Tag Archives: Parmesan

Stuffed Tomatoes (with Parmesan Crackers)

With that pile of Parmesan Crackers I made yesterday, I needed something to do to prevent myself from eating them all in one day, and the garden tomatoes we put in the garage have been ripening very nicely. So. Stuffed tomatoes. Buttery, flaky, cheesy crackers are a lot better than the traditional dry bread crumbs. Now the goal is not to stuff too many and then have to eat them all, because my husband will only eat disguised tomatoes.

Bacon—it was inevitable. More Parmesan cheese. Parsley. Garlic. Olive oil.

Stuffed Tomatoes with Parmesan Crackers

  • Servings: 3 tomatoes
  • Difficulty: easy
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Preheat oven to 350°; grease small baking dish.

3 medium to large tomatoes

seeded pulp from tomatoes

1 1/2 cups Parmesan Crackers, roughly chopped

3 slices thick-cut bacon, browned and chopped

1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, finely grated

1 tablespoon garlic, grated or minced

2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

  1. Cut tops off tomatoes and scoop out interior with a small spoon, being careful not to remove flesh from the sides of the tomatoes. I like to cut off the tomato tops as I would a pumpkin to be carved, so the tomato base is more in a cup shape.
  2. From bowl of removed pulp, separate large pieces of pulp from seeds. Chop the pulp.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, lightly mix crackers, bacon, cheese, garlic, parsley, olive oil, and seeded pulp from tomatoes.
  4. Spoon the filling into the tomatoes. I had a little left over, but I put quite a bit in each tomato.
  5. Place the tomatoes in the greased dish and bake for about 20 minutes, until the tomatoes skins are beginning to crack, but not until they fall apart.

Sausage and Three Pepper Pie

Just a few posts ago, I traveled back to the 70s to bring you a crazy crust pie. Today, I only go back to the 80s to bring you another meal in a crust, “Sausage and Three Pepper Pie,” from a March 1987 article in Redbook magazine—do they still publish Redbook? The article showed 12 different pies that used either hot roll mix or frozen puff pastry (sheets or shells) for the crusts. The whole idea of a one meal dish with a crust is obviously related to the pizza and even the sandwich, but some of these pies seem a little fancier. Whatever the motivation to invention, it’s both convenient and impressive to serve these creations in a crust.

The pie I made uses hot roll mix for the crust, but I imagine you could use a homemade roll dough instead. I made only a few changes to the original recipe and I’ll give you both versions below.

My Version: Sausage and Three Pepper Pie

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Preheat oven to 425°

Grease a 13″ x 9″ baking dish

1 pound fully cooked smoked sausage, sliced into bite size rounds (mine was a beef sausage)

1 15oz can diced tomatoes, drained

2 cloves garlic, minced or grated

1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips, about 1 1/4 cups

1 large orange bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips, about 1 1/4 cups

1 large yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips, about 1 1/4 cups

1 medium-size onion, sliced, about 3/4 cup

salt and pepper, to taste

1 16-ounce package hot-roll mix (requires 2 tablespoons soft butter and 1 large egg)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup (or more) grated mozzarella cheese

Prepare filling ingredients first, so they cool a little while you make the dough:

  • Heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil in each of two large skillets over medium-high heat. In one skillet, cook peppers and onion until they begin to soften, about five minutes. In the other skillet, brown the sausage, then add the tomatoes and garlic, stirring to heat through. Set both aside, stirring half the Parmesan into each mixture.

Prepare dough for crust:

  • Prepare dough according to package directions, using the butter and egg in the directions. I still can’t figure out why the original recipe leaves those out. Add a little extra flour if the dough is too sticky. You need to be able to press it in the pan and up the sides. I added about 1/4 cup extra and it was still a soft dough.
  • Let dough rest, covered for 5 minutes.
  • Press dough into bottom of greased dish and up sides at least an inch. Flour your hands if the dough is sticky.
  • Bake the unfilled dough for five minutes.
  • Remove the dish and add filling. I add the peppers and onion first, and then the sausage and tomatoes, so the juices run over the peppers. Cover with mozzarella.
  • Bake for 20 more minutes, until cheese is melted and crust is browned. Let cool and cut in squares.

Original: Sausage and Three Pepper Pie

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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“A hearty, colorful Italian main dish.” Redbook, March 1987

Preheat oven to 425°

Grease a 13″ x 9″ baking dish

1 pound sweet Italian sausages

1 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips, about 1 1/4 cups

1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips, about 1 1/4 cups

1 large yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips, about 1 1/4 cups

1 medium-size onion, sliced, about 3/4 cup

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 16-ounce package hot-roll mix

1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

Prepare filling: Using fork, prick each sausage in several places. In 12-inch skillet over medium heat, cook sausages about 20 minutes, turning frequently until well browned on all sides. Using slotted spoon, remove sausages to paper towels to drain. when cool enough to handle, cut into 1/2 inch diagonal slices, set aside. To drippings remaining in skillet add green, red and yellow peppers and onion; cook over medium-high heat about 5 minutes, stirring frequently until crisp-tender. Remove from heat; stir in fennel seeds, salt, black pepper and reserved sausages. set aside.

Prepare crust: Prepare hot-roll mix according to package directions, using 1 1/4 cups hot water and omitting margarine and egg. After dough rests 5 minutes, pat into prepared baking dish, making thick, high border around sides. Bake 5 minutes. remove baking dish from oven; maintain oven temperature. Spoon sausage mixture into crust; sprinkle with cheese. Bake 20 minutes until cheese melts and crust is golden brown.

Mushroom-Leek Lasagna

Cheesy, creamy, loaded with mushrooms, Mushroom-Leek Lasagna is a nice alternative to lasagna with meat sauce and a great casserole for a cold winter’s night. My husband can only take so many mushrooms—go figure—so I’m freezing half of it, instead of insisting on a week’s worth of leftovers. I did use a ton of mushrooms, and only some of them were his favorite shiitake, so I understand his apprehension, but he did eat one and a half servings. We both agreed that this white lasagna was less filling than the traditional red lasagna, which can seem heavy. It was very good, says this mushroom lover.

Mushroom-Leek Lasagna

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Preheat oven to 350°; grease a 13 x 9 inch baking dish or two 8 inch square dishes if you want to freeze one.


Substitute your favorite mushrooms, and keep in mind that they cook down, so you need a lot.

  • Mushroom-leek filling:
    • 16 oz shiitake mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed, and sliced
    • 24 oz baby portobella mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
    • 8 oz white button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
    • 3 oz maitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced in strips
    • 3 leeks, white portion only, cleaned and thinly sliced
    • 1/4-1/2 cup olive oil for sautéing mushrooms
    • Salt & pepper to taste (I seasoned each batch of leeks and mushrooms)
  • Ricotta filling:
    • 2 lbs whole milk ricotta cheese
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    • 2 teaspoons salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
    • 2 teaspoons dried or 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
    • 1 lb fontina cheese, grated
  • 4 cups medium white sauce (béchamel, if you want to use your French). See recipe below.
  • Whole wheat no-boil lasagna noodles (my package was 9 oz)


  1. Mix ingredients for ricotta filling and set aside or refrigerate until assembly.
  2. Sauté leeks in olive oil over medium heat until softened. Remove to large mixing bowl.
  3. Sauté mushrooms in batches in olive oil over medium-high heat until slightly browned. I cooked the shiitake first, because they are more delicate than the others. I cooked the baby bella and white mushrooms together until all the liquid they exude evaporates and the mushrooms brown a little. I cooked the maitake last in very high heat to brown well. Remove each batch of cooked mushrooms to the bowl with the leeks. Mix the leeks and mushrooms to combine. I would say you need about 6-8 cups of cooked mushrooms to make full layers.
  4. Lay one layer of noodles in the bottom of the baking dish.
  5. Cover with half the the ricotta filling.
  6. Cover the ricotta with half the mushroom-leek mixture.
  7. Cover the mushroom-leek mixture with 1/3 of the fontina cheese.
  8. Cover the layer with 1/3 of the white sauce.
  9. Repeat steps 4-8 to make a second layer.
  10. Place a third layer of lasagna noodles over the second layer, pressing slightly to compact the lasagna. Pour remaining white sauce over the noodles and sprinkle the remaining fontina chees on top.
  11. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for 30 minutes or until top is browned and the noodles are tender.
  12. Cut the lasagna into 8 large squares.

Medium White Sauce

  • Servings: 1 cup
  • Difficulty: easy
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Increase ingredients to make 4 cups:

For every 1 cup of sauce, use

  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup of milk—you may scald the milk first in a saucepan or microwave
  • dash of ground nutmeg

Melt the butter over medium low heat. Stir in flour, salt, and pepper until all the flour is incorporated. It will be a very thick mixture. Slowly pour in the milk, stirring continuously. You shouldn’t get any lumps, but I notice that current recipes suggest whisking. I never had to use a whisk to avoid lumps, but I think the slow addition of the milk is key. Continue to stir, lowering the heat to a simmer if your stove cooks hot, until thickened.



Spaghetti Squash Gratin with Apples and Sausage

Gratins are classically defined as some ingredient, usually a vegetable, baked with a topping of cheese or breadcrumbs that browns during the baking process. Most gratins also include something that binds it all together, like cream or sour cream or milk, even a white sauce or eggs. The gratin sauce, though, is not so heavy that it overpowers the main ingredient. I like to just use cheese and cream. I would say, also, that most gratins are simple, using only a few ingredients, and mine is a little more complicated because I’m bringing in the apples and sausage, but I’m still basing it on the principle of a gratin.

Here’s a terrible one-handed video of me trying to film and work at the same time, adding the cream and cheese:

Spaghetti Squash Gratin with Apples and Sausage

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Preheat oven to 350°; butter a shallow 1 1/2-2 quart baking dish.

I used a small squash of probably less than 2 pounds (about 3 cups of cooked squash), so a larger one would yield more servings.

1 spaghetti squash, 3-5 cups of cooked squash

1 medium onion, diced

1/2-1 pound smoked sausage, sliced (mine was an uncured, but fully cooked beef sausage)

1 large apple, diced (forgot to mention I peeled mine, but it’s not necessary)

1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

1-2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter

salt and pepper to taste

1/2-1 cup heavy cream, heated in microwave for about 1 minute

1/4-1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Roasting the Squash

There seems to be a consensus on the web about cooking a spaghetti squash whole and then opening it and removing the seeds, but that yields more of a steamed interior. I like to roast a spaghetti squash as I would an acorn squash. The roasted flavor is much better than the steamed result. This step can be done in advance and assembled on another day.

  1. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Cutting a winter squash in half is never easy, so be careful and use a good knife. Take your time, rocking the knife through a little at a time.
  2. Scoop out the seeds.
  3. Place the halves, cut side down in a baking dish, with about a half inch of hot water.
  4. Roast at 350° for 30 minutes. Turn the halves over and brush the flesh with butter. Roast for another 30 minutes. The water will evaporate and look burnt in the dish, but it comes right off with some soaking.
  5. Pull the flesh out into strands with a fork. Set aside.

Preparing the Gratin

You can prepare the other ingredients while the squash is roasting. This is a dish in which all the main ingredients are partially cooked before assembly. I like to cook the onion, sausage, and apple in layers, instead of all together.

  1. In a medium to large sauté pan, heat the oil and butter over medium high heat.
  2. Sauté the onions until they begin to brown. Remove carefully, trying not to remove all the fat in the pan.
  3. Add the sliced sausage and cook until browned. Remove to a plate.
  4. Add the diced apples to the pan, which will have a lot of browned bits on the bottom. Cook for a few minutes and then add about 2 tablespoons of water to de-glaze the pan.
  5. In your baking dish, add the spaghetti squash, parsley, onions, sausage, and apples, tossing all to combine without breaking the squash strands.
  6. Pour over enough cream to moisten. I ended up using about 3/4 cup of the cream. Sprinkle grated cheese over top.
  7. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes until lightly browned.

Note: I only seasoned the onions during the prep with salt and pepper. Parmesan is a salty cheese and that was plenty for me.