Trying Italian? Spice it up for flavor

<strong>Penny’s Pantry</strong> Penny Case

Penny’s Pantry Penny Case

Italian cooks use a lot of different spices in their dishes, especially their spaghetti sauces.

When I make sauce for my lasagna, I use two slowcookers and the sauce cooks for almost two days. I divide a whole bulb of garlic between both cookers, besides oregano, thyme, bay leaves, salt, and pepper. Everyone loves my lasagna.

I still wish I had my very own restaurant, as I love to cook. When I used to work for a diner, I would make my baked chicken, stuffed pork chops, meat loaf, salmon patties, stuffed peppers, cabbage, and other dishes. When I made my stuffed peppers, I had them save the sauce so I could make stuffed pepper soup, which everyone loved — also my bean soup and cornbread.

It’s hard to find a place that serves home-cooked meals anymore. When you drive down to Kentucky at breakfast time, restaurants would serve a bowl of grits. It was like cream of wheat to me. You can fix it many ways: with butter, salt, and pepper or sweet with sugar and a little milk. Do any of you ever fix hominy? My mom and dad did. They would fry it in butter with salt and pepper. I haven’t had it since I left home. I liked it though.

Mom also made the best macaroni and cheese. If she had any left she would fry it in butter or lard for my dad. If we had any leftover mashed potatoes, she would make patties, dredging them in flour and frying them until golden brown. My mom could make anything out of leftover food.

Until next time, enjoy these recipes.

Italian Burgers

• 1 pound ground beef

• 1/3 cup spaghetti sauce

• 3 tbsp. finely chopped onions

• 4 slices provolone cheese

• 8 slices Italian bread

Mix beef, spaghetti sauce, and onion. Shape mixture into four patties each about 3/4-inch thick. Set oven to broil. Place patties on rack in broiler pan. Broil tops about three inches from heat for 12 minutes, turning once. Top each patty with cheese slice. Broil one minute longer or until beef is no longer pink. Serve between toasted bread. Serve with additional spaghetti sauce if desired.

Italian Casserole

• 1 1/2 pounds bulk Italian sausage

• 1 1/2 pounds ground beef

• 1 cup chopped onion

• 1 cup chopped green pepper

• 2 cans (15 oz. each) tomato sauce

• 2 cans (6 oz. each) tomato paste

• 1/2 cup water

• 1 tsp. each dried basil, oregano, salt, pepper

• 1/8 tsp. garlic powder

• 2 cans (8 3/4 oz. each) whole kernel corn, drained

• 2 cans (2 1/4 oz. each) sliced ripe olives, drained

• 1 package (16 oz.) wide noodles, cooked and drained

• 8 oz. cheddar cheese, cut into strips

In a Dutch pan over medium heat, cook sausage, beef, onion, and green pepper until meat is browned and vegetables are tender; drain. Add tomato sauce and paste, water, and seasonings; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in noodles. Pour into two greased 13-by-9-inch baking pans or dishes. Top with cheese. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until heated through.

Yield: 16-20 servings.

Easy Italian Chicken

• 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves

• 1 can (14 1/2 oz.) Italian stewed tomatoes

• 1 can (4 oz.) mushroom stems and pieces, drained

• 1/2 tsp. basil

• 1/4 tsp. garlic powder

• 1 tbsp. cornstarch

• 1/3 cup cold water

• Hot, cooked spaghetti

In a large skillet coated with nonstick cooking spray, cook chicken for five to six minutes on each side or until juices run clear. Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium bring tomatoes, mushrooms, basil, and garlic powder to a boil. Combine cornstarch and water; add to tomato mixture. Return to a boil; cook and stir for two minutes. Serve chicken over spaghetti; top with the tomato sauce.

Yield: Four servings.

Garlic Herb Bread

• 6 tbsp. butter or margarine, softened

• 1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced

• 2 tsp. dried parsley flakes

• 1/2 tsp. dried oregano

• 1/2 tsp. dill weed

• 1 tsp. grated parmesan cheese

• 1 loaf sourdough or French bread (1 pound), sliced

In a bowl, combine the first six ingredients. Spread on one side of each slice of bread; wrap loaf in foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 20to 25 minutes or until heated through.

Yield: Six to eight servings.

Penny Case is a lifelong resident of Wellington who loves to cook and share recipes. Send recipes to her at 22 Johns St. or at

Penny’s Pantry Penny Case’s Pantry Penny Case