12 ounces uncooked jumbo pasta shells (approx. 30-34 shells)
4-5 cups pasta sauce
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
For the meat sauce:
2 pounds lean ground beef
1/3 cup olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
6-8 garlic cloves, peeled
1 (24- ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, cilantro or basil
1 cup water
For the Béchamel Sauce:
4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup parmesan cheese
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
Preheat the oven to 400 °F, 200 °C.
Cook the pasta shells in boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water so that the shells don’t stick together and to stop the cooking process.
To make the meat sauce: Begin by combining the chopped onion, garlic cloves and olive oil in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium low heat for about 15 minutes or until soft and golden. At this point the garlic cloves will be very soft. Smash them with a wooden spoon or a spatula. They will melt into the sauce. (No need to chop them)
Add the ground beef and mix well over high heat.
Add the crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and oregano. Mix to combine.
Pour the cup of water over everything and mix one more time.
Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to medium. Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened to the consistency that you prefer. You may cook it longer if you like a more concentrated, thick meat sauce or you can even add a little more water if you like a thinner sauce.
Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and set aside to come to room temperature.
To make the Béchamel sauce: Combine the flour and oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk well while cooking a few minutes until toasted.
Slowly add the milk in a few batches, whisking to incorporate so that it is smooth and creamy. Adding the milk all at once will create lumps.
Cook until it comes to a boil and thickens. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Remove from heat.
Whisk the eggs together in a bowl. Add some of the hot milk mixture into the eggs and whisk to temper them so that they don't scramble when added to the cream sauce.
Add the eggs to the sauce and whisk well.
Add the parmesan cheese and mix to combine.
Pour a layer of tomato sauce in a 9 by 13-inch baking pan.
Stuff the shells with the meat filling and arrange the shells over the sauce.
Pour some béchamel sauce over the shells and top with shredded mozzarella cheese and some oregano.
There will be leftover tomato sauce, meat sauce, shells, and Béchamel sauce. Repeat the same steps and either freeze this tray for future use by covering tightly with plastic wrap then with aluminum. Or, bake this tray as well.
Bake the tray of stuffed shells (on the middle oven rack) covered with foil for 25-30 minutes, then uncover and bake until the cheese is golden by turning the broiler element on for the last 5 minutes. Keep an eye on it so that they don’t burn.
Make Ahead Freezer Instructions: Thaw the tray of shells overnight in the refrigerator then bake as usual. If they are not thawed overnight, place them in the oven while it is still cold and allow them to warm through slowly while the oven is pre-heating. It will take about 15-20 minutes longer for the shells to cook.
Makes 2 chickens:
2 whole chickens
3 pounds shallots, peeled
Inside each chicken cavity:
Preheat oven to 400°F, 200 °C.
Combine all of the red pepper sauce ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired. Place 2 cups of the sauce in a bowl to stuff the chickens with and store the remaining sauce in a bowl in the refrigerator.
Place the shallots in a baking dish large enough to hold the chickens. Drizzle them with ¼ cup olive oil and season with some salt. Roast for 15 minutes while you prepare the chickens.
Combine all of the herb butter ingredients in a bowl and whisk them together to combine.
Season the cavity of each chicken with salt, cumin powder, and red pepper flakes, and add the garlic cloves.
Use your fingers or a spoon to carefully separate the skin from the chickens from the breast to create a pocket that will hold the red pepper sauce. Place a tablespoon of the herb butter under the skin of each breast. Spread it all around with your fingers.
Place ¾ cup – 1 cup of red pepper sauce under the skin of the chicken breasts. Spread around so that it can reach the thighs as well.
Tie the legs with butcher’s twine.
Remove the shallots from the oven and place the chickens in the pan along with them.
Pour the remaining herb butter over the chickens. Season with salt and pepper.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350 °F, 180 *C.
Roast the chickens (uncovered) for 1 and ½ to 2 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 165 °F. This usually takes 2 hours when roasting 2 chickens in one baking pan.
Allow the chickens to rest at least 15 minutes so that they stay juicy. Pour the pan juices in a gravy boat and serve alongside the chicken.
Serve with some toasted bread and more red pepper sauce.
This is definitely my favorite time of the year! Now until New Years my
favorite spices and flavors make their grand debut and are featured in almost
every holiday menu. Apples, pears, cranberries, oranges, cinnamon……. Can you
smell the warm delicious aroma?
Makes about 30 grape leaves:
1 pound cut up lamb shoulder (with bone)
16 ounces grape leaves from a jar, rinsed, drained, and stems removed
3/4 cup olive oil
1 pound ground lean beef
½ cup rice, uncooked
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cups water or chicken broth
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon dried crushed oregano
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup freshly lemon juice
For the lemon sauce:
3 cups dolmades broth
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 egg yolks
1 and 1.2 tablespoons corn starch
Salt, to taste
¼ - ½ teaspoon dried dill
Combine the onion with ¼ cup olive oil in a pot and cook over medium heat until soft and golden. About 10 minutes.
Combine the ground beef, herbs, rice, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Add the cooked onions and the oil that they were cooked in. Mix until combined.
Rinse and dry the grape leaves. Cut the hard stem from each leaf. Reserve the smallest and the torn leaves to lay on bottom of pot.
Lay a grape leaf shiny side down and place a tablespoon of rice filling on the bottom end of the leaf, near the stem.
Fold the stem end of leaf over the filling. Fold the sides over and roll up snugly but not too tight. The rice will expand while cooking.
Repeat with all of the remaining grape leaves until your filling is done.
Layer half of the small and torn grape leaves to create a bed for the dolmades in a pot.
Season the lamb on both sides with salt and pepper and place in the pot along with the grape leaves.
Place the dolmades seam side down and very close together over the bed of leaves. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Pour the olive oil and lemon juice over the dolmades.
Place the remaining reserved small leaves over the dolmades.
Pour the water or chicken stock over the dolmades.
Place an inverted plate over the dolmades to weigh them down and to prevent them from moving around and opening while cooking.
Cover with lid and bring to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer and cook about 45 minutes or until tender.
Carefully strain the liquid out of the pot into a pitcher. There should be 3 cups of liquid. Add more water or chicken broth if there’s not enough. Place the broth in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
Combine the egg yolks, cornstarch, lemon juice, and dill in a small bowl and whisk together until smooth.
Add some of the hot broth to the eggs and whisk well to temper.
Add the egg mixture to the pot and whisk to combine. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook 2-3 minutes or until slightly thickened.
Either pour the sauce over the dolmades or pour some over them and serve the remaining sauce in a gravy boat alongside the dolmades with some lemon wedges.
Makes 2 pies
For the Shortbread Crust:
3/4-pound unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
For the Pumpkin Filling:
8 ounces softened cream cheese
2 ounces unsalted butter, softened
2 cups pure pumpkin puree
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks
1 cup whole milk, warm or at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
For the Whipped Cream:
2 cups cold heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons (or more) confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
The Shortbread Crust:Combine the butter, salt, both sugars, and vanilla extract in the bowl of a table top mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. This can also be done with a hand blender and a large mixing bowl.
Beat beginning on low speed until all of the sugar is incorporated. Increase the speed to high and beat until creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl at least once in between mixing so everything is evenly incorporated.
Add the flour in 2-3 batches mixing on low speed. Beat until a dough begins to form. Some crumbled dough may remain at the bottom of the bowl. This will all come together when the dough is formed into a ball on the counter.
Remove all of the dough from the mixer on a clean work surface (counter) and press it together to form a disk. A ball can be formed first and then press it down with your palm to form the disc.
Divide the dough into 2 equal portions.
Press each portion of dough into a 9 and ½ - 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Chill in the freezer at least 1 hour or until the dough is very firm. This can be wrapped in plastic and kept frozen up to 1 month. Chilling it well is required so that the tart keeps its shape during baking.
The Pumpkin Filling:Combine the softened butter, cream cheese, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and ginger in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on low speed until combined and smooth.
Add the egg yolks and beat until combined. Add the pumpkin puree along with the milk and beat until combined. Finish mixing it with a whisk or a spatula (by hand) to make sure everything is mixed well.
Preheat the oven to 350 °F, 180 °C.
Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake in the center rack of the oven for 15 minutes. Pierce the tart with a fork all over to release steam and so that it keeps its shape. Bake an additional 5-10 minutes or until toasted and lightly golden in color.
Note:You can bake both tart shells in the same oven at simultaneously on separate racks just switch their place halfway through baking to cook evenly. (move the bottom tray to the middle and vice versa)
Divide the pumpkin filling equally to fill both baked tart shells.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the filling is set but still has some jiggle to it. Over baking will cause the pie to crack down the center of the filling.
Once the pie comes to room temperature, chill it in the refrigerator (preferably overnight) then carefully remove it from the tart pan.
Set on a serving plate.
To make the whipped cream, combine the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla extract in the bowl of a tabletop mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk on low speed until it begins to thicken then on high speed until it thickens to the consistency of yogurt.
Serve the whipped cream alongside the pie in a separate bowl, dollop it onto the center of the pie, or decorate the pie by piping out whipped cream rosettes all around using a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip.
This pie can (and should) be made 1 day ahead of time and kept chilled in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
For the Top Crust (Shortbread):
1/3-pound unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup confectioner’s sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 and ½ cups all-purpose flour
For the Bottom Crust & the Leaf Decorations:
½ pound unsalted butter, softened
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour
For the Apple Filling:
10 apples (Granny Smith), peeled, cored, and sliced ¼-1/2-inch-thick
4 ounces unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 and ½ teaspoons corn starch
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
Optional: ¼ cup heavy cream
1-2 tablespoons granulated sugar for sprinkling on top of crust
Egg wash: 1 whole egg beaten with 2-3 tablespoons water or milk
Begin by making the filling. In a large shallow saucepan, melt the butter. Add the apple slices, both sugars, cinnamon, cornstarch, and salt. Cook over medium heat. Carefully stir the apples as they cook down taking care not to break them. They will release liquid. As soon as the liquid boils and begins to thicken, remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool completely. This takes about 10 minutes. Stir in the cream if desired.
Make ahead tip: This mixture can stay fresh up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Once it cools, store it in an airtight container chilled in the refrigerator until ready to use.
To make the bottom crust, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a table top mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until incorporated and fluffy.
Add the flour slowly and beat on low speed until a dough is formed.
Form the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap or parchment paper and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Make ahead tip:This dough can be stored in the freezer up to a month. Wrap in parchment paper, then tightly in plastic wrap and keep frozen until ready to use. One day before, thaw in the refrigerator.
To form a pie crust, lightly dust a work surface and a rolling pin with flour. Reserve 5 ounces of the dough for the leaf decorations for the crust. Roll out the larger piece of dough to about 13-14 inches in diameter.
Fold it in half to transfer it onto a 10-inch round by about 2-inch-deep pie pan. Open up the dough to cover the pan. Fold the edges under that are hanging out of the pan. Crimp to form a decorative pattern.
Freeze for at least an hour before filling with the apple filling. You may wrap the frozen prepared pie crust in its pan with plastic wrap and store in the freezer up to a month.
To make the top crust (shortbread): Combine the butter, sugars, vanilla extract, and salt in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until combined and fluffy. Add the flour and beat on low speed until combined and a dough forms. Form the dough into a disk and reserve about 5 ounces on the side for the leaf embellishments.
To create the leaf embellishmentsfor the pie crust, roll out the 5-ounce piece of dough on a lightly floured surface. Using leaf shaped cookie cutters with stamps, cut out about 30 leaves (and press the cutter down to stamp the decorative pattern on the dough) and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Chill in the freezer until ready to use.
Preheat the oven to 425 °F, 220 °C. Position the rack to the center of the oven with a pizza stone on it.
For the top crust, roll out the shortbread on a surface dusted with all-purpose flour. Roll it out to about 12-13 inches round.
To assemble the pie: Place the pie plate on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Fill the pie crust with the apple filling.
Cut the shortbread crust into 4 quarters and place each quarter on top of the pie to cover the filling.
Brush egg wash on the back of each leaf and over lap them to form a crown all around the pie. Use any left-over leaves to form clusters and to add dimension and beauty.
Cover the pie with aluminum foil.
To bake the pie:
Allow the pie to cool at least 1-2 hours before serving so that the filling sets. 4-5 hours is even better (for neater slices).
This pie can be made a day before serving and kept at room temperature. Warm through at 325 °F for about 15 minutes and serve with ice cream or homemade whipped cream. Enjoy!
Makes 2 Braids:
2 sheets puff pastry
10 ounces baby spinach, chopped
3/4 cup full fat ricotta cheese
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1-2 scallions, finely sliced
optional topping: 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
egg wash: 1 egg yolk mixed with 2 tablespoons water
Preheat the oven to 400 °F, 200 °C.
Begin by preparing the spinach filling. In a large bowl, combine the spinach, feta, ricotta cheese, dill, salt, pepper, and scallions. Mix well until the spinach is completely coated with the cheeses and all of the ingredients are well incorporated.
Taste and check for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper if needed.
Beat the egg and add to the spinach mixture. Mix well until incorporated and set aside.
Lightly dust your work surface with some all-purpose flour. Roll out each sheet of puff pastry to a 12” by 15” rectangle. Place the puff pastry sheet on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
Make an even number of diagonal cuts down each side (approx. 1 inch apart) of the rectangle.
Divide the spinach filling into 2 portions.
Spread the spinach and cheese mixture down the center of the prepared puff pastry.
Fold the diagonal strips of dough in a criss-cross pattern over the filling, forming a braid.
Press the ends together to seal the top and bottom.
Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.
Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes or in the refrigerator for 25 minutes.
Bake in the center rack of the oven until puffed and golden brown. About 30-35 minutes.
Allow to cool completely before serving.
Serve with tzaztiki sauce.
Make ahead tips:
1 pound giant butter or lima beans, soaked in water overnight
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup of olive oil
1 (28 ounce can of tomatoes) pureed in blender
2 teaspoons (or more) sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2-3 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
3-4 roasted red or yellow peppers, from the jar
optional: 1-pound feta cheese
Place beans in a large pot covered with cold water and bring to a boil. Cook the beans about 35-40 minutes or until tender but not mushy. They will continue cooking in the oven. Strain the beans and place them in a 9x13inch baking dish.
Preheat the oven to 375 °F, 190 °C.
Combine onions, garlic cloves, and olive oil in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until soft and golden. About 15 minutes. Smash the garlic cloves with the back of a wooden spoon.
Add the tomato puree, salt, sugar, and spices to the pan and cook about 10-15 minutes or until the sauce thickens a bit.
Pour the sauce over the beans and mix well.
Fold in the chopped roasted peppers and taste. Season with more salt if desired.
Add the spinach leaves in 4-5 batches folding each batch gently until it wilts taking care not to mash the beans.
Bake uncovered for 50 minutes.
Remove the baking pan from the oven and crumble the feta over the beans. Return to the center rack of the oven and bake 10 more minutes.
During the final 5 minutes of baking turn on the top broiler to caramelize/char the top slightly. Keep an eye on it so that it does not burn.
Serve with toasted bread. Enjoy!
1 zucchini, grated with the peel
6 oz feta cheese, cubed
1 roasted red pepper, chopped
Optional: 3 scallions finely sliced, dill, chives
The Dry Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 and ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
The Wet Ingredients:
1 cup whole milk plain yogurt
2-3 tablespoons whole milk
4 ounces unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons honey
Preheat the oven to 400 °F, 200° C.
Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk together to combine.
Combine the wet ingredients in another bowl and whisk together until combined.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and whisk until combined.
Fold in the shredded zucchini, feta cheese, and red pepper.
Grease a cast iron skillet (or a 9-10-inch springform baking pan) with butter. Spread the batter in the prepared baking pan.
Bake approximately 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick that is inserted in the center comes out clean.
Set aside to come to room temperature and serve!
Hi, I'm Dimitra and welcome to my blog! Here, I'll teach you just how much fun and easy it is to please a crowd with my versions of Greek classics. Kali Orexi as we say in Greek!