Tag Archives: pasta

G. Love & my Special (Baked Ziti) Sauce

23 Oct

My baby’s got sauce.

No really – he does, I made it for him last Sunday….while dancing around the kitchen to G. Love’s version, obviously. (It may or may not have been on repeat. What..it gave me inspiration!)

See, last Friday we took our maiden voyage down to the beloved 9:30 Club, located in the U Street neighborhood of DC. A few weeks prior, I was surfing through its website for work and saw that one of our absolute favorites, G. Love & Special Sauce, were coming! I bought tickets right then and there, without even asking Matt. Psh, we’re married…I don’t have to consult him on anything anymore, right?

Right. (He was very happy with my decision. Good wife points!)

I’ve heard so many raves about the 9:30 Club from my coworkers – a small performance venue (stocked with five bars, nonetheless) that features all sorts of big names, small names and everything in between. I heard there wasn’t a bad seat in the house, and once you experience a show in the intimate yet electric setting, you’ll never want to experience a live performance any other way.

Long story short – the venue instantly lived up to the expectations.

(HOWEVER…no food or drink allowed in a the door. So you can imagine my horror when the bouncer reached in my purse and snatched up my grandma-stash of granola bars. This is actually quite hard to talk about but…he threw them in the trash. I stood in disbelief for a few moments, until Matt pushed me forward, laughing as he said, “You’ll be okay. We can afford to buy more, I promise.” I’m still not over it.)

Matt and I claimed our spot at the bar on the main floor and watched as the space filled with people. The opening band, Apache Relay, was really good – by their last song, I felt like I had been a fan for awhile. (Matt also enjoyed the head-banging ways of the bearded guitar player…I don’t know how he walked straight after shaking our head around for four songs straight!)

Our spot at the bar was perfect for a while, but when G. Love himself stepped on the stage, I knew I had to get closer! Matt happily obliged to watch over my drink and my purse at the bar while I bumped, scooted and squeezed my way to the front of the crowd. (I’d like to note this was the first time I’d ever been successful at doing this without spilling someones drink, getting knocked over or giving up after hitting a wall of drunk mean girls.) I must have been extra determined from the beer I had before I decided to dash off into the masses.

Another long story short (I could write about five paragraphs on the concert, but I’m assuming you’re here for the food.), G. Love was ridiculous. With his smooth & cool blend of blues, hip-hop, soul and bluegrass, there wasn’t a still body in the house. (I for one know I was grooving like a hippie fool…when I came back to the bar to enjoy the show with Matt, he was highly amused at my super cool dance skills.) We had the best time, and our (G) love for G. Love all the more elevated to the next level…I have to admit that my new iPhone has been playing a pretty steady set of his albums since then. (Oh! Another note…I got the new iPhone 4s earlier that day. That was big news, but the bigger news is that I didn’t drop, lose it or even come close to scratching it at the concert! Seriously…that was huge win for AM vs. the world.)

Okay, so back to MY sauce.

On Sunday, I was all set to make a big ol’ pot of pasta fagioli. The weather is getting nice and crisp, so for me, that means endless pots of soup for the next few months. For Matt, that means endless pots of soup for the next few months…something that somehow doesn’t intrigue him. So, like a good wife (are we catching a trend here?) I decided that alongside my pasta fagioli, I would break out another pot (thank you wedding registry and loved ones…we have multiple pots & pans now! Woot woooot) and cook up some of my “special sauce.” But rather than just have pasta & sauce, I wanted to make a hearty-yet-healthy casserole that would keep Matt full for the rest of the week, while I enjoyed my minor soup addiction. Alas, I present to you:

AM.Love & Special (Baked Ziti) Sauce

  • pound of lean ground beef
  • splash of red wine
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • one medium onion, sliced thin
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced (tried to use a garlic press for this and somehow failed miserably. How is that possible?)
  • large can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 box of whole wheat penne
  • 1 cup fat free or light ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 chub of fresh mozzarella (about 1/2 cup?), chopped into small pieces
  • parsley…to make it all look gourmet 🙂

Add the following to taste…you know we I-talians don’t measure these things:

  • salt & pepper
  • onion powder
  • garlic powder
  • basil
  • crushed red pepper
  • sugar
  • parmigiano reggiano
  • crushed red pepper
Prepare a 9×13 pan with cooking spray.
In a sauté pan, add a swirl of EVOO over medium heat. Add ground beef and break up into pieces with a wooden spoon. Once it is browned a bit, add a splash of red wine. (When I was in Sicily with my family, my great aunt did this. Attempting to be a great Italian lady like her, I followed suit. However…I used $6 wine from Trader Joe’s. Pretty sure she used a higher quality wine, but on our budget, if it is under $10 but over $5, it’s quality!) Cook through and then set aside.
Bring a pot of water to a boil; add whole wheat penne. Cook until al dente; drain and set aside. (I personally don’t like to cook the pasta until the sauce is almost done, as dried out pasta that sticks together is the bain of all Minnuto women’s’ existance. Growing up, my Ma would immediately add sauce to the drained pasta to make sure it wouldn’t dry out. Therefore, I need to have some sauce ready..even if it isn’t seasoned to perfection…to have on hand.)
In a medium pot, heat extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add onion. Saute for about two-three minutes, then and garlic. Cook down (or “sweat out,” as Mama Ro says), stirring frequently. Add salt and pepper. Once the onions & garlic are soft (about five-10 minutes…just keep watching/stirring to make sure they don’t burn), add can of crushed tomatoes. Here comes …add a few shakes of onion powder, garlic powder, basil, crushed red pepper (depending if you want to give it a lil’ kick), sugar and grated parmigiano reggiano cheese to taste. Keep tasting, keep adding, depending on how you sauc-ay sauc-ay you want your sauce.
Add beef to the sauce; stir well. Cook on low for ten minutes, stirring, tasting and adding more spices if needed.
Pour cooked penne into sauce. Add ricotta, stir well. Hold back all temptation to devour now and pour into the 9 x 13 pan. Spread evenly, then sprinkle frress mozzarella, more parmesan cheese and small dots of ricotta. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, until heated through and cheese on top is nice and ooey-gooey.
Serve with a sprinkle of parsley, a side of crusty Italian bread and “cold beveragessss.”


Sausage, Bean and Kale Pasta

14 Nov

I have just been introduced to kale.

We met last Saturday, at the stand in the way back corner of the Old Town Farmers’ Market. I’ve been it before a few times, but never had the guts to go up to it and introduce myself. But as I was coming to the finish of my 4th lap around the market, I decided I had nothing to lose. I went right up to the kale, grabbed a bunch and paid a whopping .89 cents to a very nice and cheerful farmer.

As soon as we got home, my curiosity of my new friend immediately came out. After putting away all of my apples, pears, onions, and peppers, I brought the kale onto the table and began to get to know it a bit better. I touch it, smelled it, and even tried a bite of it. Quite bitter…but I knew that once it was all steamed up, it would be much more friendly & delicious! Since Matt and I were going to hop on the Metro and walk around DC all day, I quickly wrapped the bunch of kale back up, placed it in the fridge and began to dream about what I kale -y dish would make later on.

Fast-forward a few hours, and I was reunited with my new green BFF. Over a bit pot, sizzling with onions, garlic, peppers and chicken sausage. Inspired by A Dash of Sass. I looked at the kale, looked in the pot and kissed my curly-leafy friend goodbye. Really, it was better this way. It’s not you…it’s me. I’m hungry!

Couple of stirs later and Matt and I sat down to a cozy, hearty & healthy pasta dish. Needless to say, I can’t wait to be reunited with the a new bunch of kale next week at the market!

Sausage, Bean & Kale Pasta

(adapted from A Dash of Sass)


  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 chicken sausage links
  • 1 green bell pepper, roughly diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced (“you can never have too much garlic” – Mama Ro)
  • 1 can diced cannenelli beans
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (or you could throw in a can of peeled, whole tomatoes)
  • 1 bunch kale, de-stemmed and roughly chopped/torn
  • spices to taste: basil, oregano, salt & pepper
  • 2 cups whole wheat pasta (I chose to use whole wheat shells, because I ❤ them!)


Heat EVOO in a large saucepan over medium heat. When oil is hot, add onions and peppers. Stir and saute until soft, about 5-8 minutes. Once onions and peppers are a bit soft, add garlic. Be careful not to burn the garlic! Shake in some salt and pepper.

Remove sausage casing (I forgot to do this, until I went to go tear up the sausage. Oops!) and tear  into pieces, adding it to the pan with the onions, peppers and garlic.  Cook (and crumble with a wooden spoon) until brown.

While sausage is cooking, bring a saucepan of water to a boil on the stove. Add pasta and cook  (and season!) until al dente. Whole-wheat pasta tends to take a bit longer to cook than regular, so I’d say about 10-12 minutes. When pasta is cooked, drain and return back to its pot.

Add diced tomatoes and beans and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a shake of basil, oregano and more pepper, if needed (the tomatoes have salt in them, so you probably don’t need more!) Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Turn heat to low and let simmer.

Add chopped kale and let wilt, occasionally pushing it into the mix gently.

When kale is fully incorporated, add pasta to the sausage mixture and stir to combine. Serve with generous amounts of fresh pecorino romano cheese! Mmm I would love more of this right now 🙂

Matt Izzo Photography, Inc. 🙂

BBQ Chicken Pasta Bake

13 Oct

There aren’t many things that Matt likes more than BBQ sauce, chicken and pasta. (I pride myself as one of them.)

So, as soon as I saw this BBQ Chicken Pasta Bake on one of my fave blogs, How Sweet It Is, I knew that it HAD be served at our apartment in less than 24 hours.

This recipe was great because it calls for things that you are very likely to have in your cupboard! The only ingredient I was worried about not having was the Panko breadcrumbs…but then I remembered that my mom has started putting them in her meatballs, and therefore I had a recently opened box on my shelf. (When my mom came to visit for the first time, I’m pretty sure she spent more time filling up my freezer than she did walking around Old Town! Or my apartment, for that matter.) And ironically, the two things that we always have in the fridge – BBQ sauce and cheese – were nowhere to be found. So, after I happily skipped around the grocery store (buying wayyy more that the two things I walked in for) I came home and got right to work!

Matt and Mr.Izzo walked in the door soon as I took this goddess of a casserole out of the oven. After I tortured them by taking a ga-jillion pictures for the blog (funny how I only liked two of them…Santa, I need a good camera!), I allowed us all to dig in! It was cheesy, saucy, gooey goodness in every bite, and the best part of all is that it’s actually light and healthy. A perfect dish for the end of summer, and the perfect way to a man’s heart, as Matt already asked me to make it again!

Chicken Pasta Bake BBQ

(adapted from How Sweet It Is)


  • 3 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
  • 3 cups whole wheat pasta (I used shells, but would also be great with rotini or penne)
  • 1/2 cup BBQ sauce
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 2 ounces cheese, shredded (I used mozzarella b/c it was on sale. I am my mother!)
  • 1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare shredded chicken and pasta and set aside. In a small saucepan, heat EVOO and add diced onions. Add a bit of sea salt and let the onions caramelize for about 10 minutes, stirring often.

While onions are cooking, combine 1/4 cup BBQ sauce with shredded chicken. Once the onion is caramelized, set aside.

In another small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and whisk in flour, creating a roux. Immediately add skim milk and turn to low heat. Add one ounce of cheese and stir for 2-3 minutes, until cheese is completely melted and the mixture thickens.

In a casserole dish (I used a 9×13 pyrex dish) layer pasta, BBQ chicken and onions. Add cheese mixture a little bit at a time, and mix throughly so that every bit of ingredient is smothered with the cheese sauce. Top with additional sauce, cheese, Panko crumbs and drizzles of the remaining BBQ sauce. (I may have used a bit more than what remained, since my man seriously bleeds BBQ sauce.)

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Mangia, cowboy!

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