Cream Cheese Lasagna

Are you the type of home cook that plans your meals ahead of time, or one that cooks on the fly? I lean more on cook on the fly type, but we do make an attempt, at least talk about it, to think ahead of what we want to eat throughout the week. My wife had suggested that she make a pan of lasagna and freeze it to be had later in the week, and well, I had nothing as again, I’m more on the fly as to what my mood is. With that said, while she was out running errands, I decided to make the lasagna for her, you know, because I’m that type of guy. I had everything in stock with the exception of one ingredient, and I was not about to head to the store. This is when the cream cheese came into play.

Cream Cheese Lasagna

We are typically a ricotta cheese mixture type of family when it comes to making the cheese sauce mixture for lasagna, however I have taken spins on different lasagnas such as this Italian Beef Lasagna with Giardiniera, as well as a Lasagna Carbonara, both of which were awesome, so I was anxious to see how the cream cheese would turn out.

I grabbed my helper, who loves lasagna, and showed him how to make this recipe as well. Trust me, I am not looking back to ricotta ever again.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 12 sheets of lasagna, cooked under al dente
  • 1/2 lb ground chuck
  • 1/2 lb Italian sausage
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus 3 tbsp
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 4 cups of marinara sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Start by adding the sausage and beef to a pot, and cook it all the way through. Strain any fat, and return back to the stove. Add in your marinara, and give it a good stir. Season with the garlic, Italian seasoning, and some salt and pepper. Stir again.

Next, make your cheese sauce. To a mixing bowl, add the cream cheese, eggs, and 3/4 cup of parmesan cheese. Season with an additional pinch of salt and pepper, and the dried parsley. Give this a good mix until you have a smooth cheese sauce and everything is nicely incorporated.

How to make cream cheese lasagna

OK, get your lasagna pan out. You know you have one. Take a ladle of the marinara and meat sauce, and get a nice thin layer on the bottom of the pan. Add 3 sheets of the cooked lasagna sheets onto the bottom. Top with some of the cheese mixture, into a nice even layer. Sprinkle a bit of the mozzarella cheese over the top, then more of the meat sauce. You want nice, even layers, reserving enough of both meat and cheese sauce for more layers.

Top with 3 more sheets of pasta, more cheese sauce, a bit more mozzarella, then more meat sauce. Repeat again, making sure the top layer gets the remaining meat sauce. Cover with mozzarella cheese, sprinkle on the 2 tablespoons of the parmesan cheese, and take a look at that thing of beauty.

Spray a sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray, and place that, spray side down, onto the top of the pan of lasagna. I find this helps to prevent the cheese from sticking to the foil.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and cook for 40 minutes. Uncover, and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is nice and golden, and some of the edges are a bit crispy.

Let this cool down a bit as it will be piping hot, then slice and serve.

The end result is a really, really good lasagna. I was always a fan of the standard ricotta cheese sauce, but this cream cheese just added this ever slight tang that I fell in love. Again, I will never turn back to the classic, it was that good.

Cream Cheese Lasagna
Author: 
Recipe type: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
Ingredients
  • 12 sheets of lasagna, cooked under al dente
  • ½ lb ground chuck
  • ½ lb Italian sausage
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus 3 tbsp
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 4 cups of marinara sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • salt to taste
  • ½ tsp cracked black pepper
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Instructions
  1. Start by adding the sausage and beef to a pot, and cook it all the way through. Strain any fat, and return back to the stove. Add in your marinara, and give it a good stir. Season with the garlic, Italian seasoning, and some salt and pepper. Stir again.
  2. Next, make your cheese sauce. To a mixing bowl, add the cream cheese, eggs, and ¾ cup of parmesan cheese. Season with an additional pinch of salt and pepper, and the dried parsley. Give this a good mix until you have a smooth cheese sauce and everything is nicely incorporated.
  3. OK, get your lasagna pan out. You know you have one. Take a ladle of the marinara and meat sauce, and get a nice thin layer on the bottom of the pan. Add 3 sheets of the cooked lasagna sheets onto the bottom. Top with some of the cheese mixture, into a nice even layer. Sprinkle a bit of the mozzarella cheese over the top, then more of the meat sauce. You want nice, even layers, reserving enough of both meat and cheese sauce for more layers.
  4. Top with 3 more sheets of pasta, more cheese sauce, a bit more mozzarella, then more meat sauce. Repeat again, making sure the top layer gets the remaining meat sauce. Cover with mozzarella cheese, sprinkle on the 2 tablespoons of the parmesan cheese, and take a look at that thing of beauty.
  5. Spray a sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray, and place that, spray side down, onto the top of the pan of lasagna. I find this helps to prevent the cheese from sticking to the foil.
  6. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and cook for 40 minutes. Uncover, and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is nice and golden, and some of the edges are a bit crispy.
  7. Let this cool down a bit as it will be piping hot, then slice and serve.
  8. The end result is a really, really good lasagna. I was always a fan of the standard ricotta cheese sauce, but this cream cheese just added this ever slight tang that I fell in love. Again, I will never turn back to the classic, it was that good.

 

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Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes, and Beans

There are many times throughout the week that I want something hearty, but without meat. I want a main course, or heck even a side dish that would go well with things like roasted chicken, and this is one of those dishes. You have to love a dish that is really simple to put together, yet one that is complex in flavor, and texture. I knew that my wife, and one of my kids (maybe two), would really love this pasta dish. What ended up happening is that I really, really was the one who loved this pasta with pest, potatoes, and green beans.

Pasta Salad with Pesto, Potatoes, and Beans

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of fresh basil, packed
  • 1/3 cup dry roasted almonds, lightly toasted
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt, to taste
  • 3 red potatoes, cubed
  • 1/2 pound gemini pasta, cooked al dente
  • 2 cups green beans, trimmed and cut in half
  • 2 tbsp canola oil

Start by adding the cubed potatoes to a pot of cold water. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes or until fork tender. During this time, make a simple pesto.

To a food processor, add the basil, and lightly toasted almonds. You can go traditional by adding garlic, and pine nuts, but I wanted to go simple here and the basil and almonds were really, really good. Pulse the basil and almonds, then slowly add in the olive oil, and salt, until you have a nice pesto consistency.

Move the pesto into a small bowl, and set to the side.

Boil your pasta until al dente, drain, and place into a mixing bowl.

A couple of more steps and you are about ready to serve.

To a sauté pan, add about 1 cup of water, and the green beans. Bring to simmer, and cook the beans for about 3-4 minutes. I love the snap of the green bean for this pasta.

Next, add the canola oil to a large skillet, and bring it to a medium-high heat.

How to make pasta with pesto, potatoes, and green beans

Add the cooked potatoes, and cook until they are golden brown. Season with a pinch of salt.

Drain the beans and add them to the pasta.

Add the pesto, then top with the hot, and slightly crisp potatoes. Give everything a good stir, taste, and season with any additional salt.

The great thing about this pasta salad is that you can serve it cold, at room temperature, or warm. Who doesn’t love that?

When my daughter got home for school, she always asks two questions; what’s for dinner and can I have a snack? Then she saw the pasta salad as the centerpiece of the dinner table. She asked if she could try it (I never turn down that interest), and she totally fell in love. My boys on the other hand were not as excited. I mean pasta with green pesto flecks on it, seriously? What they did not know is they totally missed out on an awesome pasta salad that was not only simple, but super packed with awesome flavor and texture.

Give this one a try if you are going meatless during the week, and are looking for a dish that is not only hearty, but perfect to eat as leftovers. Hope you enjoy!

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Risotto Cakes

This past weekend was a busy one. I had to work on Friday night for an event, one that is always a bit stressful, and as I wanted to do something for Valentine’s day for my wife that night, I was just unable to. With that said, my wife had sent me a message saying that she had something nice for me when I came home. That made my day to say the least! When I arrived home around 9:30, my wife had an array of cheeses set out on our cheeseboard, along with a couple of delicious beers, and a very thoughtful card. Did I say that made my day?

The following day, I had already planned a nice dinner for my wife, and kids. I had initially decided to go out to dinner, but the cost for dinner service was insane, and I knew I could make a great dinner for my entire family for what restaurants were charging for just the two of us, plus I could probably do a better job, and it was a bit more sexy cooking with my wife.

Risotto Cakes

I had planned a dinner for all of us. It was surf and turf, along with creamy, mushroom risotto. I offered up bone-in rib eyes, beef tenderloin, and succulent shrimp. The kids were jazzed, mostly about the surf and turf, but I think my wife and I were more excited about the mushroom risotto! The dinner turned out awesome, and we had probably a better time staying in and cooking together than going out into the cold, just to be with those who default to a dinner at a restaurant. The following day, we had leftovers, and one of them being a bunch of risotto. I knew exactly what I wanted to make, and as I initially thought of making awesome Italian arancini, I decided to come up with making risotto cakes. These things are excellent, and make a great side dish to any meal.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients for the mushroom risotto:

  • 1 1/2 cups of Arborio rice (Italian short grain rice, used for making risotto)
  • 4 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 cups baby portabello mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed, chopped
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup of brandy
  • 6 cup unsalted chicken broth
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup Grated Parmesan cheese

Ingredients for making the risotto cakes:

  • Cold, leftover risotto
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup of Italian bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • Flat leaf parsley, chopped (optional)

Start by making the risotto.

To a sauce pan, add in all of the chicken stock, and bring it up to a simmer. You need warm/hot stock for this process, not cold stock.

To a medium pot, add 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and to that add your shallots, mushrooms, and garlic. Cook for roughly four minutes, then add in the arborio rice. Stir, cooking for about three minutes, and continue to stir. Add in about a 1/4 cup of the hot stock, and then add in brandy. Stir. The liquid should quickly begin to evaporate.

Now here is the trick, and you must stick with the trick, and that is when you are adding your stock, you will want to keep stirring while the liquid evaporates while cooking the rice. Throw in 2 cups of the chicken stock, and stir until the stock evaporates. Continue this process with the remaining stock. Begin tasting for tenderness. You want the risotto to be creamy and tender. Once done, season with salt and pepper, and the grated cheese. Stir, and serve immediately. Enjoy, then when you are done eating this as a side dish, let it cool, and cover, and refrigerate over night.

The following day is when you make your risotto cakes.

To a bowl, add the egg, and beat it until nice and smooth.

How to make risotto cakes

Add in about 3 cups of the cold risotto, and the bread crumbs. Mix to combine all of the ingredients, and them form them into cakes. I use a ring mold, as I like the molds for a great presentation, but if you do not have ring molds, then form them into patties, as shown above.

Heat a large skillet on medium heat, and add in the olive oil. Bring the oil up to temperature, then add the risotto cakes. I like to add a bit more of the panko bread crumbs to the top and bottom of each risotto cake.

Cook for about 3 minutes, per side, or until nice and golden on each side. Manage your heat as well so that you do not burn the cakes. When I flip the first risotto cake, I place the lid on the skillet, and reduce the heat to a medium-low, to ensure that the risotto cake gets heated through, then I uncover, raise the heat to a medium, and continue to cook until both sides are nice and golden brown.

Remove with a slotted spatula, and serve. Shower with chopped parsley if you prefer.

These risotto cakes are super yummy. No lie. They are everything you love in a risotto (but better), but have this great crispy exterior, and this awesome creamy interior. My wife loved them up, and I couldn’t have been happier to have her cook with my the previous evening and see her enjoy these the following day. Life is good. Hope you enjoy!

Risotto Cakes
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • Ingredients for the mushroom risotto:
  • 1½ cups of Arborio rice (Italian short grain rice, used for making risotto)
  • 4 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 cups baby portabello mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed, chopped
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup of brandy
  • 6 cup unsalted chicken broth
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • ½ cup Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Ingredients for making the risotto cakes:
  • Cold, leftover risotto
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup of Italian bread crumbs
  • ½ cup of olive oil
  • Flat leaf parsley, chopped (optional)
Instructions
  1. Start by making the risotto.
  2. To a sauce pan, add in all of the chicken stock, and bring it up to a simmer. You need warm/hot stock for this process, not cold stock.
  3. To a medium pot, add 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and to that add your shallots, mushrooms, and garlic Cook for roughly four minutes, then add in the arborio rice. Stir, cooking for a minute or two, as you continue to stir. Add in about a ¼ cup of the hot stock, and then add in brandy. Stir. The liquid should quickly begin to evaporate.
  4. Now here is the trick, and you must stick with the trick, and that is when you are adding your stock, you will want to keep stirring while the liquid evaporates while cooking the rice. Throw in 2 cups of the chicken stock, and cook and stir until evaporated, and continue this process with the remaining stock. Begin tasting for tenderness. You want the risotto to be creamy and tender. Once done, season with salt and pepper, and the grated cheese. Stir, and serve immediately. Enjoy, then when you are done eating this as a side dish, let it cool, and cover, and refrigerate over night.
  5. The following day is when you make your risotto cakes.
  6. To a bowl, add the egg, and beat it until nice and smooth.
  7. Add in about 2 cups of the cold risotto, and the bread crumbs. Mix to combine all of the ingredients, and them form them into cakes. I use a ring mold, as I like the molds for a great presentation, but if you do not have ring molds, then form them into patties, as shown above.
  8. Heat a large skillet on medium heat, and add in the olive oil. Bring the oil up to temperature, then add the risotto cakes. I like to add a bit more of the panko bread crumbs to the top and bottom of each risotto cake.
  9. Cook for about 3 minutes, per side, or until nice and golden on each side. Manage your heat as well so that you do not burn the cakes. When I flip the first risotto cake, I place the lid on the skillet, and reduce the heat to a medium-low, to ensure that the risotto cake gets heated through, then I uncover, raise the heat to a medium, and continue to cook until both sides are nice and golden brown.
  10. Remove with a slotted spatula, and serve.

 

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Rapini with Sauteed Garlic

I’ve lately became a sucker when it comes to dark, leafy vegetables. I spent many years in my young adulthood avoiding things such as spinach, kale, collards, chard, and the like, however these past several years, I have really enjoyed eating them, whether I throw them in my juicer, or slowly cook them down and eat them by the forkful.  This past week  I was caught browsing the produce aisle where there were great organic root vegetables, bok choy, and then the rapini that caught my attention. I’m not sure why, but either rapini, or broccolini always catches my attention when I see it. The dark green leaves, along with the small broccoli style buds entices me every time, and this visit was no exception. I decided to bring the rapini home, and turn it into a great side dish to pair with some seared tuna.

Rapini with Sauteed Garlic

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch rapini, tough stems removed and discarded
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic, peeled, left whole
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt to taste

Start by cutting the rapini into 3 inch segments, or you can leave whole if you prefer. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Add the rapini to the salted water, and cook for about two minutes. Remove and shock the rapini in ice cold water. Drain, and push out any excess water. Set to the side.

Rapini with Sauteed Garlic

Heat a large skillet on medium-low heat. Add the oil and garlic, and let the garlic slowly cook in the oil, to infuse the oil if you will.

After a few minutes, add the rapini, and gently toss in the oil. Season with a bit of salt, toss again, then serve hot.

The result is a perfect balance between the slight bitterness of the rapini, along with the nuttiness, and that great garlic oil. It’s a perfect side dish, and goes perfect with fish, or heck, even mix in some pasta and you will be in great shape. Hope you enjoy.

Rapini with Sauteed Garlic
Author: 
Recipe type: Sides
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 1 bunch rapini, tough stems removed and discarded
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic, peeled, left whole
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Start by cutting the rapini into 3 inch segments, or you can leave whole if you prefer. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Add the rapini to the salted water, and cook for about two minutes. Remove and shock the rapini in ice cold water. Drain, and push out any excess water. Set to the side.
  3. Heat a large skillet on medium-low heat. Add the oil and garlic, and let the garlic slowly cook in the oil, to infuse the oil if you will.
  4. After a few minutes, add the rapini, and gently toss in the oil. Season with a bit of salt, toss again, then serve hot.
  5. The result is a perfect balance between the slight bitterness of the rapini, along with the nuttiness, and that great garlic oil. It’s a perfect side dish, and goes perfect with fish, or heck, even mix in some pasta and you will be in great shape. Hope you enjoy.

 

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