A Family Meal

I absolutely live for making big family meals. There is something so deliciously wonderful about eating good food with people you care about. Anyone who knows me, knows that I love to love with food.

I've never been much of a Giada de Laurentiis fan. She's beautiful, but as I watched her show I would be somewhat distracted by her huge head and short arms (think: T-Rex).

Yeah...she scares me a little, too.

I also get annoyed at the excessive amount of cleavage showing in every episode (which may account for the large male fan base she has acquired). Furthermore, I get confused by the way she talks. One minute, she is talking like you and me. The next minute, she is pronouncing Italian ingredients like she lives in a Tuscan villa on the Mediterranean coast. Just say Parmesan and marscarpone cheese like a normal person...you grew up in California. Anyway.

I got her Giada's Family Dinners cookbook for Christmas and began to try her recipes. Um, wow. Every single thing I've made from this cookbook has been completely mouthwatering. I'm sorry I called you a T-Rex, Giada, because your recipes are awesome.

I've made the following recipe three separate times since Christmas because it's a total crowd pleaser. It yields enough to make 6 hearty main course servings. If you're anything like me, I find sun-dried tomatoes to be a bit much sometimes. The way they are cooked in this recipe really mellows their flavor and they are delicious. I followed up this pasta dinner recently with a yummy dessert recipe I found in Southern Living Magazine.

Penne with Sausage, Artichokes, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
~I use whole grain pasta to make this hearty one dish meal~

  • 3/4 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, sliced, 2 tbsp of oil reserved*
  • 1 lb Italian hot sausages, casings removed (I use hot Italian turkey sausage)
  • 2 (8 oz.) packages frozen artichoke hearts, thawed (I have yet to find frozen artichokes, so I use the canned kind in brine, not oil)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 3/4 cups reduced sodium-chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • salt
  • 12 oz. penne (I use Barilla Whole Grain)
  • 1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, drained and cubed (she says this is optional, but I think it's essential)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat the oil reserved from the tomatoes in a large, heavy frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until brown, breaking up the meat into bite-size pieces with a fork (about 8 minutes)
  2. Transfer sausage to a bowl. Add the artichokes and garlic to the same skillet, and saute over medium heat until the garlic is tender (about 2 minutes).
  3. Add the broth, wine, and sun-dried tomatoes. Boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce reduces slightly (about 8 minutes).
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook, stirring often to prevent the pasta from sticking together, until tender but still firm to the bite (about 10 minutes). Drain, but do not rinse, the pasta.
  5. Add the pasta, sausage, 1/2 cup of Parmesan, basil, and parsley to the artichoke mixture. Toss until the sauce is almost absorbed by the pasta.
  6. Stir in the mozzarella and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese alongside.
*Those of you who are local: Jarred sun-dried tomatoes can be really pricey...especially the jars in the produce aisle. I actually found the Wegman's brand sun-dried tomatoes in oil (found in the pasta aisle) are the cheapest around.

Banana Bread Cobbler
~I wish I had gotten a picture of this...it was really good~
  • 1 cup self-rising flour (or 1 cup all purpose with 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 4 medium-size ripe bananas, sliced
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup self-rising flour (or 1/2 cup all purpose with 3/4 tsp baking power and 1/4 tsp salt)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup uncooked regular oats
  • 1/2 chopped pecans
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together 1 cup flour, sugar, and milk until just blended. Whisk in melted butter and pour batter into a lightly greased 11 x 7 inch baking dish.
  2. Top with banana slices.
  3. Combine Streusel ingredients (brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour, and butter) until crumbly, using a fork. Stir oats and pecans into the Streusel mixture.
  4. Top the banana slices with the Streusel mixture and bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream (I loved it with vanilla ice cream).
Family get togethers should not force you to be in the kitchen all day. Make simple and delicious meals like this and then spend your time doing what matters...being with the people you love.

1 comment:

  1. Ali - I was laughing sooo hard at this post. T-Rex! And the picture you posted was hilarious. Yes, everytime I see her, I shout, 'get a top button, and put on 20lbs for eating all that pasta like a real woman!!" Anyway, this meal looks sooo delicious. I agree, her recipes are fabulous. Definately going on my upcoming menu - along with all of your recent chicken recipes! That banana cobbler...oh my. It's all I think about. :-) Thanks for sharing your wit & yummy food creations! Love ya. Jen