Category Archives: Meatless

A Monday Kind of Pasta Frittata

As Summer finally (maybe) comes to an end, leaving a checkerboard path of meatless meals in its wake, I am again moving into “Meatless Mondays.” I am also once again cleaning out the refrigerator, putting ingredients to use before they are useless. That being said this recipe would be wonderful even if it was planned in advance.

I have just returned from a wonderful visit with California friends. While I was living it up in a penthouse suite overlooking the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, Papa D was left to his own devices as far as meals were concerned. One evening he cooked a pound of pasta to go with the container of Sunday Gravy that I had left in the refrigerator. Wisely, he decided to save some of the pasta  to scramble with eggs (his idea).

Liking the idea when I got home, I ran with it. There were a few other leftovers that needed rescuing. Peppers, tomatoes and some cheese all were nearing the end of the road so they gathered together to become a pasta frittata.This dish, and the use of pasta, is popular in many areas of Italy. It can be labeled Neapolitan or Sicilian and is probably claimed by many other regions, but it always seems to use leftover pasta as its base. Techniques can vary, but I like cooking the vegetables first.and adding the pasta second. Olive oil is a driving force in this process as is initial high heat. Once the eggs are added along with some cheese, things need to get low and slow. This is a dense dish that takes time to set. This also allows time to enjoy the fragrance that the garlic and other vegetables create.When the frittata is almost set, it gets crowned with a little more cheese (a hard grating cheese is best. Asiago, Romano or Parmesan are good choices) and heads for the broiler. Lightly golden and ever so slightly crusty it is ready for its close up. A sprinkling of basil or any other available herb gives it a little more color.This makes a lovely weeknight supper, but it is just as at home for a weekend brunch. The format is easy and lends itself to whatever embellishment you want to add. This served two lavishly and could easily serve more with a salad and some crusty bread added.  

Pasta Frittata
Servings: 2
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 3/4 Cup Thinly sliced Onions
  • 3/4 Cup Thinly sliced Sweet Peppers
  • 2 cloves Garlic Chopped
  • 1 Cup Grape Tomatoes Halved
  • 2 Cups Cooked Pasta
  • 4 Eggs Beaten
  • 2 Tbsp. Milk
  • 1 Tsp. Italian Hebs
  • 1/2 Cup Grated Italian Cheese Divided
  • 1/4 Cup Thinly sliced Basil
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in an oven proof skillet. Add the onions and peppers and cook stirring occasionally until softened and beginning to brown. 5-7 minutes.

  2. Add the garlic and tomatoes to the pan and cook another 3 - 4 minutes. The garlic should be fragrant and the tomatoes should begin to soften.

  3. Add the pasta and toss to combine the ingredients. Continue to cook, tossing occasionally until the pasta begins to take on some color, another  5 minutes or so.

  4. Heat the oven to broil. Beat the eggs, milk and half of the cheese together until well blended. Stir in the Italian herbs. Carefully pour the egg mixture into the pan so that it is even.

  5. Lower the heat to medium and cook lifting the edges of the egg to allow the mixture to cook through. Once the eggs are almost set, sprinkle with the remaining cheese and transfer to the oven.

  6. Broil until the top is golden and the cheese has melted. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the basil and serve.

I don’t want to cut anyone’s weekend short, but Monday is just around the corner. If you make pasta over the weekend, make a little extra…a frittata might be just the way to begin the “Meatless Monday” tradition.


Bring on Fall…Spinach Alfredo Casserole

There are signs of Fall all around us. The trees (those that can) are beginning to show their autumn paletes of red and gold. The vibrant petunias and impatiens of Summer are being replaced by more subtly colored and hardier mums. Squirrels are hunting and burying with gusto. Kitchens are beginning to fire up the ovens as often as firing up the grill.

In case you haven’t guessed, I love Fall. It is my favorite time of year. Those of you who only know it is Fall by the month on the calendar or the inexplicable appearance of pumpkin spice everything, are missing quite an experience. Whatever the weather is where you are, it is time to think about making those comfort filled one dish wonders, casseroles.

Here is one to get your autumnal juices flowing. This starts quite simply with penne pasta as a base, but any cut pasta would do. Baby spinach and crimini mushrooms team up with onion and garlic to give some plant presence to the dish.

The sauce is Alfredo. You can make this sauce, and it is really quite easy, or you could buy pre-made sauce which is even easier. I am not a proponent of prepared foods in general, but once in a while it doesn’t compromise my integrity too much to reach for a jar or carton. Find one with an ingredient list that has things you can easily identify and not too many non-food additives. They are out there.

The vegetables were sautéed in a little olive oil, taking turns based on cooking time. Once everything was as it should be, the sauce was added. Once it was at a bubble some asiago cheese went in. Th penne was added and everything went into a good-sized casserole.

I gave it a blanket of cheesy breadcrumbs and let it bake until it displayed all of the requisite casserole characteristics; bubbly edges and golden brown crust. It was delicious, it made the house smell wonderful, and it was the perfect comfort food for the first chilly night of the season.

Spinach Alfredo Casserole

Servings: 4
  • 8 Ounces Penne Pasta Any cut pasta will work
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1 Mediium Onion Chopped
  • 8 Ounces Crimini Mushrooms sliced
  • 4 Cloves Garlic Chopped
  • 6 Ounces Baby Spinach Chopped
  • 1-1/2 Cups Alfredo Sauce Home made or prepeared
  • 1/3 Cup Milk More or less as needed
  • Salt and Pepper To Taste
  • 4 Ounces Grated Asiago Cheese
  • 3/4 Cup Bread Crumbs
  • 1 Tbsp. Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. Butter
  1. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water 2 minutes less than the box directs. Drain and put in a 2 quart casserole dish that has been generously sprayed with olive oil cooking spray. Prepare the sauce while the past cooks

  2. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the olive oil swirling to coat the bottom of the skillet. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  3. Add the mushrooms and garlic to the skillet and cook another 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

  4. Add the spinach and toss well to combine. Cook 3 - 4 minutes until the spinach begins to wilt. Stir in the Alfredo sauce and continue to cook until it comes to a bubble, stirring often. If the sauce seems thick, add the milk a little at a time until you have a medium thick sauce.

  5. Turn the heat to low and add the Asiago cheese. Stir until it is completely melted. Taste and add salt and pepper as you need. Pour the sauce over the pasta and stir to completely combine.

  6. Melt the butter and stir in the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese . Toss until the crumbs are well coated. Sprinkle on the top of the casserole.

  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 - 25 minutes. The crumbs should be brown and the sauce should be bubbly. Allow to rest a few minutes before serving.

Fall likes to take its time around here. Right now it feels far more summer like. We all know that this is only a fleeting event and soon the weather will demand something from the oven. This casserole is a good place to start.

Pantry Raid! Tortellini and Chick Pea Salad

They say that knowledge is power. This applies to many things that help one live a full life. The phrase can also apply to the more mundane matters of life like making dinner. Having recently learned a great deal about what is in the pantry, Mama D has used this knowledge to create some pretty interesting things (and a few mundane things as well). Since “Meatless Monday” is on the horizon, I thought I’d share a recent solution to the question: “What can I make for dinner without having to run to the store?”

Tortellini salad sounded good. Having discovered that I had one of those little bags of dry cheese tortellini in the pantry, and knowing that they really only work in soup or a salad, the choice was easy. It honestly could have gone either way, but another “Midwestern Warm Spell” made the salad idea more appealing.

Further investigation of the larder revealed several cans of chick peas, the refrigerator yielded some zucchini and grape tomatoes, and the freezer revealed several bags of pesto (remnants of a distant summer). Not bad for starters, I thought. The zucchini was roasted, the tortellini cooked al dente, and the pesto was blended with some buttermilk to create a light and creamy dressing. Now what?Nothing like some sliced red onion and sweet pepper rings to add some crunch and color. The pepper rings were discovered in the back of the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. I do not remember why I got them in the first place, but it had to be for something because the jar was half empty; or was it half full?  It seems that no part of Mama D’s Kitchen is immune from hoarding or philosophical musings.

The Buttermilk Pesto Dressing was perfect. The tangy low-fat dairy gave the rich pesto a healthy balance. Two more refrigerator discoveries; some Romano Cheese (a staple actually) and Kalamata Olives (original purpose unknown) rounded out the bowl. As this salad was kind of thrown together from what was on hand, it can be adapted to anyone’s pantry and I would recommend adapting it to your own needs.


Tortellini and Chick Pea Salad
Course: Main Course, Salad
  • 8 Ounces Dry Tortellini
  • 1 Can Chick Peas Drained and rinsed
  • 2 Small Zucchini
  • 1/2 Medium Red Onion
  • 1-1/2 Cups Grape tomatoes Halved
  • 1/4 Cup Pickled Pepper Rings Any kind
  • 1/4 Cup Kalamata Olives Quartered
  • 1 Bag Italian Lettuce Blend
  • 2 Tblsp. Grated Romano
  • Cracked Black Pepper To taste. Optional
Creamy Pesto Dressing
  • 1/3 Cup Basil Pesto
  • 1/3 Cup Buttermilk
  • 1 Tblsp. White Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 Tblsp. Olive oil
  1. Cook the Tortellini according to the package directions. Drain well, rinse and drain well again. Place in a large bowl.

  2. Quarter the zucchini lengthwise and chop into 1 inch pieces. Spread out on a baking sheet and spray with non-stick cooking spray. sprinkle with Italian herb blend. Roast at 375 degrees for 15 minutes turning once to brown both sides. Add to the bowl .

  3. Slice the red onion into thin vertical slices. Toss with a little vinegar and set aside for 15 minutes. Blooming makes raw onion less strong tasting. Drain the onion and add to the bowl.

  4. Add the chick peas, olives, tomatoes, and pepper rings to the bowl and toss to combine everything.

  5. Shake the Pesto Dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Pour about half of the dressing over the salad and toss to coat well. Cover the bowl and chill for several hours.

  6. About 30 minutes before serving remove the bowl from the refrigerator and add the remaining dressing. Toss again.

  7. To serve: Place a couple of handfuls of the lettuce blend on each of the plates. Top with the tortellini salad and sprinkle with the Romano. A generous sprinkle of black pepper is a nice finishing touch.

Like a perfect storm, this salad will never happen in quite the same way again. The next version will most likely be different no matter whose kitchen it comes from. 

Soup Season Has Arrived: Chipotle Cheddar Cheese Soup

It’s soup season. The calendar tells me so, but here in the Midwest we have had a very mild January…in fact it is almost one for the record books. There has been virtually no snow and the temperature has flirted with the 60’s. Still, it is soup season so soup is making many appearances in Mama D’s Kitchen.

Armed with plenty of homemade stock in the freezer I am embarking on serious soup adventures. My first stop was revisiting a pure comfort soup, Broccoli Cheddar Cheese, to be exact. What could elevate this creamy classic? Enter a block of Chipotle Cheddar Cheese. This is a white cheddar studded with bits of chipotle pepper. It is available in a few markets and while bringing a bit of heat is still a sharp cheddar that will please most tastes.

I started with onions, carrots and garlic softened in a little olive oil. My stock of choice was vegetable as “Meatless Monday” was looming. I simmered these together for half an hour or so before transforming it into creamy cheesy goodness. There was going to be a lot of cheddar cheese going into this so I dialed down the dairy fat by using a combination of evaporated skim milk and low-fat buttermilk. A flour and stock slurry insured pleasant thickness and some Worcestershire Sauce and Chipotle Tabasco Sauce added some zip. I added a little Chipotle Chile Powder. Depending on how hot you want to go, this could go as high as your palate can bear.

I blanched the broccoli to help keep its vivid green color and added a cup of frozen corn to keep things interesting.

This is actually a very quick soup to make. It would also lend itself to many variations. The addition of buttermilk was an experiment that succeeded. It added creaminess as well as a little zing to the flavor. If you can’t find chipotle cheddar use any sharp cheddar cheese.

Chipotle Cheddar Soup with Broccoli and Corn
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Chipotle Cheddar Soup with Broccoli and Corn
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  1. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the onions, carrots, and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes or until the veggies are beginning to brown.
  2. Add 1/4 cup broth to the pot and stir scraping up any brown bits. Cook for a minute or so to reduce slightly.
  3. Add 3-1/2 cups of stock, the allspice, and chipotle powder to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 - 15 minutes.
  4. While the stock simmers, blanch the broccoli. Dump the broccoli into a pot of salted boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Immediately remove the broccoli and submerge in a bowl of ice water. Drain well and set aside.
  5. Once the stock mixture starts smelling wonderful, add the evaporated milk and the buttermilk. Shake together the remaining 1/4 cup of stock and the flour. Slowly pour it into the soup stirring constantly. Continue to stir until it thickens.
  6. Add the broccoli, corn, Worcestershire Sauce and Chipotle Tabasco. Cook for several minutes.
  7. Over low heat, stir in the cheese, continuing to stir until it is melted. Give it a taste and adjust any seasoning. Serve.
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The soup pot sits at the ready for its next great adventure…I wonder where we will wind up?

Supper in the Summer: Pizza Frittata

I believe that we have established that summer is officially here. The calendar has caught up with the weather and we are (suntanned) shoulder deep in warm, sunny, summer. The warmer temperatures and the longer days make light suppers the thing to do. Of course, there is the required amount of grilling, but the stove can also turn out some fantastic meals often from the humblest of ingredients. Take the “incredible, edible, (& cheap), egg.” Can you say Frittata?

I’ve shared frittata recipes before, but there’s always room for one more. I call this a Pizza Frittata. Now don’t take the name too literally. This eggie wonder has the essence of pizza, that is, peppers and onions laced with garlic, seasoned with ground fennel and red pepper flakes. That’s right. Classic pizza toppings with what in my kitchen are the spices that make sausage Italian. Where’s the meat?  Not here. No need. This flavor combination doesn’t miss it. So, while it is delicious any time, it can be a Marvelous Meatless Monday Meal. (Don’t you love alliteration?)

This particular pizza was going to be the “Vegetable Lover” variety so it had to start with summer bright veggies. It is Mama D’s Kitchen, so onion and garlic had to be represented, tooIMG_1974

The magic took shape in my smallest of cast iron skillets which is the perfect size for a frittata for two. It is also the perfect vessel, as it can go from stove top to broiler without a worry. Olive oil coated the bottom of the skillet and in went the onions.IMG_1975I wanted them to caramelize a bit before the peppers and garlic joined them. Once everyone was happily co-mingling, I added the red pepper flakes and ground fennel. A quick note on ground fennel; it is not necessary. Crushed fennel seeds will work. You could go even more rustic and use the seeds whole, just give them a rub between your hands to release the fragrance (and a beautiful one it is).IMG_1977Every frittata needs  eggs and I used 5. Yes, four would have worked, but I was feeling a bit generous and hungry so five it was. I beat them well and added some fat free half & half along with grated Romano cheese and Italian Herb Blend. The eggs waited stove side with some sliced tomatoes and fresh cilegine that would become the final toppings.IMG_1980

So, when the time was right, I added the eggs to the skillet and cooked them until they were almost set. As mentioned in other posts, this is a process that involves patience, and a good amount of jiggling, lifting, and otherwise manipulating the mixture. Once everything was perfect, it was time to crown it with the tomatoes and mozzarella.IMG_1984A little more Italian herb blend and a drizzle of olive oil and under the broiler it went. This step doesn’t take long and should be closely monitored as beautifully golden can become horribly charred in a matter of seconds. I was vigilant and the frittata came out perfectly browned. IMG_1986It rested for 5 minutes and could sit even longer if needed. We were hungry, so we went with the 5 minutes. This was wonderful on its own, but as with any good Italian meal, a little crusty bread and a salad would be great.IMG_1989

Pizza Frittata
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Pizza Frittata
Print Recipe
  1. Heat a small oven proof skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan.
  2. Add the onions and cook until softened and just beginning to brown, about 5 - 7 minutes.
  3. Add the peppers and the garlic and continue to cook another 5 - 7 minutes until everything is slightly golden.
  4. Beat the eggs with the half & half and grated Romano Cheese. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables in the skillet.
  5. Shake, tip and otherwise gently move the eggs around allowing the mixture to cook until almost set. This can take up to 10 minutes depending on the stove and your diligence.
  6. Preheat the broiler. When everything is almost set, top the eggs with the sliced tomatoes and the cilegine .
  7. Place the skillet in the broiler and cook until the top is lightly browned and the cheese has melted
  8. Remove from the broiler and allow to sit 5 - 10 minutes. Drizzle with a little olive oil, cut in half, and serve.
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The flavors were lovely. The onions and peppers retained a bit of crunch that complimented the creamy texture of the eggs. A crisp white wine was the perfect accompaniment. 

There are hundreds of ways you can take a frittata, so look at this recipe as your invitation to create your own adventure.