Everyday Tomato Sauce

I’ve been meaning to do this one for a while, because tomato sauce is something that we use a lot. I’m actually going to be posting another recipe tomorrow, but while I was working on it, I decided I needed to do this first. This is my standard tomato sauce that I use all the time, so this post will be a great reference tool. I’ll be linking back to this in the future, whenever a recipe calls for it.

I make sauce like this at least every couple weeks. I prefer it to jarred sauce, and hey, at the moment, it might get you out of a pinch. I don’t know about your local grocery, but our pasta and sauce aisle has been really picked over lately. There always seemed to be canned tomatoes though!

It’s worth noting this makes about 2 standard mason jars worth of sauce… sometimes a little extra. If you don’t have any, save and reuse jars from the store! (Just make sure you clean them out really well.)

Everyday Tomato Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 6oz tomato paste
  • 14.5oz crushed tomatoes
  • 14.5oz diced tomatoes
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Put the olive oil in a sauce pot over medium heat. Add the diced onion & let it sweat for about 2-3 minutes, until it begins to become translucent. Add the garlic, grated carrot & diced bell pepper. Stir to combine & let it cook for about 5 minutes, until the veggies are tender.
  2. Add the tomato paste to the veggies. Using a rubber or wooden spatula, stir it in & scrap up any bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Once it’s all well-incorporated, add the crushed & diced tomato. Stir it all together & reduce the heat to low.
  3. Stir in the dried oregano, & the dried & fresh basil. Add salt & pepper to taste. Cover & allow the sauce to simmer for at least 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve immediately or let cool, jar & refrigerate.

Suggestions & Substitutions: I like to use a mix of crushed and diced tomatoes because I like the added texture. If you want a smoother sauce, go with two cans of crushed instead.

You can also use fresh tomatoes as well! For a while my garden was producing roma tomatoes like crazy and I would dice and blend my own. Or sometimes, if I have a couple tomatoes I have to use up soon, I’ll add them in with canned to freshen it up. The pros of canned tomatoes is that they stay in your pantry for a very long time, which is very helpful, especially at the moment when avoiding the store is a big priority.

If you have options, try to find canned tomatoes that don’t add salt. Lots of brand name sauces have a lot of salt and sugar in them, and one of the things I like about making my own is that I can control that. Carrots add a nice natural sweetness to it, but you can always add a pinch of sugar to yours if you prefer it.

This is also a fantastic way to use up things you have laying around. Have fun with this as your base! Add ground meat, mushrooms, chopped spinach or spicier peppers if you like. I love adding in roasted garlic (when I feel like taking that extra step), crushed red pepper flakes & sometimes a little grated parmesan cheese. It’s a great canvas to work with.

And just think of all the ways to use it…

…On homemade ricotta gnocchi

…Used for baked eggs aka shakshuka

…In quick & easy pizza roll ups

…Used two ways in chicken parmesan

On The Side: Easy Panzanella

Hey everyone, I’m a little behind on my blog schedule, I know. That’s because the countdown is ON for my husband coming home from deployment. I have been concentrating on that so much, I completely forgot to type up my recipes this week!

Yes, that is recipes… plural. I’m going to keep things short and sweet with two mini recipe posts over the next couple days, each featuring a different side dish.

You know when you have a great star of the meal, like a fantastic marinade for chicken, and you just end up throwing some rice or steamed veggies next to it? Yeah, that’s OK, but these are a little better.

First up is panzanella, which is quite literally bread salad. I’m resisting the urge to say “that’s my kind of salad!” in my best dad-joke voice, but I suppose I failed just by typing that.


I love carbs

Anywho, let’s dive in.

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 6 cups cubed ciabatta bread (bite-size)
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • salt & pepper
  1. In a small sauce pan, heat the balsamic vinegar & honey over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon. (You can prepare the rest of the dish while it simmers.)
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toss the bread cubes with the extra virgin olive oil, garlic powder & dried basil until well coated. Spread them out on a parchment-lined or greased baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 12-15 minutes, until toasted & golden.
  3. Salt & pepper the halved cherry tomatoes to taste and toss in a bowl with the sliced red onions and bread. Drizzle on some of the balsamic vinegar, reserving half to dress individual servings.

This is so quick and easy, but comes out looking so beautiful. You can add more to it if you like. I threw some sliced green onions in because I had extra from a different dish. Fresh basil or parsley would be fantastic, or if you want to add a salty element, you could use capers or olives. If you don’t want to bother with the balsamic reduction, a simple dressing of oil & vinegar will do the trick.

I opted for some really pretty rainbow tomatoes, because it adds so much color to the dish. Again, not set in stone. Same thing with bread. I think a ciabatta or sourdough is best, but it’s not wrong to know what you like and eat what you like. If you want to use a baguette and roma tomatoes, I’m sure it’ll be great.

I wanted this to be something that could come straight out of your pantry on a weeknight. I imagine this next to a beautiful piece of fish or grilled shrimp skewers, perfect for dining outdoors in the summer. It’s filling without being heavy, and flavorful without overpowering whatever the main course may be.

I’ll be back in a couple days with my second side dish idea. You know this next recipe will be easy, because it’s straight out of the slow cooker. See you soon!

Chicken Parmesan Perfection

Every now and again, I have to give you something simple and classic. I share some creative recipes, but let’s be real. I don’t cook like that every night, it would be exhausting. So today I’m sharing my original go-to.

Chicken Parmesan is one of those recipes that everyone should have under their belt. It’s a family dinner favorite and easy to make. Actually, it was one of the first real meals I taught myself to make back in college. Of course, back then, my signature dish included Shake & Bake, breadsticks out of the freezer section and a severe lack of seasoning.


Photo taken with a potato quality phone circa Sept 2006. My sad first attempt at chicken parmesan. Thank you roommate and boyfriend (who is now my husband) for choking this down.

Thankfully, things have changed.

Now don’t get me wrong, if you don’t have a lot of time, there’s nothing wrong with using some supermarket shortcuts for chicken parm. That’s why everyone has their own way of making it. No matter how much or how little time you want to devote to cooking, anything covered in sauce and cheese is going to be satisfying.

For this recipe, I’m just going to explain how to make the chicken. I feel like at this point, I don’t need to tell you how to boil and sauce a side of pasta, or put together a salad. Both of those things are great accompaniments, but really you can make whatever you like.

Now I have the urge to toast up some bulkie rolls and make chicken parm sandwiches… hmmmm.


Ready to go in the oven!

  • 3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp dried organo
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1-2 cups marinara sauce
  • 6 slices of fresh mozzarella
  1. Lay the chicken breasts flat and carefully cut them horizontally in half, creating two wide, thin pieces. Cover in a sheet of plastic wrap and pound the chicken out to an even thickness. Remove plastic and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion and oregano.
  2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat to 350 degrees. In a bowl, beat the eggs. In a separate bowl, combine italian breadcrumbs, panko breadcrumbs and parmesan. Dip chicken into eggs and then into breadcrumb mixture, coating well.
  3. Carefully lay in the chicken breasts, two at a time, as to not crowd the pan. Fry for about a minute on each side, until they begin to turn golden brown. Set aside onto paper towels and a wire rack to drain excess oil.
  4. Heat the oven to 400 degrees while the chicken cools slightly. Thinly spread a couple spoonfuls of marinara sauce over the bottom of a pan, that’s preferably lined with foil. Place the chicken directly on the sauce and spoon more marinara over the cutlets, covering the top. Place a generous slice of mozzarella on the center of each piece.
  5. Cook for about 12 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and cheese is fully melted. Broil on low for an additional 2 minutes to achieve a browning effect on the mozzarella. Serve immediately with you choice of side.

I know some people get freaked out by the frying step. It’s not a big deal, and trust me, it makes all the difference. It instantly crisps the outside, locking in the juices and flavor.


Fresh out of the oil, looking gorgeous

Another place I don’t think you should skimp out on is the cheese. Using fresh mozzarella instead of the shredded kind is night and day. Shredded cheese generally has chemicals on it to keep it from clumping (hence that waxy feeling). It also keeps it from melting the way it should. Fresh mozzarella will literally envelop the the chicken, in beautiful, creamy, melty goodness.


Cheese, glorious cheese

My breading mixture is a little odd, but after many trials, this is the combination I like best. The italian crumbs add the seasoning and flavor you want, the panko adds texture and the parmesan, well, that makes it chicken parmesan.

The shortcut here is sauce. There are plenty of great tasting, organic pasta sauces out there. I would recommend something with a thicker consistency, so go for something labeled homestyle or chunky. I also opted for a sauce with roasted garlic, but anything will do.

Sometimes if I have extra ingredients laying around that I need to use or lose, I enhance a store-bought marinara. I’ll mix in some fresh chopped basil, roasted red peppers or sauteed onions. It’s not a necessary step, but it’s a good way to use up produce if you have it.

This is a great beginner recipe to start with if you are looking to get into cooking. It’s right where I began. But you can choose to take my advice, based on years of guess work. This chicken parmesan tastes like one you would get in a restaurant. I promise!

I’ll be back in two weeks with a fun new recipe that would be the star of any brunch. Until then, let me know if you try out this dish or any of the other Picky Gourmet recipes. I love to hear from you!

Recipe Redux: Healthy Pasta

I’m rounding out this block of recipe redux posts with a look back on a couple of posts from last January when I began exploring healthier ideas to pasta dishes. I love pasta. A lot. I could eat it all the time, but sometimes it’s nice to take a lighter approach.

You can check out my past posts: healthy alternatives to pasta and a recipe for shrimp and zucchini noodles.”

It’s funny, I’m seeing a trend among some of my friends that since the spouses all deployed a few weeks ago, everyone is starting up diets. It makes sense though. It’s easier to eat better when you are just cooking for yourself. Also, I feel like the last month or so my husband was around we were making the most of our time together, which included dining out and a few overindulgent nights of drinking and fun. Even outside my little circle, diets seem to be big right now with the holiday season coming up fast. Everyone is trying to drop a couple pounds before its time for turkey, pie and all that good stuff.

This week I played around with spaghetti squash and zucchini noodles. Let’s talk about the differences. Both are great alternatives to pasta, and low in calories. A cup of the squash is around 40 calories and a medium zucchini has around 30. I wouldn’t recommend saving and storing any cooked squash for the next day, but zucchini noodles can be made ahead of time and stored for a couple days in the fridge. As for taste and texture, both really take on the flavor of what ever other ingredients or sauces you use to dress them up. Squash has more of an aroma to it though. I look at them essentially as angel hair (squash) versus fettuccine (zucchini). You can’t go wrong with either.

Spaghetti squash doesn’t take much more than a knife and a fork to prepare. Poke a couple small holes into the squash and microwave it for about 4 minutes to make it easier to cut in half. It made it much easier. Then I removed the seeds and roasted the squash with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper and italian seasoning for 45 minutes at 400 degrees. Zucchini on the other hand will require some kind of spiralizer, unless you want to cut it into small strips by hand.

I use zucchini noodles a lot. Spaghetti squash not so much. I have a couple friends who swear by it though, so for my first go with it, I used my old recipe.

I just replaced the zucchini noodles and added a little baby spinach into the mix. It was really good, but texturally I think I am more of a zucchini noodle kind of girl. But I look forward to trying so more recipes, maybe something with a heartier sauce or that uses the oven.

A couple days later I decided to flip the script. I made zucchini noodles and swapped shrimp for some sea scallops. I like to cook my scallops, seasoned with salt and pepper, in a small skillet. I melt a little butter with some garlic and fresh herbs like sage, basil or rosemary (whatever I have on hand) to sauté them in, just a couple minutes on each side until they turn a light golden brown.

For the zucchini noodles, I sautéed them in a separate skillet with a little olive oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper. After a couple minutes, when they start to become tender, I toss the noodles with a basil pesto sauce. If you can manage both skillets at the same time, this dish only takes about 5 minutes to put together, and it looks and tastes like something from a restaurant.

I apologize for the lack of an exact recipe to follow here, but that’s kind of the point. Both of these veggie noodles are easily added to your favorite pasta recipe. Keep it simple and use them with marinara sauce and meatballs, or alfredo sauce and grilled chicken. They are extremely adaptable, so don’t over think it. Also, since they are so much healthier than regular pasta, you won’t feel guilty about a little extra parmesan cheese on top.

I hope you liked looking back at some of my past posts with me. I plan on doing some more of these sporadically in the future, but next up will definitely be a brand new recipe for you all… I just have to to get back into my kitchen and figure out what it’s going to be!

Fettuccine Alfredo with Chicken & Spinach

OK friends, it’s going to be a short and sweet recipe post today. I have a busy week with a guest coming to town and then I’ll be spending the holiday weekend in Las Vegas (woo hoo!). When I know I’m leaving town, I don’t like to go grocery shopping and end up with a bunch of food I can’t make in time. Instead I like to clean out the fridge and use food that would otherwise be bad when I return from my trip. I had heavy cream, spinach and fresh rosemary on hand which was screaming to me “fettuccine alfredo!”

Pasta always lends itself to a quick and easy meal. I don’t like to use jarred sauces though. Homemade just tastes so much better. I love making alfredo sauce because it uses only a few pretty standard pantry items that I always have around, like butter and grated parmesan cheese. I also literally always have pasta in the cupboard. I’ve tried a lot of combinations and it took quite a while to figure what I think is my perfect alfredo sauce recipe. I had it down, but then yesterday, I think I made it even better. The addition of spinach and rosemary that I needed to use or lose took it to a new level.

Yields two (big!) servings.

  • 8 oz fettuccine
  • 2 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 large boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • salt & pepper for seasoning
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup chopped spinach
  • 2 Tbsp fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp lemon pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  1. Cook pasta until al dente and set aside. You can do this ahead of time or while you are making the sauce.
  2. Heat canola oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Season both sides of the chicken with garlic powder and a pinch of salt & pepper. Cook chicken for 8-10 minutes, turning once, until cooked through. (If you have to cut it in half to fit into the pan, do so. You want to use a pan you can make sauce in, so avoid a skillet.) Remove from heat, slice into bite size pieces and set aside.
  3. Leave the oil and brown bits in the pan and add the butter. Let it melt over medium-low heat and use a metal spoon or spatula to scrape the bottom of the pan. Add the chopped spinach and rosemary and stir for a minute until the spinach starts to wilt.
  4. Add cream, garlic, lemon pepper & salt. Let it come to a low boil, then reduce heat. Simmer for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce starts to thicken.
  5. Add the parmesan while on low heat, then bring it to medium. Stir continuously for about 2 minutes until the sauce is smooth. Remove from heat, return the chicken to the sauce, then the pasta, and toss until well incorporated. Serve immediately.

If you can’t fit all the chicken and pasta in the sauce pan, you can pour the sauce over everything in your drained pasta pot. I just prefer only getting one pot all sauced up.

My husband wasn’t too excited about the spinach at first, but with all that creamy, cheesy sauce, he was happy in the end. The spinach adds a nice little texture to the dish, and it’s a simple way to get some extra greens in. It almost makes fettucine alfredo a health food! (A girl can dream…)

The biggest secret for my recipe is using the same pan for the chicken and the sauce. All those brown bits and juices that get incorporated into the butter as the base of the sauce create so much flavor. Between that and the rosemary, the finished dish actually has a faint scent of a whole roasted chicken. I feel like a lot of restaurants just throw in bland, unseasoned chicken in with their pasta and hope the sauce covers it up. My way has everything working together, and it’s pretty darn tasty. My wary husband actually said this was the best fettucine alfredo I had ever made.


Ready for the close up

Like I said in the recipe, this makes two big bowls. For a table of 3 or 4 people, you could actually just add a second chicken breast to bulk it up a bit, then serve this in smaller portions with a salad and garlic bread. Feel free to double up the recipe if you have a big family, just know that this isn’t great for leftovers, so I try not to make more than I need at a time. You can absolutely save it, it will be fine, but fettucine alfredo is always best right off of the stove because the sauce separates over time and loses its creamy texture.

Let me know if you try out this, or any other Picky Gourmet recipes. I love seeing pictures and getting feedback! I hope everyone has a great 4th of July weekend. I know I will. Make sure to follow me on Instagram & Twitter to see my foodie adventures in Vegas!

Ravioli Zucchini Casserole

I really had a hard time naming this one. I toyed with calling it shortcut lasagna, or baked ravioli, but I settled on dubbing it a casserole. Whatever it is, it’s a fun and easy dinner great for a weeknight or to feed a family, that sneaks in some veggies amongst all that delicious sauce and cheese.

This recipe is also versatile. If you have read my other posts, I love giving people options and shortcuts, because everyone is different. Different schedules, different pantries, different tastes. Since I used to be an unbelievably picky eater, I think it’s important to let people have some room to play around.

Yields 6-8 servings

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (+extra, optional*)
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 white onion, finely chopped
  • 24 oz marinara sauce
  • approx 20 oz package ravioli
  • 2 large zucchini, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • 8 oz shredded mozzarella
  • fresh basil
  1. Boil water in a medium to large pot.
  2. While waiting for the water to boil, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook about 1 minute until fragrant. Add chopped onion and cook 3-4 minutes, stirring often, until translucent.
  3. Pour marinara sauce over the onions, reduce heat to low and stir until combined. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and remove from heat to cool.
  4. When the water is boiling, add the ravioli and cook about 1-2 minutes less than package directions for an al dente texture. In the last 3 minutes of the pasta cooking, add the sliced zucchini. Drain and let cool. (*After draining, tossing with a little olive oil can help prevent sticking)
  5. While the sauce and pasta cool, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray
  6. Spread 1 cup of the sauce evenly over the bottom of the pan and sprinkle on half of the Parmesan cheese. Arrange half the ravioli evenly in one layer over the sauce and sprinkle on half the mozzarella cheese. Arrange all the zucchini slices, evenly in one layer. Take some basil leaves and spread them out on top of the zucchini, as much or as little as you like.
  7. Use the rest of the ravioli to create a layer over the zucchini. Pour the remaining sauce over the whole dish and sprinkle with the rest of the mozzarella and Parmesan.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes, until cheese is melted and let rest for at least 2 minutes prior to serving. Garnish with fresh basil.

Here’s a visual on how to arrange the layers

Ravioli bakes are not a new thing, a lot of people have done it before with just sauce, pasta, cheese, sauce, pasta, cheese. It’s a quick meal that pleases most. You can use cheese or meat ravioli, whatever your preference.

By adding a whole chopped onion to my sauce, it gives it more of a thick texture and a noticeable crunch. You could alway substitute with finely chopped bell peppers or mushrooms to get that extra vegetable element. If you don’t have time for prep, cheat and get a super chunky jarred pasta sauce.

I love zucchini and think it’s really what makes this dish special, but it would completely work without it. To slice it you either need a mandolin or a really sharp knife and patience. I don’t have a mandolin, so start by cutting the two ends off, cutting the zucchini in half, and then very carefully slicing it into thin strips. By halving the zucchini it makes it easier to slice by hand and also easier to get through when you are scooping out portions of the finished dish. Worst case, you could slice it into coins like you would a cucumber, it will just take longer to layer and you won’t get total coverage like you would with retangular pieces.

This is not what I would call a totally healthy dish, but if you have kids, it’s an easy way to sneak in some fresh vegetables. You can also easily feed 6 to 8 people with this dish by serving it up with a simple salad and maybe some garlic bread. Since its just my husband and I, we portion it out and save what we don’t eat for leftovers. It holds up very well in the fridge.

Overall this requires a little more time and a little more mess than the standard ravioli bake, but it’s those extra elements that really make this more than just a big block of sauce and cheese. Adding in just a couple vegetables and fresh basil takes it to the next level of texture and taste. It’s also fun to dig in and see that bright green layer of zucchini right in the middle. Try it out! I promise it’s easy and everyone will end up with a clean plate.

 

 

 

Easy Pizza Sauce

I hope everyone has recovered from Super Bowl Sunday! Along with the snacks, I made two simple pizzas yesterday that were deeeeelish. Luckily there was so much food, I have a couple slices leftover for my lunch today. Score!

Today I’m going to share my recipe for pizza sauce. I made a fairly traditional margherita and a spicy arugula pie, so it’s actually two sauce recipes in one post. You can decide which to try… or, c’mon, make both. Two pizzas are always better than one.

Yields sauce for two 12″ pizzas

  • 6oz can tomato paste
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

To make it a spicy sauce you will need:

  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  1. Combine tomato paste, diced tomatoes, oregano, garlic, paprika and Italian seasoning in a bowl and stir until all ingredients are well mixed.
  2. Optional: if you prefer a smoother sauce rather than a rustic, chunky sauce, put the mixture into a blender or food processor and pulse until it’s the desired consistency.

That’s it! No need to heat this at all, it does all the cooking in the oven. At this point, I divided the sauce and spread half of it on my first dough. I topped it with fresh mozzarella slices and torn basil leaves. Next up, spicy arugula.

  1. Stir black pepper, cayenne and red pepper flakes into remaining sauce.

It couldn’t be easier. If you want the whole batch of sauce to be spicy, just add a little extra to the peppery ingredient amounts, mix it all in at the start and taste as you go.

My second pizza had the spicy sauce and I simply sprinkled on some grated Parmesan cheese. Both pies baked for about 10 minutes at 450 degrees, but make sure you follow instructions for whatever kind of dough you are using. I usually make my own from scratch, but I cheated and used the store bought kind this time. It was a busy day! Don’t judge me!

When they were done cooking, I put a little more fresh basil onto the margherita. This is perfect for fans of a plain pizza, but so much better than using shredded processed cheese. The spicy pizza was finished off with two handfuls of fresh baby arugula. At first, the tough guys thought this looked like a salad more than a pizza, but the heat from the sauce and the peppery greens take this a long way from boring. It’s a flavor bomb!

I asked my guests and my social media followers which team they were on, and I was actually shocked that the spicy arugula was the clear winner here! So try these two, or your own, pizza creations at home and have a vote. It’s a fun and easy for a party or even a weeknight family dinner that everyone will love.

{follow me on twitter & instagram: @thepickygourmet}

Bruschetta Chicken Pasta

I wasn’t planning on posting this recipe, because honestly I just threw it together. But it turned out so delicious, and it uses the leftovers from my last post. I HATE throwing out food so last night I made this dish from what I had in my fridge and pantry and it ended up being lovely.

Yields 4 servings

  • leftover bruschetta (see previous post)
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • approx. 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • approx. 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp basil
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbsps olive oil
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • box of your favorite pasta
  • fresh parsley, grated Parmesan (optional)
  1. Strain the bruschetta and put the reserved liquid in a measuring cup. Set the tomatoes aside. Add equal parts (about 2 Tbsp each, but you have to eye it) of balsamic and red wine vinegar to the same measuring cup until you have a 1/2 cup of liquid combined. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine basil, oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper and rub evenly on both sides of the chicken breasts.
  3. Get your water boiling to start cooking your pasta at this point. Whenever the pasta is done, set it aside but make sure to reserve a 1/4 cup of the pasta water.
  4. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the chicken for about 1-2 minutes on each side, flipping once to get a light sear. Transfer chicken to a baking dish and in the oven for about 10 minutes, until cooked through.
  5. While the chicken is baking, use the same skillet with the reserved pan juices. Heat over medium-low heat and stir in the minced garlic for about 1 minute. Add the vinegar mixture and increase the heat until it comes to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. In the last minute of cooking, add the lemon juice and 1/4 cup pasta water.
  6. Serve chicken over the pasta. If you want to slice the chicken like I did, make sure it has a few minutes to rest so you don’t lose all the juices. Top the chicken with the leftover chopped tomatoes from the bruschetta and drizzle the sauce over everything. Add some parsley and Parmesan if you’d like.

If you don’t have leftover bruschetta, you could always grab a premade one from the store or, if you have the time, make a small batch. I like that the tomatoes marinated for a day before I prepped this dish, you if you can plan for it, try and give them some time to soak up that flavor. If you have leftover bruschetta but think it’s not enough, just chop up an extra tomato or two and stir it in before straining.

Since the sauce has oil and vinegar in it, there will be some separation if it sits untouched, so make sure to keep stirring, especially right before pouring it over the finished plate.

I used white fiber penne as my pasta, simply because it’s what I had on hand. Any pasta would be fine though. Linquine or fettuccine might have made it a little easier to twirl up and get all those tomato chunks, but both of our plates here were clean by the time we finished! My husband isn’t the biggest balsamic fan either, but he loved this dish. The flavors all combine really well, so it’s not being overwhelmed by one ingredient. Such a fun way to reuse my leftover party food!

{follow me on twitter & instagram: @thepickygourmet}

 

Bruschetta, My Go-To Appetizer

When I’m out to eat, if bruschetta is on the menu, I have to get it as an appetizer. It can be prepared in a number of ways but this is my recipe for a crowd. It’s always a hit when I bring it to a party because it’s so refreshing in a sea of heavy dips and store bought desserts. It’s also great because it’s a vegan/vegetarian option, and there’s always someone who appreciates that.

It’s super simple but can be a little time consuming if you hand cut everything. On the plus side, it can be prepped the night before so you don’t have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen the day of the event. (Or it makes time to prep a second dish)

  • 6 large (or 8 small) Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 2-3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

For the crostini:

  • 1 baguette
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • italian seasoning
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic and basil. At this point, you can put this in the fridge overnight. If there’s no lid for the bowl, cover with plastic wrap or place in Tupperware.
  2. Add the balsamic vinegar and toss to coat. If you want a stronger balsamic flavor, add more vinegar a tsp at a time. Add the olive oil and toss to coat. (It’s important to use the vinegar first so that it penetrates the tomatoes. The oil will repel the vinegar if it’s added first.) Cover and set aside in the fridge until time to serve
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the baguette into 1/2 inch slices and place in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle evenly with Italian seasoning. Bake for about 5 minutes, until bread is golden and crispy. Can be served warm or cooled, whatever your preference.

Again, so simple. The only thing that takes time is the chopping of the ingredients.

A lot of times the crostini will be gone before the bruschetta is. If that happens, it’s great on tortilla or pita chips. It can also be a great topping for tomorrow’s dinner protein. I love it on top of grilled chicken.

If you want to make it a more presentable appetizer and less of a party snack, cut the recipe in half and do the plating yourself. Like I said before, there’s hundreds of ways to change this up. If I’m serving this at a sit down dinner, sometimes I’ll place a slice of fresh mozzarella or a roasted red pepper on the bread before topping it with the marinated tomatoes. Arugula is a great peppery addition as well, or some might like a slice of prosciutto on top.

I made this today for a football party and it was a huge success with the crowd. I also made something a little heartier- buffalo chicken dip. But stay tuned for Super Bowl week. I’ll be sharing that recipe, plus two more of my favorite buffalo chicken dishes!

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