Spinach & Mozzarella Chicken Roll Ups

We’re gettin’ fancy over here today, folks! Rolling up a delicious filling inside a thin piece of meat has long been a trick of restaurants to make a dish look polished and expensive. Truth is, you can do it right at home! This was super delicious and didn’t take much effort to get a restaurant-quality plate.

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Now, I pulled a bit of a multi-tasking trick here. I knew I planned on making Parmesan rice with this (find the recipe here!) so I made more “filling” than I needed so that I could stir it into the rice. I highly recommend you do the same, because it makes the rice even better! The measurements I give allow for you to have that extra amount of filling.

In a skillet over medium heat, heat up a couple tablespoons of olive oil and then saute half a diced sweet onion and two cups of chopped frozen spinach. (Add lemon juice, salt, pepper, and basil while cooking.) When the onions start to become translucent, add 2 large cloves of minced garlic, toss, and then remove from the heat.

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For your chicken, take two large breasts and cut them in half so you have four thin slices. Salt and pepper each half, then sprinkle mozzarella cheese on the wider end of each. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of your filling on top of the cheese, then carefully roll up from the wider end to the thinner end. Place in a greased baking dish seam side down and then top with lemon zest, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese.

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Bake for 25 minutes at 425 degrees or until chicken is cooked through. Serve with Parmesan rice (don’t forget to stir in the extra filling!) and sauteed green beans.

(For the green beans: melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute 1/4 finely diced onion or shallots for two minutes, then add 8 ounces frozen green beans, salt & pepper, reduce heat to low, and cover. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until green beans are cooked with a little crunch left to them.)

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Wow your family or entertain dinner guests with this fabulously fancy (and deceptively easy) dish! Serve with a mild white wine like Pinot Grigio if you’re feeling extra fancy. 🙂

Full Recipe:

Spinach and Mozzarella Chicken Roll Ups

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, diced
2 cups chopped frozen spinach
2 large cloves garlic, minced
Zest & juice of 1/2 a lemon
Salt, pepper, and basil, to taste
2 large chicken breasts, each cut in half into thin slices
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Process:

1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2) Heat olive oil over medium heat in a medium skillet, then saute onions and spinach with lemon juice, salt, pepper, and basil until onions become translucent. Add garlic, toss, and remove from heat.

3) Salt and pepper each piece of chicken, then evenly divide mozzarella cheese on the wider end of each piece. Top cheese with 2 tablespoons of spinach filling, then carefully roll up each piece of chicken and place seam side down into greased baking dish.

4) Sprinkle lemon zest, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese on top of chicken, and then bake for 25 minutes or until cooked through.

5) Serve with Parmesan rice – stir extra filling into rice for added body and flavor.

Pasta with Lemon Pepper Parmesan Cream Sauce

Holy wow you guys. I sort of… accidentally made this one day for lunch. (Yes, really, “accidentally.”) It turned out so awesome that I tweaked it a bit and adjusted the recipe to serve four people. This is a fabulous quick and easy dinner or lunch idea, and is definitely versatile!

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For a lighter dish, this would be good without any meat at all. However, to make it a little heartier, saute up your choice of protein to go into the pasta. I chose kielbasa, which everyone knows is my favorite, but any smoked sausage would do. You could also use chicken (2 large breasts cut into bite size pieces), or even ground turkey (about a pound). The main point is just that the meat is fully cooked before anything else goes into the pan.

In my case, since I used kielbasa, my meat was already cooked through. I just browned it in the pan with some olive oil for a few minutes, then added 1 diced sweet onion. (Sweet onions are pretty small, so using a whole one shouldn’t be overpowering.)

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Let those sweat on medium-high for about two minutes, then add in 3 cloves of minced garlic and let simmer for one more minute.

Then, keeping the heat fairly high, add in the juice and zest of a large lemon, 3/4 cup of half & half, and 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese. Quickly stir this together so it combines and the cheese starts to melt, and then let it reduce for about two minutes.

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While it’s reducing, add in two teaspoons of fresh cracked pepper, and then salt and basil to taste. (I didn’t need as much salt since I used a cured meat – it’s to your taste!) Once the sauce has thickened, add 1 pint of halved cherry tomatoes. Stir these in and then remove the pan from the heat.

Add the sauce to cooked pasta of your choice, top with more shredded Parmesan, and serve! I used penne pasta for mine.

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I’m of the opinion that anything with a lemon-pepper flair is amazing, but I’m telling you, this pasta is shockingly good! And it’s totally fancy enough to entertain with. 🙂

Full Recipe:

Pasta with Lemon Pepper Parmesan Cream Sauce

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 package of kielbasa, cut into coins (or enough of your choice of meat to serve 4)
1 small sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Zest & juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup half & half
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
2 teaspoons fresh cracked black pepper
Salt & Basil, to taste
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

Process:

1) Brown kielbasa with olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes, tossing occasionally. Add sweet onion and saute for another two minutes. Finish off with garlic and let simmer for one final minute.

2) Keeping pan over medium-high heat, add juice and zest of the lemon, half & half, and Parmesan cheese. Stir to combine and let reduce for about 2 minutes.

3) While sauce is reducing, add pepper, salt, and basil, and stir in.

4) Once sauce has thickened, stir in cherry tomatoes and remove from the heat.

5) Toss a cooked pasta of your choice with the sauce, plate, and top with Parmesan cheese before serving.

Warm Greek Salad with Chicken

I’m pretty convinced that everything good in the world comes from the Mediterranean region. As my loyal readers know, Tuscany is probably my favorite place on the planet, as I illustrated in my most pinned and most popular blog post ever, Tuscan Pasta in Lemon Blush Sauce. (Guys, it’s been pinned 142 times as of today. That’s a LOT for a small town girl like me!)

But I digress.

A place I have yet to visit in the world (but is TOTALLY on my bucket list!) is Greece. Not only is that a country steeped to the bursting in history and rich culture, but their food is known for being natural and wholesome. The Greeks are not at all fans of processed food – most McDonald’s that have tried to open there have ended up closing. Because of this, it’s naturally the ideal kind of cuisine for someone like me.

So, I’m sure a lot of you frequently visit Panera or some other establishment that serves a “Greek Salad.” Usually, it’s mixed greens with some olives, peppers, and feta tossed on top. Now don’t get me wrong – I will tear up a Greek salad from Panera Bread if I’m waiting to meet a client there. But did you know, the classic “Greek” salad actually has no lettuce at all?

Yup, that’s right. It’s a tomato and cucumber based salad, tossed with red onion, green pepper, kalamata olives, and feta cheese, and dressed with an olive oil vinaigrette.

Mouth watering yet? Yeah, mine too.

Read on my for my take on the classic Greek salad – warmed up with sautéed chicken!

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Mise en place – French for “everything in its place,” or doing all of your prepwork before you start cooking – is so important for this dish! The only thing you have to cook is the chicken, and that goes so fast that you’ll need to have everything else ready beforehand!

So, get yourself your favorite large cutting board (my father made mine for me, crafty gentleman that he is) and prep the following:

One pint cherry tomatoes, halved.

One cucumber, large dice.

One green pepper, small dice.

Half a red onion, small dice.

About 40 (ish) kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped.

Three cloves garlic, minced.

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MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Kalamata olives typically come with the pits still in them. To get them out, crush the olive under the side of a chef’s knife (sort of like how you’d smash a clove of garlic to peel it) until it smashes down and the skin breaks, then pull the pit out with your fingers. It’s a little tedious, but once you get a rhythm, it’s not so bad.

Once this is all done, cube two large chicken breasts into bite sized pieces. Put a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, and once the pan is hot, add the chicken and season liberally with salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. Toss to coat and let simmer for five minutes or so, tossing occasionally. When it’s just about done, add your minced garlic, toss to combine, and cook for one additional minute.

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While the chicken is cooking, make your dressing by whisking together the zest and juice of one lemon, 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (the really good stuff!), 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar, and 1 tsp each of salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. I know it doesn’t look like a lot, but I promise, you only want a light coating of dressing!

Once the dressing is done, add your prepped veggies to a large bowl and pour the dressing overtop. As soon as the chicken/garlic is finished cooking, get it off the heat and immediately into the bowl. Toss it all together so the heat from the chicken warms up the vegetables a bit, and then dish it out and top with crumbled feta cheese!

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We eat with our eyes before we ever taste with our tongues, and I have to say, the colors in this dish make it look SO appetizing – and the flavors packed into it don’t disappoint!

Alternatively, you could of course make this into a vegetarian dish by removing the chicken. (Removing the chicken also turns it into a super awesome side dish, especially for summer!)

Full Recipe:

Warm Greek Salad with Chicken

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, large dice
1 green pepper, small dice
1/2 red onion, small dice
Approx 40 kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large chicken breasts, cubed into bite size pieces
Zest + juice of one lemon
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (plus more for sautéing chicken)
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
Salt, pepper, oregano, basil, to taste

Process:

1) Prep all vegetables first (tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, onion, and olives), putting them into a large bowl as you finish each one.

2) In a small bowl, whisk together lemon zest and juice, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and 1 tsp each of salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. Add to vegetables.

3) Cube chicken and add to a heated skillet with 2 tbsp olive oil. Season liberally with salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. Toss occasionally and allow to cook for about five minutes, or until cooked through. Just before chicken is done, add minced garlic and toss to combine, allowing to cook for one additional minute.

4) Remove chicken from heat and immediately add to the vegetables. Stir to combine. Sprinkle with feta cheese after serving.

Strawberry Citrus Sangria

I know I just did a sangria last week, but this one is a white-grape wine based sangria, so it’s a little truer to the traditional, since last week‘s featured a berry based wine.

I really find that sangrias are fabulous for not only entertaining, but also the day after you’ve opened a bottle of wine and you still have some wine leftover, if you’re looking to make just a drink for yourself or you and one other person. (In my case, this was the wine leftover from when I made that white wine cranberry chicken!) So, this one will be for just 1 serving of sangria.

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In a sangria glass, put 2 strawberries and some lemon slices. Pour about 3/4 cup of dry white wine over the fruit, along with 1 ounce of triple sec and 1/4 cup Dole Strawberry-Orange-Banana juice. Put this in the fridge and let it soak in for at least an hour!

After this has fermented for a bit, add ice and 2-3 ounces of a clear soda, like sprite. Enjoy immediately 😉

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Full Recipe:

Strawberry Citrus Sangria

Yield: 1 serving

Ingredients:

2-3 strawberries, capped
2-3 lemon slices
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 ounce triple sec
1/4 cup Dole strawberry-orange-banana juice
2-3 ounces Sprite or other clear soda

Process:

1) In a sangria class, combine fruit, wine, triple sec, and juice. Place in the fridge for at least an hour.

2) After wine mix has fermented, add ice and soda to glass. Serve immediately.

Baked Lemon Chicken with Parmesan Rice

So remember the Lemon Coconut Cookies and how I hadn’t figured out a “real meal” to use all those lemons?

Yeah. I figured one out. And it is AMAZING.

And it’s seriously SO easy!! Like really, it looks all fancy and stuff but it’s almost as simple as a crockpot dinner. Not even kidding.

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Start by getting a marinade together for your chicken. I used the juice of a whole lemon and the zest of half of it (I saved the other half of the zest for the rice), 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup orange juice (or any citrus juice you have on hand, really), two smashed cloves of garlic, 1 tsp each of oregano, thyme, and crushed rosemary, and a 1/2 tsp of crushed red pepper, just for a little kick.

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Put this all in a plastic bag, add your chicken, and seal the bag. Use your hands to make sure it’s all distributed, and then pop it in the fridge for at least an hour. Using a plastic bag means you need less marinade to cover the meat, and it’s much easier clean up and takes up WAY less space in the fridge!

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This recipe serves four, and I used two large chicken breasts cut in half. You could also do four of the kind that are already sliced thinner (like Perdue “Perfect Portions”) – but basically, just make sure there’s four pieces of meat that are each reasonably sized for one person.

After your chicken has marinated for a while, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a baking pan by coating it with about a tablespoon of olive oil, and take another lemon and slice 8 thin (1/4 inch or so) slices. Place the chicken in the pan (discard the marinade), sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then put 2 lemon slices on each piece of chicken.

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Bake for 40-50 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

As for the rice, when you have about 15-20 minutes left to go on your chicken cooking time, go ahead and put 1 cup of uncooked white rice, 1 cup of water, and 1 cup of milk into a sauce pan. Bring it to a boil, add your leftover lemon zest from earlier, the juice of whatever was left of the lemon you used for your slices on the chicken, and a tablespoon of salt. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and let the liquid absorb.

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Using milk as part of your liquid to cook the rice makes it thicker and creamier! Remember that rice just needs a boiling liquid to cook in – it doesn’t necessarily have to be just water!

Once the rice is almost done, add another teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of thyme, a teaspoon of oregano, and a 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Stir these in, and then add 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese. Stir this in until it has melted and then remove the rice from the heat.

Once your chicken is done, take it out of the oven and let it cool for just a minute.

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Spoon rice onto each plate, then use tongs to place a piece of chicken over each bed of rice. Serve immediately and enjoy!

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This would really be super with some blanched green beans, or asparagus, or even a nice side salad, if you’re looking for something green to color it up! I just only had the energy for two dish components this time 😉

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This will become a house favorite – I guarantee it!

Full Recipes:

Baked Lemon Chicken

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

2 large chicken breasts, cut in half lengthwise
Juice of 1 lemon, zest of half of it
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup orange juice
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp crushed rosemary
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
8 thin lemon slices

Process:

1) In a plastic bag, combine lemon juice/zest, olive oil, juice, garlic, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and red pepper flakes. Add chicken, seal bag, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

2) Once the chicken has marinated, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a baking pan with 1 tbsp olive oil.

3) Place chicken side by side in the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then top with lemon slices.

4) Bake for 40-50 minutes or until cooked through. Serve over rice.

And for the rice…

Lemon Parmesan Rice

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked white rice
1 cup water
1 cup milk
1 tbsp salt
Zest & juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Process:

1) Add rice, water, and milk to a saucepan. Bring to a boil.

2) Add 1 tbsp salt and lemon zest/juice. Cover, and let simmer until liquid is almost all absorbed.

3) Once rice is almost done, add 1 tsp salt, thyme, oregano, and pepper. Stir to combine, and then stir in Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Frosted Lemon Coconut Cookies

The last time I was at the grocery store, I ambitiously bought an entire bag of lemons. “I always think of ways to use lemons and I never have any,” I thought. “I’ll easily tear through this bag of at least a dozen lemons in less than a week.”

Well, a week later, I was staring at the still unopened bag of lemons trying to decide how on earth to use them, because no random recipes or drinks calling for lemon juice or zest or slices or any other variation had dropped into my head at all. (*Note, this was before yesterday’s pasta in a lemon blush sauce!)

And then out of nowhere I got the craving for cookies. (It’s dinner time. DINNER time. And suddenly my mind seems to be overwhelmed by the insatiable desire for SWEETS.) And then… it just came to me. Lemon Cookies. Sweetened with coconut. And frosted. Yes, absolutely, frosted with sweet lemon coconut icing. Bam.

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So yes, I am unashamed to say that on the night of the creation of these fabulous little beauties, I had cookies for dinner. And milk. And then a few more cookies.

Don’t judge me.

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Anyhow… as per just about every cookie recipe in existence, start by preheating the oven (350 degrees), lining two baking sheets with parchment paper, and combining your dry ingredients. For these, it’s 2 cups of flour, 1 tsp baking POWDER, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp baking SODA. The distinction is important.

Dry

In a stand mixer (because now you have one, ever since you read the butterscotch chocolate chip cookie recipe, right?) cream together a stick and a half of butter, 4 ounces cream cheese (which is just 1/2 of an 8 ounce block), and a cup and a half of sugar.

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Remember, it’s important that the butter and cream cheese are soft, NOT melted! 20 seconds in the microwave should be good enough to soften the butter and cream cheese, if they aren’t already room temperature. Cream them together with the sugar by starting on “stir” for 10-15 seconds, and then kicking it up to a medium speed for 2-3 minutes.

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To this, add in one egg and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Combine these on a medium speed, then add the zest and juice of half a lemon and 3/4 cup coconut flakes and keep the mixer on medium until everything is incorporated.

MAKE OR BREAK TIP: The easiest and most efficient way to zest any citrus fruit is with a zester (mine is by Microplane and they aren’t that pricey), but you can also use a regular cheese grater or even a vegetable peeler. Remember to only just take the color off. Once you get to the faded white-ish part (the pith), the flavor becomes bitter.

After you’ve added all your flavor components, then, little by little, add your reserved dry ingredients until the mixture has formed into a dough. It’ll be pretty stiff once it gets close to the end; you might need to stop the stand mixer and do the rest with a spoon.

Dough

Drop by rounded spoonfuls (or use an awesome one ounce scooper) onto your prepared baking sheets and bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. Once they’re done, let them cool completely and then store them until you’re ready to frost them.

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The frosting might be the most delicious part of this cookie, for real. I’m not normally a fan of iced cookies, but this really makes these go from “good” to “fabulous.”  And it’s SO easy. Just cream together half a stick of butter, 4 ounces of cream cheese (again, 1/2 of an 8 ounce block), and 1 tsp of vanilla extract, and then add one and 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, 1/2 of a cup at a time. Once it’s combined, kick the mixer up to a medium high speed and let it whip up for a minute or two, then add the zest and juice of half a lemon and 1/4 cup of coconut flakes. Mix until just combined and then it’s done!

Icing

Scrape this out into a smaller bowl and then use an icing knife to frost each cookie. Yes, you could just use a table knife, but I like the control I get from an icing knife.

Put the cookies in a single layer on a baking sheet and refrigerate them for about a half hour to set the icing, and then store them in an airtight container. Truthfully, I really think these are best when they are cold from the fridge, so feel free to store them there!

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These are definitely not your average cookie – they’ll go fast!

Full Recipe:

Frosted Lemon Coconut Cookies

Yield: About 50 cookies

Ingredients:

For the cookies:

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda

12 tablespoons (1.5 sticks) of butter, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 & 1/2 cups white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
Zest & juice of 1/2 lemon
3/4 cup coconut flakes

For the frosting:

4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1& 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Zest & juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup coconut flakes

Process:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2) Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Set aside.

3) In a stand mixer, cream together butter, cream cheese, and white sugar.

4) Add in egg and vanilla. Mix on medium speed to combine, and then add lemon zest/juice and coconut flakes. Mix until just combined.

5) Slowly mix in dry ingredients, with mixer set to “stir,” until everything is combined and a dough has formed.

6) Scoop one-ounce balls of dough onto prepared baking sheets and bake for 12 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown. Cool completely on wire cooling racks.

7) For the frosting, cream together butter, cream cheese and vanilla. Add powdered sugar 1/2 of a cup at a time until combined, and then mix on medium-high for 2 minutes. Mix in lemon zest/juice and coconut flakes until just combined.

8) Once cookies have cooled completely, frost each one and place them in a single layer on a baking sheet.

9) Put frosted cookies in the refrigerator for about a half hour to set the icing. Once the icing is set, store them in an airtight container.

Tuscan Pasta with Sausage in Lemon Blush Sauce

This one’s gonna be good – we’re traveling to Italy for this one! 🙂

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve had the pleasure of going to Italy and exploring the various culinary tastes the country has to offer. Tuscany is probably my favorite region of Italy… Rome is great and all, especially for history buffs, but it’s housed in the central coastal territory of Lazio. Tuscany is just above Lazio, also on the coast, but contains gorgeous scenery and fabulous cities like Lucca, Pisa, and my favorite, Florence. (Known to the Italians as Firenze. Also, Tuscany in Italian is referred to as Toscana.)

If you’ll allow me to nerd out for just a moment, here’s a couple photos from Florence that may help to illustrate why I love it so much: (More photos at the bottom from Lucca and Pisa.)

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Both photos were taken along the famous Arno river. And if the beautiful scenery isn’t enough to convince you, just know that Florence is known for farming… especially cattle. Which means fabulous leather goods for a fraction of what you’d pay in the States, and: the best. steak. ever. No joke.

Once you get finished booking your flight to Italy, though, I’ll show you how to create a dish (albeit it not steak) that just oozes Toscana with every bite.

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Blush sauce is this fabulous blend between a cream sauce and a red tomato-based (pomodoro) sauce. I kicked up the pasta a little by adding smoked sausage, but this would also be great meat-less, as well!

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The prep photos I show are for my lowly serving for one person, but I’ve adjusted the recipe for this blog post to feed four to six people. So, when your pans look fuller than mine, don’t panic!

Cook your pasta according to the directions on the package. I used Farfalle (bow-tie) pasta but you could do any bite-size pasta. Penne would also be great! A one pound box of pasta is typically enough for 4-6 servings.

While you’re waiting for your water to boil, do some prep work. Dice 1/4 of a large onion (or 1/2 of a small one), mince 3 cloves of garlic, take a cup of cherry tomatoes and cut each one in half lengthwise, and cut one package of smoked sausage (usually 14 oz) into 1/2 inch pieces. (I really like kielbasa, but any smoked sausage would do!)

Once you add your pasta to the boiling water, add your sausage to a large frying pan coated in olive oil over medium high heat. As long as you’re using smoked sausage, you only need to brown it. If you’re using a raw sausage (such as chorizo) then you should cook the links first, then cut them, and then combine them with the rest of the ingredients.

Once the sausage has browned (only a couple of minutes), add the diced onion and 1 cup of frozen peas. Toss this to combine, then reduce heat to low and cover.

Sausage onion peas

Let that simmer for 4-5 minutes, then add your minced garlic. Toss to combine, let cook for an additional minute, and then remove everything from the pan into your serving dish (temporarily).

Return the pan to your burner on low heat and add 1 & 1/2 cup tomato sauce and 4 ounces of cream cheese. (Half an 8oz block.)

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Stir this gently for a minute or two until the cream cheese has melted and is incorporated into the sauce. Add in about 3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese and melt this in as well, along with the juice of 1 lemon, salt, pepper, and basil, then remove it from the heat and add in your halved cherry tomatoes. (To make it extra lemony, add in the zest from the lemon as well!)

Add tomatoes

Once you’ve drained your pasta, add it to the serving dish on top of the sausage and pour the sauce on top. Stir it to combine everything, and serve topped with fresh grated Parmesan.

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Full Recipe: (Extra Italy photos are below the recipe.)

Tuscan Style Pasta in Blush Sauce

Yield: About 4 servings

Ingredients:

One box uncooked bite-size pasta (like Farfalle or Penne)
4 quarts water

1 tbsp olive oil
1 package smoked sausage, like kielbasa, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 large red onion, diced
1 cup frozen peas
3 cloves garlic, minced

1 & 1/2 cups tomato sauce
4 ounces cream cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
Juice of 1 lemon (zest optional)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp basil

Process:

1) Cook pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, proceed with the remaining steps.

2) Coat a large frying pan in olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add sliced sausage and brown for 3-4 minutes.

3) Reduce heat on frying pan to low, then add peas and diced onion. Toss to combine. Cover and let simmer for 4-5 minutes.

4) Uncover sausage and add minced garlic. Cook for another minute, then remove everything to your serving dish.

5) Return pan to low heat and add tomato sauce and cream cheese. Stir gently until cream cheese is melted, and then add in 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

6) Once all of the cheese has melted, stir in lemon juice, salt, pepper, basil, and tomatoes. Remove from heat. Add sauce and drained pasta to serving dish. Stir to combine and serve immediately. Garnish with fresh grated Parmesan.

As promised, here’s a few more photos from around Tuscany…

This one is in Lucca, during the early afternoon when all the shops were closed for lunch.

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Three guesses where this one’s from! Yes, it really does “lean”! It was originally intended to be the bell tower for the cathedral, but obviously since it’s always been leaning, it never made it to that purpose!

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This is also in Pisa, looking from the tower back toward the entrance to the walled section of the city. This building is the baptistry, the first of the three iconic buildings of Pisa. (In between the tower and the baptistry is the cathedral.)

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This one is, of course, not in Tuscany, since I said earlier that Rome is located in Lazio, but I couldn’t resist adding this super romantic night time Colosseum photo!

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