if there is some dip or snacks to your liking!

Deviled Eggs
Potato Chips — Sour Cream and Onion, of course. You may think this is a lame choice, but us cholesterol, low-salt diet people don’t get to eat chips very often. We will try not to consume the entire bag during the first quarter, but no promises.

For the entree, I made a simple pasta dish. I like it; BMHusband tends to think it is on the bland side. It has Italian sausage in it. How can it be bland, I ask?? But if you find it bland, I recommend adding fresh chopped basil when the tomatoes go in.

At any rate, here is the recipe for Sausage Pasta:

Boil about a pound of pasta (bowtie, macaroni or other)

In skillet saute:
3 cloves minced garlic in olive oil
three to four crumbled sweet Italian sausage — about 3/4 of a pound

When the sausage and garlic are almost cooked, add:

sliced green onions (about 5 to 6–one bundle)
1/2 tsp pepper flakes (to taste)
sliced fresh mushrooms

When the sausage is completely cooked and the veggies tender, add:

2 cans of diced tomatoes (or fresh–close to four cups diced). This dish is actually a little better if at least one can of tomatoes is drained of excess juices.
1 cup of cream

Stir and heat through. Mix in the pasta. Serve with garlic bread and grated Romano cheese.

Posted: February 7, 2010
Filed in Italian Dishes