August 31, 2018

Giacomo’s Baked Pasta Dish

 “In 1999, I took a group on a culinary tour of the Tuscany region of Italy.   Our guide, Giacomo, was a “walking history book” as well as a fabulous Italian cook.  I got pretty talented at jotting down his verbally shared recipes on matchbooks, travel brochures and napkins.  This one was written on a paper napkin from a little restaurant in the ancient town of San Gimignano .  It is simple and brings to mind many great memories of my trip every time I prepare it.”  Laura Laiben of The Culinary Center of Kansas City


  • 3 to 4 large onions, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 6 to 8 ripe tomatoes (or 10 to 12 Roma tomatoes), washed, thinly sliced
  •   ½ to ¾ cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1-1/2 cups dried bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 4 to 5 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ to ¾ cup olive oil
  • 12 ounces dry bucatini pasta cooked al dente, drained (or pasta of your choice)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a baking dish layer onions; then layer tomatoes on top.  In a small bowl add cheese, bread crumbs, oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Stir to combine.  Sprinkle mixture over top of tomatoes, covering evenly.  Drizzle oil on top.  Transfer to oven and bake for about 20 minutes, checking often to make sure it does not dry out or burn. Remove from the oven.  Remove from pan to a clean cutting board.  Using a large sharp knife, coarsely chop.  Transfer to a large serving bowl. Add pasta and gently toss to combine.  Serve cold, warm or hot.  Makes 8 servings.

The better the quality of tomatoes, the tastier the finished product will be.  You can also easily vary the amount of ingredients to suit your taste buds.


Tequila-Spiked Queso Fundido

Spicy poblano chile pepper and tequila pack a punch.  Serve as a party dip with tortilla chips, or create upscale quesadillas with a warmed tortilla and chorizo.


  • 1/3 cup chopped, seeded fresh poblano chile pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion (1 small)
  • 1 tbl olive oil
  • ¼ cup tequila
  • 1 ½ cups shredded queso Chihuahua, queso quesadilla, and/or Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 tbl all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped tomato (1 small)
  • 1 tbl snipped fresh cilantro
  • Tortilla chips or warmed flour tortillas (optional)
  • Chorizo sausage, cooked, well-drained, and crumbled (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium or large skillet cook chile pepper and onion in hot oil until tender.  Remove skillet from heat.  Carefully add tequila.  Return to heat; simmer, uncovered for 15 to 30 seconds or until most of the tequila has evaporated but vegetables are still moist.

Spoon mixture into the bottom of a 6 x 7 inch oven-proof skillet or a 2 cup au gratin dish.  In a medium bowl toss cheese with flour; sprinkle cheese mixture over vegetables.

Bake about 10 minutes or just until cheese is melted.  Sprinkle with tomato and cilantro.  If desired, serve with tortilla chips or serve in warmed tortillas topped with cooked chorizo.


Pizza Burgers

  • 8 ounces bulk Italian sausage
  • 8 ounces ground beef
  • ½ cup pepperoni, chopped, or cooked bacon crumbles
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 8 half inch slices French bread or baguette
  • 1 8 ounce can pizza sauce or 1 cup marina sauce
  • ¼ cup shredded mozzarella or Italian cheese blend
  • Pepperoni slices (optional)


In a large bowl combine Italian sausage, ground beef, the chopped pepperoni and the salt; mix well.  Using your clean hands, shape meat mixture into four ¾-inch –thick patties.

For a charcoal or gas grill, grill patties on the rack of a covered grill directly over medium heat for 14 to 18 minutes or until done (160 degrees), turning once halfway through grilling time.  Toast bread slices on the grill.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan heat pizza sauce over low heat.

Serve burgers between toasted bread slices topped with sauce, cheese and if desired, pepperoni slices.


Italian Dinner Soup

  • 1 pound uncooked Italian sausage links, casings removed (about 4)
  • 3 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 3 cups beef stock or broth
  • 1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano
  • 1 9 ounce package refrigerated ravioli or tortellini
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated


In a large skillet, cook sausage over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until no pink remains.  Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven combine chicken and beef stock and undrained tomatoes; bring to boiling.  Add ravioli and cook 7 minutes.  Add sausage and return to boiling.  Stir in spinach to wilt and then add basil.  Divide among soup plates and top with cheese.


Trail Mix Brownies

  • 1 cup butter
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose four
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ cups trail mix ingredients (such as salted peanuts, pretzel sticks, dried cranberries, raisins, chocolate pieces and/or candy-coated milk chocolate pieces).


Line a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan with heavy foil, extending foil over edges of the pan.  Butter the foil and set pan aside.

In a heavy large saucepan, heat 1 cup butter and the chocolates over low heat, stirring constantly until chocolate is melted and smooth.  Set aside to cool slightly.  In a medium bowl, stir together eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla.  Stir into warm chocolate mixture; cool to room temperature.  In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt.  Fold flour mixture into chocolate mixture.  Spread the batter in the prepared pan.  Sprinkle about 1 ½ cups trail mix ingredients over brownie batter in pan.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until brownies appear shiny, begin to crack on top and appear set.  (Do not overbake.)  Cook completely in pan on a wire rack; then cut into bars.  (For cleaner cuts, you can chill brownies in pan in refrigerator for several hours.  Use foil to life chilled brownies out of pan before cutting.)


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