Friday, March 8, 2019

Tasty Rigatoni Dish

Hi! I've had a few folks ask me for this super tasty Olive Garden knock-off recipe that I made the other night, so I thought... blog time!

I had a teeny-weeny momcation probably a month ago. I online ordered a dinner for myself from Olive Garden which was pretty local to the hotel I was staying at. I picked out their Five Cheese Ziti Al Forno and it was sooooooooper tasty. Oh my gosh, it was so good! I knew that I just had to figure out how to make it myself. It's actually something I love doing. I mean, I really like to cook, but I also love figuring out how to make my favorite dishes myself in my own kitchen!

Photo Courtesy of Olive Garden - This is their Five Cheese Ziti Al Forno

That's where the Googling began! I came across a blog called 'Dinner Then Dessert' where the author walks you through a copycat version of Olive Garden's tasty dish. I did do a few things differently though! Mostly because I can't ever find all of the ingredients I need at my local stores.

Photo Courtesy of Dinner Then Dessert

I don't care though because my version was bangin'!

Unfortunately, ziti was not an accessible ingredient to me. So I decided to go with rigatoni. It was pretty entertaining explaining that to my daughter who thought I was talking about a character from The Incredibles.

The right "Toni"

The wrong "Tony"

Either way, any like pasta will work for this dish. I really wish I had taken photos while I was cooking. Or at least of the final product. It looked so damn good.

Something to know about this dish is that it involves two different sauces. You'll need an alfredo sauce and a marinara sauce. I've bought jarred alfredo sauces before and they've always been pretty terrible. The author at 'Dinner and Dessert' linked to an alfredo sauce she uses for the recipe and it's the one that I used as well. It comes from a website called 'The Recipe Critic'

For the marinara sauce I would have normally bought Barilla, however, my local store was out of it. I ended up buying two jars of the Prego Farmers' Market Classic Marinara. In the future, I'd definitely like to try and make my own but the Prego option worked out quite well!

Alright... so... the recipe! I'm not good at writing recipes so if you have questions, feel free to ask!

I started out by preheating the oven to 375 degrees and then boiling water for my noodles, a 1 pound box of rigatoni. I cooked the noodles a couple of minutes under their normal doneness time. While that was going, I began working on my alfredo sauce.  Here are the ingredients/directions for that:

Alfredo Sauce Ingredients

1/2 cup salted butter
2 cups heavy whipping cream
4 oz. cream cheese
1 garlic clove (minced)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp basil
1/4 tsp ground thyme
salt & pepper to taste
1 cup grated parmesan

Cooking Instructions

1) In a medium/large saucepan melt together the butter, heavy cream and cream cheese.
2) Add minced garlic, garlic powder, oregano, basil, ground thyme, salt & pepper. Whisk until smooth and then add the parmesan cheese.
3) Simmer until the sauce thickens

Photo Courtesy of The Recipe Critic

Ziti (Rigatoni) Ingredients

1 lb Ziti or Rigatoni
2 - 23.5oz Prego Farmers' Market Classic Marinara Sauce
Entire Alfredo Sauce Recipe from above
1/2 cup Ricotta Cheese
1/2 cup Italian Blend Shredded Cheese

2 cups Mozzarella Cheese
1/2 cup panko or plain breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Italian Blend Shredded Cheese
1 garlic clove (minced)

Cooking Instructions

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2) Cook pasta two minutes under normal cook time and according to box directions. Drain.
3) In the same saucepan as the pre-made alfredo sauce, add cooked noodles, two jars of marinara sauce, ricotta and 1/2 cup Italian Blend Shredded cheese. Mix well.
4) Add mixture to a large skillet or large baking dish (I used a 10"X 13" glass baking dish).
5) Mix topping ingredients together in separate bowl and add over the top of the pasta.
6) Bake 30-35 minutes uncovered until golden brown and bubbly.

See? Super easy! And SUPER TASTY! I actually microwaved some of the leftovers for dinner tonight and it was still delicious!

One thing to note, I made this meal for 7 hungry bellies. AND there were leftovers. If you aren't feeding as many you can definitely cut this down. You can always make a full batch of the alfredo sauce and jar what you don't use as well

There you have it! If you have any questions, feel free to leave them! I hope you enjoy your friggin' delicious ziti (or rigatoni) as much as we did!!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Homemade Mac N' Ch"easy"

My kids are huge fans of macaroni and cheese nights.  Honestly, I'd think they were weirdos if they weren't.  I'm a fan of macaroni and cheese nights.  Whenever I ask them what they want on the weekly food menu, one of the first things they'll say is, "mac n' cheese"!  If I asked them what their favorite macaroni and cheeses were they'd probably say Kraft or Stouffer's.  Kraft is a good quick fix and can be done in a good fifteen to twenty minutes.  Stouffer's is more of a set it and forget it (for an hour) kind of meal.  Both good for very different reasons and both easily convenient.

Did you know though that a homemade macaroni and cheese could be almost just as easy as something from a store bought box?  In addition to being easy it is so very versatile in that you can make it however you want!  You can pick your cheeses.  You can add vegetables if you want.  You can add ham or bacon.  You can pick whatever noodle you want.  People hear "homemade" and they automatically think it's a lot of work, but seriously, it really isn't at all.

So... what do I do?  I actually take a base from a recipe that was given to me from a long time friend for ham and scalloped potatoes.  Really it's a pretty basic rue, but it's been successful for me and I stick with what works.  The rue becomes the cheesy sauce which is the most important element of your macaroni and cheese.

To start preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Then, I begin the prep-work.  As I said above, the cheesy flavor is the most important part.  I like to buy bricks of cheese and shred them myself so I start with picking what cheeses I want to use.  For this particular recipe I used some extra sharp cheddar, mild cheddar and monterey jack.  I eyeball what I want to use but I try to keep the sharp cheddar on the dominant side.  It really does give it that stand out cheesy flavor kick that you want.  I'd start by shredding 2 cups of the sharp, 1 cup of the mild and 1 cup of the monterey jack.  You can taste and add as you'd like as you go.

Next, I boil the water for the noodles and cook according to instructions (minus a minute of cooking time).  While the water is boiling, I start my rue.  I melt 1/2 stick of salted butter (please don't torture yourself by buying unsalted butter... there's no point) at medium high heat in a large frying pan.  When the butter is about halfway melted, I use a garlic press to add a clove of garlic to the pan.  If you don't have a garlic press, just chop a clove of garlic finely or you can buy a jar of minced garlic and add 1/2 teaspoon.

Once the butter is completely melted, slowly start adding 4 tablespoons of flour.  Whisk the flour in little by little, making sure the mixture is blended before adding the next bit.  After all of the flour is added, slowly start adding 2 cups of milk (I use whole milk but you can also use half and half or heavy cream).  You have to constantly whisk as you add milk.  You want your mixture to get very smooth.  When that mixture is smooth, reduce your heat to medium low and add your cheese.  All of it.

You'll want to keep stirring your cheese rue to make sure the cheese is melting and it tastes the way you want it too.  At this point I add salt and pepper as well.  When your noodles are ready, you'll compile your cooked noodles and your cheesy rue into a large, greased casserole dish and mix it all together.  Cook for about 20 minutes in your pre-heated oven and you're all set!

I added a cornbread topping to my macaroni and cheese.  I pre-cooked a box of Jiffy cornbread and separated it into crumbs with a fork.  I melted 1/2 a stick of butter and mixed it all together.  Once my macaroni and cheesy mixture was in the casserole dish, I added the cornbread topping.

If you want to add meats like ham or bacon, make sure they are pre-cooked and add them when you add the cheese into the rue.  If you want to add a vegetable like corn or peppers, I'd add them when you add the garlic (as you are melting the butter).  The great thing is that you can change this recipe in so many ways.  Add what you want.  Take out what you want.  And it really is so fast and easy.  Maybe the first time it'll seem like a lot, but after that, it'll be easy ch"easy"!

Serves: Around 6


1 8.5oz Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix (made to box directions)
1lb Elbow Macaroni
1 stick salted butter (total)
1 garlic clove
4 Tbsp flour
2 cups whole milk
2 cups shredded extra sharp cheese
1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
salt & pepper to taste


1. Pre-make Corn Muffin Mix.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. Boil water (add lots of salt to water) and cook elbow macaroni for 1 minute less than instructed on box.
4. Melt 1/2 stick of the salted butter at medium/high heat.  When butter is half way melted, add the garlic clove.  Once butter is melted started slowly whisking in the flour until all flour is used and the mixture is well blended.
5.  Add milk to the mixture little by little, whisking it in until it becomes smooth each time.  Do so until all milk is added and the mixture has no lumps.
6.  Add all cheese to the butter/garlic/milk mixture.  Reduce heat to medium/low.  Let all cheese melt and then add salt and pepper to taste.
7.  Grease a casserole pan.
8.  Pour cooked and drained noodles into casserole pan followed by the cheese mixture.
9.  Melt the other 1/2 stick of salted butter in microwave.  Fork crumble the corn muffins in a bowl.  Mix the melted butter and corn muffins and then spread along the top of the noodles and cheese in the casserole pan.
10.  Put in the oven and cook at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  When the cornbread topping starts to brown up bit.
11.  Pull out of oven and cool.
12.  Serve to your family and be the best parent ever.