Vegetable Parmesan

First of all, I have to say a big thank you to my cousin Anna for giving my blog a new look! I knew I wanted something new and fun, but to be honest I didn't really know what else. So with very little direction Anna came up with a new, fantastic header! I think she did a wonderful job. I know I never could have done it on my own, so thanks Anna! Now on to this yummy cheesy vegetable dish.

This recipe comes from the cookbook Giada at Home by Giada De Laurentiis, a really fun cookbook. In it she says that this dish is the biggest hit of any recipe she's made for her TV show, everyone just loves it. Since I have yet to make a Giada recipe I don't like, I knew it was bound to be good. It is a very simple recipe, but it does take some time to assemble all of the components. All you need are vegetables, marinara, cheese and breadcrumbs, that's basically it. Layer it all up like a lasagna and stick it in the oven. The smell emanating from the oven while this dish cooking was fantastic, a mix of peppers, cheese, toasting bread and tomato sauce. It was like I apparated to Italy!

I started out by whipping together a quick and simple marinara sauce, but canned is good too if you don't have the time (or desire) to make your own. While that cooked I cut and prepped the vegetables for grilling.  The slightly smoky flavor that comes from grilling was really yummy, but if you don't have a grill pan I'm sure you could roast the veggies in the oven instead. After that it was just a matter of layering all the ingredients.

Since I already had onions, and didn't feel like going out to buy fennel, that's what I used and it turned out really nice. I would probably cut the onion a little thinner next time to make sure it cooked through, but it wasn't a big deal. The peppers added really nice flavor, while the eggplant contributed a great contrasting texture. I think summer squash would work really well too. You can use whatever veggies you have on hand at the moment, or just use your favorite. Whatever you choose, it's bound to be delicious!

 The eggplant was so pretty I had to take a picture

 All the vegetables cut up and ready for grilling

 After the grilling, they got some nice grill marks

 Start the layering, first sauce and then eggplant

 Some cheese is next

 Then the peppers

 More sauce

 Cheese and then onions

 The rest of the sauce

 And finally the rest of the cheese

Cover in bread crumbs, drizzle with olive oil, and bake

Crusty and golden, your house will smell like an Italian restaurant, I promise

Vegetable Parmesan
From Giada at Home

  • Butter, for greasing 
  • Olive oil, for drizzling 
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick slices 
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed and sliced into 1/4-inch thick pieces ( I used onions instead) 
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into thirds 
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into thirds 
  • 1 orange bell pepper, cut into thirds 
  • 1 (26-ounce) jar marinara sauce 
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese 
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan 
  • 1 cup plain bread crumbs 

Put a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill. Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish.

Drizzle the eggplant slices, fennel slices and peppers with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Grill the vegetables for 3 to 4 minutes each side until softened.

Spoon 3/4 cup of the marinara sauce over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange the eggplant slices on top. Sprinkle with 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese. Arrange the peppers in a single layer on top. Spoon 3/4 cup of marinara sauce over the peppers. Sprinkle with 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese. Arrange the fennel on top and cover with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Scatter the bread crumbs over the cheese and drizzle liberally with oil. Bake until the top is golden and forms a crust, about 30 to 35 minutes

Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Note: The vegetables can also be baked in a 375 degrees F oven for 15 to 20 minutes until softened.


At Christmas last year my mom saw an episode of Giada at Home in which Giada made struffoli for dessert. My mom thought it looked so fun and interesting and she really wanted to make it for Christmas, but we never got around to it, other things got in the way and when Christmas was over, we hadn't made the struffoli. This Christmas, I was randomly watching the food network and what should I see, the Giada Christmas episode in which she makes struffoli! I thought it looked fun and make and delicious and knew that this year we had to try it out.

According to Wikipedia, "struffoli is a Neapolitan dish made of deep fried balls of dough about the size of marbles. Struffoli are crunchy on the outside and light inside. They are mixed with honey and other sweet things." This is a winning combo in my book. Fried dough covered in sweetness, sign me up!

Making the struffoli turned out to be a lot of fun and really not that much work. Forming all the little balls of dough took a little time, but it really wasn't that bad. The dough came together quickly and the little doughnuts fried up in just a few minutes. I heated my oil while I was forming all the balls of dough, and it was just about ready when I finished with the dough. The glaze was quick and easy, and forming the wreath wasn't bad at all, but it was sure nice to have two people working on it. This is definitely a recipe to do with others. It's fun to do while talking and laughing with friends or family. 

The finished project turned out really well, but I don't think it was perfect. I omitted the hazelnuts in the recipe because I didn't have any, but I would like try it with the hazelnuts sometime. A lot of my glaze kind of pooled under the wreath once it had cooled which didn't seem quite right, but it still tasted very nice. The mini doughnuts seemed a little dry, but I may have fried them too long, I don't have a ton of experience frying. Regardless of this, I would definitely try this again. I thought it was a fun Christmas treat that is easy to pick at throughout the night. You can take just one or two little balls and pop them in your mouth. A fun finger food dessert. 

Although struffoli is traditionally served at Christmas and Easter, I think this would be fun any time of year. You could mold it into different shapes depending on the season or holiday, and you could decorate it with different colored sprinkles. Right now I'm thinking a football shaped struffoli with colors in your team's colors for the Superbowl would be a lot of fun, or how about a heart for Valentines Day? The possibilities are endless!

The dough, ready to cut up 

Form the dough into ropes and them cut the 

ropes into tiny little chunks, they 

can be smaller than you think

Getting there!

Frying them all up

Place on paper towels to drain, then throw

them in a bowl

Grease a cup and get your serving plate ready

Ready to assemble

Take the little doughnuts

And cover them with the glaze

Then start shaping it around the glass

Once cooled, remove the glass, dust with powdered sugar and cover it with sprinkles, Enjoy!

From The Food Network

  • 2 cups flour, plus extra for dusting 
  • 1 large lemon, zested (about 2 teaspoons) 
  • 1/2 large orange, zested (about 2 teaspoons) 
  • 3 tablespoons sugar 
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt 
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/2 stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, at room temperature 
  • 3 large eggs 
  • 1 tablespoon white wine, such as pinot grigio 
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
  • Canola oil, for frying 
  • 1 cup honey 
  • 1/2 cup sugar 
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice 
  • 1 1/2 cups hazelnuts, toasted (I didn't use) 
  • Vegetable oil cooking spray 
  • Sugar sprinkles, for decoration 
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting 

For the dough: In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together 2 cups of flour, lemon zest, orange zest, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the eggs, wine, and vanilla. Pulse until the mixture forms into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Cut the dough into 4 equal-sized pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each piece into 1/2 inch thick logs and cut into equal sized half inch pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a small ball about the size of a hazelnut. Lightly dredge the dough balls in flour, shaking off any excess In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, pour enough oil to fill the pan about a third of the way. Heat over medium heat until a deep frying thermometer inserted in the oil reaches 375 degrees F. (If you don't have a thermometer, a cube of bread will brown in about 3 minutes). In batches, fry the dough until lightly golden, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper bowl lined plate to drain. 

In a large saucepan, combine the honey, sugar, and lemon juice over medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the fried dough and hazelnuts and stir until coated in the honey mixture. Allow the mixture to cool in the pan for 2 minutes.

Spray the outside of a small, straight-sided water glass with vegetable oil cooking spray and place in the center of a round platter. Using a large spoon or damp hands, arrange the struffoli and hazelnuts around the glass to form a wreath shape. Drizzle any remaining honey mixture over the struffoli. Allow to set for 2 hours (can be made 1 day in advance). Decorate with sprinkles and dust with powdered sugar, if using. Remove the glass from the center of the platter and serve.

Pasta with Tomato and Peas

I never used to be a big pea fan. It wasn't the taste that turned me off so much as the visual appeal (or lack thereof in my opinion). However, in the past couple of years I've changed my mind about this little vegetable. I don't know what happened, but now I really like to put peas in different dishes.

This pasta dish (with peas) is one of my favorites. My sister and I have made it many times in the last couple of years. We almost always have the ingredients on hand, and it's easy to improvise if we're missing one or two things. It's quick, easy and healthy, three of my favorite things.

The finished dish in the early spring evening light. I am so glad daylight savings has begun again!

 Linguine, one of my favorite pastas (but then again, I pretty much like all pasta shapes)

The flavor players: fresh oregano, fresh parsley, carrots, onion and garlic

Not the most beautiful picture, but you get the point, a delicious mixture, ready to dress the pasta. 

Finished, topped with a sprinkle of freshly grated Pecorino Romano, yum!

A close up of all the deliciousness!

Here's the original recipe, I didn't follow it exactly this time, but it doesn't really matter. That's what I love about pasta, it's easy to improvise.

Pasta with Tomato and Peas
From Giada De Laurentiis
  • 1 pound linguine 
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 3 shallots, chopped 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 1 carrot diced 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 5 tablespoons tomato paste 
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme 
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley 
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed 
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan 
  • 1/4 cup grated Romano 
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving 2 cups of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic, carrots, salt, and pepper. Cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and 1/2 cup of the hot pasta water. Stir to melt the tomato paste and create a sauce, adding more pasta water if necessary. Stir in the oregano, thyme, and parsley. Gently fold in the cooked pasta, peas, and the cheeses, adding more reserved pasta water if necessary. Transfer to a platter and serve immediately.