Italian Love Cake: Happy Valentine’s Day

Not sure on the history of why this is called love cake, but I will tell you its two major components are items I love dearly: chocolate & cheese!! (It’s ricotta, chill) Anyway, it’s not super laborious, but it’s also not your traditional cake. Set aside a good amount of time to make this and it’s actually best if you make the night before serving. Also! there’s an element of magic involved. That’s right kids, magic.

  • 1 boxed chocolate cake mix AND the ingredients listed on the box (I know I’m a disappointment to Martha but whatever, I love me a solid shortcut)
  • 2 lbs. (32 ounces) ricotta cheese (seemed like an insane amount when I was buying it but is actually the right quantity)
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar (my coworkers seemed to think 1 cup would’ve been better as that layer wasn’t quite as sweet, so use your judgment)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (5.1 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
  • 1 cup cold milk (yes that seems like too little, but just trust the recipe please, also I may swap this for Kahlua next time and see if that improves/ruins this “frosting”)
  • 8 ounces Cool Whip

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9×13 inch pan and set aside. In a large bowl, prepare your cake mix batter according to the directions on the box. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a super strong whisking arm like mine), beat together the ricotta cheese, eggs, sugar, and vanilla until smooth.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared baking pan and use an off-set spatula to spread evenly in the pan. Next, carefully pour the ricotta mixture evenly over the top of the cake batter. Gently spread the ricotta mixture so it evenly covers the cake batter. (The layers will switch while baking so the ricotta moves to the bottom and cake to the top – like magic or the scientific reason that ricotta weighs more than cake batter, whatever I am sticking with MAGIC.)

Bake for 60 minutes or until cake is set. Let cake cool completely before “frosting.”

Once the cake is cool, whisk together the pudding mix and milk until combined. Gently fold the Cool Whip into the pudding until combined. Spread the pudding mixture over the top of the cooled cake. Cover the cake and refrigerate at least 6 hours, or overnight, before serving. You know what -this cake SHOULD be called Love Cake because if I have to wait overnight to dive into this puppy I must really love you/it.

Not a very “pretty” picture but this is all I could sneak in as my coworkers devoured the cake.

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We are sending you all loads of Italian love this valentine’s day: tanti baci!

Happy Eating, XO.

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Rolling with My Homies

So as per usual, I was hung-over & laying on the couch watching the Food Network channel. Much to my dismay though the show on the screen was making something much too difficult for anything I’d want to replicate. So I took the basic premise of the dish they were constructing and watered it down to the point that the home cook can make it (i.e. I tossed out the whole section about making your own fresh pasta dough, I mean please, if I could do all that I wouldn’t need to dine out. I don’t have the time nor the energy to get down like that). Anyway, I liked the concept of the dish and was craving some home cooking, good ole Italian food. Some prefer some southern comfort food, but pasta or anything Italian is the way to get me feeling all cozy & loved. So when I was finally hydrated and rid of the shakes from a super fun weekend with my homies- I got rolling in the kitchen. (ha get it, rolling because its a rollatini recipe!) Hope you guys enjoy & if you have any suggestions or spins of your own, please do comment below!

  • 3 oz. Prosciutto de Parma (thinly sliced, finely chopped)
  • 1 box of Lasagana Sheets (I think you could even use manicotti tubes & stuff those, but I guess that takes away the “rolling”/”rollatini” fun?!)
  • 1/2 cup Whole milk ricotta
  • freshly grated parmesan (I just grabbed a lil chuck of the reggiano from Whole Foods, try to avoid the pre grated stuff if you can)
  • 1 tsp. of crushed garlic
  • a pinch of black pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 12 oz. frozen spinach (completely thawed & drained of excess water, this is imperative so don’t rush past this step)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp. of butter

Boil the pasta just al dente. You want the lasagna sheet to be ply-able, but not so over cooked it tears when rolling. I’d say about 10-15 minutes in salted water. While the pasta boils: combine the egg, dried/thawed spinach, garlic, seasoning, cheeses, & prosciutto. Lay out the pasta sheets and pat them dry. Layer the mixture of the other ingredients like you would for a lasagna, but then roll the pasta up (don’t make too thick of a layer the stuffing will spill when rolling, also it helps to leave a little margin at both ends so that you have a seal to create when all rolled up). Flip it so its standing upwards in the pan, not laying down (See photos below). Repeat with all sheets. When the pan is filled, brush the tops with the butter and grate some more cheese on top. Stick in the broiler at xxx degrees & cook for xxx minutes while keeping an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. Serve warm with marinara sauce.

photo

Happy Eating, XO.

Lemon Ricotta Pasta with Red peppers & Spinach

I am SO over red sauce. Any idiot can buy a can of marinara (Although I don’t know why you would when we have a recipe from scratch that is healthier & tastier) and throw it on some noodles and say they made “Italian” food for the night. How about the fact that most pasta dishes aren’t even the entrée in Italy and its a small portion in the primi platti course prior to your protein and vegetables which is your actual entrée. Now, as much as I wish that we could all dine on 4 course (Read: 4 hour) dinners I know that is not always possible. So here is an easy, light and yummy pasta dish that served with some grilled chicken (because god forbid I have a vegetarian meal for once) that could count as a whole meal (starch, veggies, protein). So bust out the leftover ingredients from the pancakes and kale dish and get to cooking! (See how we always save you money by reusing stuff, you love us).

  • 12 oz. fettuccine
  • 2/3 cup skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind (also known as zest)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1 1/2 cups diced red bell pepper
  • salt and crushed black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper (increase to your taste level)

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving 3/4 cup pasta water. While pasta is cooking, in a separate bowl, thoroughly combine ricotta, lemon juice and rind, 1/4 teaspoon salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper.  (I listed 1/8 tsp. of crushed red pepper, but don’t be shy, this dish is even better with a bit of a kick from the red pepper, so adjust according to your taste level). Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper and garlic, sauté for 3 minutes. Add pasta, spinach, ricotta mixture and pasta water to skillet; cook about 1 minute or until spinach wilts.

Happy Eating, XO.

Bougie Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

One unusually chipper morning, I thought I’d be a little overzealous and make a fancy breakfast/brunch. I had tried these lemon ricotta pancakes in a cafe when visiting Sonia in Philly and have wanted to put my own twist on them ever since.  I have to say, they did not disappoint! They’re amazingly refreshing, and made for an awesome brunch.

  • 2 cup blackberries (or raspberries/mixed berries)
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 eggs – separate the yolks and egg whites
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp unsalted melted butter
  • 1 zested lemon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the compote, cook the berries and maple syrup over medium heat until they start to get soft and saucy-like. (Around 3 minutes).

For the melt-in-your-mouth pancakes, whisk together the ricotta, flour, yolks, sugar, butter, lemon zest, and vanilla. Unfortunately, at this point you have to dirty another bowl (personally, I hate doing that). In another bowl beat the egg whites on high until foamy and fold in to the other mixture. Heat your griddle/pan to medium heat, and get to makin’ some pancakes!

When the pancakes are done, pour on a little compote and syrup (tastes good AND looks good). And Don’t forget your mimosa!

lemon ricotta pancakes

Happy Eating, XO

Spiffy Spinach Cups

Ever need a quick and filling side for dinner or have you ever wanted to do homemade appetizers for happy hour? Well, your search can stop here. I have an easy and (drum roll please) LOW CALORIE recipe. These spinach cups are not only yum, but I literally keep the ingredients on hand at all times because they can be whipped up for any occasion. This dish is so versatile, I am thinking of serving under a fried egg this weekend. Obviously easy enough to recite, that is the theme here folks.

  • 1 10 oz. bag or block of frozen spinach (no sub’s: the can stuff is a) gross b) too much liquid packing)
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese (Kraft works, but better quality ingredients like freshly grated do yield better tasting food. I didn’t make the rule, I’m simply sharing it).
  • 1 cup low fat, skim milk ricotta cheese (hint hint, this is where the low cal comes into play).
  • 1 egg (acts as the binder so no need for breadcrumbs aka evil carbs).
  • 1 pinch of red chili flakes and black pepper (Adjust according to your spice tolerance, but definitely use both, they bring different palate pleasers to your taste buds).
  • 1 tbsp. of minced/crushed garlic (use the store bought, pre-crushed kind. No one needs to ruin a manicure with your fingers smelling like garlic. Oh and also up the qty. to 2 tbsp. if you have vampire repelling taste buds like myself, but yeah for the general public stick to just 1).

Ok so now sh*t is about to get crazy hard. Take everything listed above, mix well in a bowl and pour into a muffin pan and bake. Yup that’s all of the “cooking instructions”.

As usual, spray the pan so they don’t stick. Preheat the oven at 350 degrees and leave it in there for 13-15 minutes. Wait till you see the tops getting golden brown. Makes for killer leftovers and each cup is only 160 calories.

Happy eating, XO.