Grandma Sylvia’s Lasagna

9 Lasagna noodles
4 eggs, beaten
2 c. cottage cheese
1 qt. jar marinara or spaghetti sauce
1 lb. lean ground beef
6-8 slices, provolone cheese or 2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook and drain the lasagna noodles al dente. Drain and drop in cold water to prevent them from sticking together. Combine cottage cheese, and beaten eggs. (This is one of Sylvia’s secrets: Combining the eggs and cottage cheese makes it extra special.)

In a large skillet, brown the ground beef and drain. Stir browned meat into the sauce and heat together.

Place 3 lasagna noodles laid out in the pan, spread half of the cottage cheese mixture over this first layer and top with half the tomato sauce/meat mixture. Repeat with another layer of noodles, cottage cheese mixture and sauce, reserving a few large spoonfuls of sauce to drizzle on the top and final layer of noodles.

Top noodles with a layer of provolone or mozzarella cheese, then the last of the sauce (it won’t completely cover the noodles, this is the way you want it. You will get nice, golden, chewy edges.)

Note: a lasagna pan works best, but you can make this with a 9×13 cake pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for close to an hour or until center reaches 160 degrees. Top with Parmesan and broil until golden. (Nadia’s method.)

OR Sylvia’s way: Bake without cheese topping at 350 degrees F. for 30-35 minutes until bubbling around the edges. Then add provolone slices over the top, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, return to oven, and bake another 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and turning golden in spots.


Johnny Marzetti American Goulash

Johnny Marzetti American Goulash

8 oz. elbow macaroni
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
½ cup green pepper, chopped
½ cup celery, diced
8 ounces mushrooms, chopped
1 lb. ground beef
Salt and pepper
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon oregano
Pinch sugar
1 cup cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup Italian blend cheese, divided

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cook macaroni until on the firmer side of al dente, about 7 minutes. I like to under do it because it will continue to soften in the casserole. Drain pasta, then return it to the pot and set aside.

3. In the meantime, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, green pepper, and mushrooms to the skillet and saute’ until softened, about five minutes. Add the ground beef and cook until no pink remains. Drain the fat, then season to taste.

4. Add the tomato sauce, garlic, oregano, and sugar to the beef mixture. Simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Transfer beef mixture to the pot with the macaroni and stir. Add 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup of Italian blend to the mix. Pour the mixture into a 9 x 13 pan. Top with the remaining cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, or until cheese is golden and melted.

6. Note: This recipe originated in Columbus, Ohio at the Marzetti restaurant in the 1920s and became famous throughout the Midwest. Dozens of versions have evolved. The only difference between this and the original is the addition of oregano and the Italian blend cheese. Sometimes I swap 1/2 lb. of the ground beef for Italian sausage.

Ground Beef and Refried Beans Tacos

This can also be served with tortilla chips as an appetizer or hot dip.

1 lb ground beef
½ medium onion, chopped
2 tsp. T Adobo seasoning, or to taste (Start with 1 tsp.)
1 small can (4 oz.) diced green chilis or ½ c. Goya Recaito Culantro cooking base (Find in specialty food stores.)
½ c. bottled salsa (your favorite)
1 can (16 oz.) refried beans
2 c. shredded Colby-Jack cheese
Flour tortillas
Fresh cilantro (optional)
Sour cream

Brown ground beef with onions and season with Adobo. Add green chilis and salsa. Spread meat mixture across bottom of medium casserole dish.

In a separate bowl, moisten refried beans with just enough water to make them spread easily over the meat mixture in the casserole. Top with cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until bubbling and cheese is melted.

Serve with warm tortillas (wrap in foil and warm in oven while dish is cooking). Top each taco with shredded lettuce, fresh chopped cilantro, and sour cream. Yields 12-14 tacos.

You could serve this as a warm dip with tortilla chips.

Stuffed Pasta Shells

Comfort food at its finest.

1 box (12 oz.) jumbo pasta shells (boiled, drained, cooled)
1 28 oz. jar pasta sauce (or make your own, about 4 cups)
½ lb. mild Italian sausage, browned.
½ c. sliced mushrooms, lightly saute’d
2 cup ricotta cheese
1 large egg
Pinch of salt and pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Prepare filling and set aside while you boil the shells. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Stuff each cooked shell with about 1 T. ricotta filling, placing them in a greased a 9×13-inch baking dish or a lasagna pan as you go. Use all the filling.

Sprinkle Italian sausage and mushrooms over filled shells. Pour sauce over shells and bake 45-60 minutes until bubbly.

Top with additional Parmesan or shredded mozzarella if desired and place under broiler for a minute or so or until golden brown and bubbling.

Chicken and Dressing Country-Style

Chicken and Dressing
Unabashed comfort food

This is ideal if you have only 4 or 5 people for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner and aren’t up for all the rigmarole that goes with roasting a whole turkey, especially the cleanup. Roast and serve this in one dish.

1 large chicken, cut up
Salt and pepper
2 tsp. ground sage
½ c. onion, chopped, lightly saute’d in butter
½ c. chopped celery (optional)
1 loaf plain white fresh bread, torn into small pieces
2 cans cream of chicken soup
½ c. chicken broth
1 c. water

Lightly brown chicken and set aside (don’t cook through). Saute’ the onion (and celery if you’re using it). Tear loaf of bread into pieces. Add a sprinkling of salt and pepper, sage, onion, chicken broth, and 1 can of cream of chicken soup (reserve 2nd can). Mix to form a dressing and mound in the center of a large baking dish, leaving room around the edges to surround it with chicken pieces. Place chicken pieces in the dish.

Mix reserved can of cream of chicken soup with 1 c. water and pour over chicken and dressing. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or more.

Note: cream of mushroom soup can be substituted in this recipe. We have also used cream of celery soup in the dressing. This recipe came from my ex-mother-in-law, Grace Reynolds and she didn’t use celery. (When I make this for my husband, I  add the celery and also sometimes mushrooms.)

Here’s a thought: Why not arrange this in a slow-cooker and cook it that way? I will update this post once I do that. If you try it, let me know how it turns out.

Meaty, No-Bean Chili

chili in a pottery bowl with tortilla chips on the side
Meaty, No-Bean Chili

My husband doesn’t like beans. No problem with this chili recipe:

1 pound lean, coarse ground beef
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small rib celery, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or marjoram
1 tsp dried onion flakes
1 14.5 oz. can beef broth
1 14.5 oz. can stewed tomatoes
1 small can (4.5 oz.) green chilis
2 T tomato paste (opt)
salt and pepper to taste
3 Tablespoons chopped, fresh cilantro

1. Cook ground beef loosely in skillet until browned. Pour off excess fat if there is any. While the ground beef is cooking, Heat your chili pot or soup kettle over medium high heat, add olive oil, and saute’ the chopped onion and celery, adding the garlic last.
2. Simmer, then add cumin, paprika, chili powder, onion flakes and dried oregano. Add beef broth, stewed tomatoes and green chilis.
3. Add ground beef and simmer 20 minutes. Simmer another 30-40 minutes.
4. Add the chopped cilantro about 10 minutes before serving to keep the flavor fresh.

For New Year’s Day: Armadillo Turkey

a turkey with pineapple skin covering the breast
The ultimate party presentation: Armadillo Turkey

ARMADILLO TURKEY: Do it for New Year’s Day or Super Bowl Sunday

All you need do, is carefully carve the skin from one fresh pineapple, about 1/2 inch thick. Save the flesh for another purpose. You will have 4-6 pieces (try to keep them as large as you can). Prepare and truss your bird for roasting as you usually would.

Carefully cover the breast area with the pineapple skin pieces, skewering them into place with toothpicks or small metal skewers. You will have cracks between the pieces, that’s okay. The spaces can be filled in later with parsley and kale as you can see in the photo.

Roast the turkey according to the instructions. The pineapple will baste the breast and give it a tropical flavor.

When done, let the turkey rest 30 minutes, then garnish by surrounding the bird in curly kale (or use your imagination). I found parsley was perfect for tucking into the cracks between the pineapple pieces on the breast. Don’t skip the presentation, the look on the faces of your guests will be worth the extra effort.