Tag Archives: Mozzarella cheese

Baked rigatoni: Little work, lots of servings, and just 425 calories

I’m all about doing as little work as possible to make as many servings of food I can. Soups, polenta, and especially rice and pasta dishes are good for this.

If you order pasta at a restaurant the results can be calorically catastrophic. A heavy hand with the olive oil, too many noodles or too much sauce can weigh down what would have been a decent meal if someone had paid attention to the portion control. Plus, there’s a good chance there’s a load of butter in there too. Bummer, dude.

For the baked rigatoni I make, you can use regular or whole-wheat pasta (whole-wheat is preferable). Each serving of noodles will be about 200 calories and will weigh 2 oz. Use that rule to portion out however many servings you want. The pan above, which was the next size down from the typical Pyrex rectangular casserole pan, held six portions.

You can make your own sauce, or use any bottled sauce you would like. If I’m making sauce, I go with something simple like the passata di pomodoro from the Mozza cookbook (San Marzano tomatoes, evoo, sugar, salt, pepper). It makes a great mother sauce, and can be dressed up with garlic, herbs, or whatever else you’d like to throw in it. Another Mozza sauce to try would be Nancy Silverton’s basic tomato sauce, which can be found on Bon Appétit.

And after all that build up, I used a jar of store-brand tomato basil from Sprouts. Gotta save time when you can, right? Each 1/2 cup was 50 calories, with 6 servings to the jar.

I also threw in three cheeses, garlic and half a pound of mushrooms for some meatiness.

Here’s what you’ll need for 6 portions the way I do it:

12 oz. rigatoni or penne
3 cups pasta sauce
2-3 clove garlic, minced or microplaned
1/2 onion, small dice
8 oz. crimini mushrooms
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 T unsalted butter
3 oz. fresh mozzarella, small dice
6 T mascarpone cheese
1 1/2 oz. parmesan, microplaned
2 T parsley, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
cooking spray

To make it:

1) Follow the directions on the box to cook the pasta. Just make sure you salt the water to taste like the ocean before you cook the pasta. Make sure you reserve some of the starchy water before you strain it when it’s done!

2) Start up the sauce while the water heats up and you boil pasta. Over medium-high heat, cook the mushrooms in two batches, using 1/2 T of olive oil each time. Lightly salt the mushrooms. Next, using a dash of cooking spray, cook the onions and garlic until softened, about 5 minutes. If anything sticks to the pan at any time, simply loosen with a little water. Start with the onions first, then add the garlic, so the latter doesn’t burn. When it’s close to done, throw the mushrooms back in and stir with the butter.

3. Somewhere in here, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

3. Add the sauce, and salt and pepper to taste.

4. When the pasta is done, reserve some of the water, then drain. Add the pasta back into the sauce, with a couple spoons of the water. Let it simmer for a minute, until everything comes together.

5. If your pan is big enough, you can do this in the pan. If not, grab a large bowl. Mix the cheeses with the pasta and sauce, and drop in half of the parsley.

6. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and top with the parmesan. If you’ve used a microplane to create a fluffy mound of fine shreds, you’ll be able to cover the whole dish in a fairly-decent blizzard of salty cheese. Bake for another 5 minutes until the cheese on top browns slightly. Let it cool for 10 minutes and then dig in. The leftovers taste even better.

With the sauce from Sprouts, each serving was 425 calories. Had I left out the olive oil and butter, and cooked the mushrooms with just Pam, the recipe would have run about 390 calories according to CalorieKing. Add a huge handful of mixed greens and a light drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette and you’ve got a solid meal for under 500 calories.

The serving is large enough to satisfy, and the creamy, cheesy sauce and thick, chewy noodles are as sinful as anything you’d get at a restaurant, with at least half the calories to weigh you down.

Let’s talk sandwiches …

Excuse my absence on the blog as of late, it’s been a busy couple of weeks at home between helping my family with a couple of things, enjoying time with my vacationing Wifey Nadia and celebrating the last birthday of my 20’s on Catalina Island.

I’ve cooked one of the meals for our upcoming “Southern Comfort” week, but then I put on the brakes because, well, I have been eating meals out lately. I know I said I wouldn’t, but it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, especially with late nights, birthday meals, incoming visitors–life in general.

But I will be hunkering down, and as I explained with that lasagna cupcakes recipe, I’m looking for ways to make quick meals that fit into, well, life in general. On a positive note, my weight has stayed relatively the same, and I’m not falling victim to processed fast foods, so at least some of my old habits have permanently changed for the better … though not all of them, obviously, lol.

When I need a quick meal, chances are I turn to my panini press. I love sandwiches because you can do pretty much anything with them–I recently made a Southern Chicken Sandwich with chicken breast, havarti cheese, fresh tomatoes, kale and Red Rooster mayonnaise.

Thinking up that crazy combo reminded me of Chef Brian’s Christmas Cookbook, which had quite a few yummy sandwiches in it. If you’re into sandwiches or paninis, try some of these:

-Roast beef with sliced tomato, Swiss cheese, Dijon mustard and horseradish mayonnaise

-Smoked turkey with avocado, applewood smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, Dijon mustard and olive oil mayonnaise

-Sliced tomato, basil, fresh mozzarella and basil pesto (recipe)

-Roasted chicken with bacon, tomato, avocado and chipotle mayonnaise (two chopped chipotle peppers  in adobo mixed with olive oil mayonnaise)

-Hot turkey pastrami, cole slaw, Swiss cheese, homemade Russian dressing (Olive oil mayonnaise, ketchup, small diced pickle, easy black pepper)

-Turkey Italian sausage, arugula, ricotta cheese, roasted red bell pepper and basil pesto (recipe)

-Media Noche (recipe after the jump) with citrus-marinated pork, Swiss and pickles

-Roast pork (Media noche recipe below, minus all the Cuban marinade ingredients–so, just salt and pepper), goat cheese, bacon, arugula and fig jam (recipe)

I know that’s a lot to take in, but they’re mostly simple to put together and you’ll have a solid meal in no time. Follow the jump for Chef Brian’s Media Noche recipe.

As a final tip, if you’re in Orange County, check out Cafe Chiarini in Santa Ana for your bread. They’re only open on weekdays, and each (massive) loaf is $10, but split one with a friend and you’ll still have enough to make sandwiches all week (one slice in half is enough for one sandwich, the loaf is that large). It’s my favorite sandwich bread in OC, and totally worth trying if you haven’t yet.

Anyways, on to that Media Noche … Continue reading Let’s talk sandwiches …

Week 22, Meal 3: Caper-olive-anchovy surprise

Wifey Nadia is always giving me grief for writing essentially the same intro for Fat Dude posts.

I usually say something like “OMG, blah blah blah … I’ve never tried this food and liked it before, but Chef Brian’s amazing … whatever, whatever … make this dish.”

She’s right about the setup — though I mostly write that way because Chef Brian is amazing and tends to make delicious things from foods I’ve stayed away from or never had — but Week 22, Meal 3: Open-faced grilled chicken sandwich with fresh mozzarella and a tomato and olive relish was one dish where the tables were turned.

“Olives and anchovies, yucky,” she repeated over and over. Then she had a bite of this fancy half-sandwich and in an instant she was converted.

Surprise! Continue reading Week 22, Meal 3: Caper-olive-anchovy surprise

Week 11, Meal 2: Linguine with Italian salsa verde, grilled chicken, roasted cherry tomato and fresh mozzarella

We were supposed to have Week 11, Meal 1: Penne with pistachio pesto on the blog today, but I’m a dummy and left those pictures at home.

Not being one to show up to the party without a gift, I was quick enough to reshuffle and present to you Week 11, Meal 2: Linguine with Italian salsa verde, grilled chicken, roasted cherry tomatoe and fresh mozzarella.

The herb “salsa” bursts with freshness, the roasted tomatoes develop a deep flavor as they cook in their own sugar and the fresh cheese adds just enough creaminess to round out this delicious dish. Continue reading Week 11, Meal 2: Linguine with Italian salsa verde, grilled chicken, roasted cherry tomato and fresh mozzarella

Week 3, Meal 3: Grilled chicken caprese panini

Counting this morning, I’ve had pesto four days in a row with lunch and dinner (and breakfast today).

I’m not tired of it one bit. Not because it has plenty of salty Parmesan in there, but because the bright basil adds so much freshness to each dish.

For Week 3, Meal 3 Chef Brian succeeds with simplicity with a flavorful grilled chicken caprese panini. Continue reading Week 3, Meal 3: Grilled chicken caprese panini

Week 3, Meal 2: Whole wheat penne pasta with basil pesto, balsamic-marinated skirt steak, portobello mushroom, cherry tomato and fresh mozzarella

I love love love beef and since we started this here blog I haven’t had any.

Surprisingly, I don’t quite feel like this guy, but I was very excited when I saw not only beef, but skirt steak — MY FAVORITE CUT OF BEEF — on the menu.

Meet Week 3, Meal 2: Whole wheat penne pasta with basil pesto, balsamic marinated skirt steak, portobello mushroom, cherry tomatoe and fresh mozzarella.

And it ain’t even my birthday … Continue reading Week 3, Meal 2: Whole wheat penne pasta with basil pesto, balsamic-marinated skirt steak, portobello mushroom, cherry tomato and fresh mozzarella

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