I am pretty much an Italian food junkie. I love the stuff. All that cheesy goodness – it calls to me. However, my baby has food allergies. That meant a major dietary adjustment for me during the year that I nursed her. I went several months without any eggs, and a full year without any cow’s milk products, including my beloved cheese.
But, a few weeks ago, I weaned the baby and this mama is enjoying the freedom of once again being able to eat anything and everything! On the very first day, my husband and I went out to celebrate our 11th anniversary at what I think is the best restaurant in Iowa City – Baroncini Ristorante on Linn Street. I savored every bite of my spinach and cheese ravioli in cream sauce and the most divine cheesecake I have ever eaten. The waitress says it’s the mascarpone that makes it so delicious.
Off to such a fabulous start, I am planning to make up for lost time and embark on a month of cheesy gluttony. I’ll be indulging in a few of my favorite recipes that I’ve had to go without for the last year. Why not join me?
Here’s what’s on the menu…
Tomato Tortellini Soup
- 1 or 2 14 oz cans of reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth
(I prefer 1 – it’s a little richer this way. But the original recipe calls for 2)
- 9 oz package of refrigerated tortellini
- ½ (4 oz) of an 8 oz tub of cream cheese spread with chives and onion
(This matters – it’s OK with regular cream cheese, but it’s delicious with chives and onion cream cheese.)
- 1 can of condensed tomato soup
- Snipped chives (optional)
- In a medium sauce pan, bring the broth to boiling. Add the tortellini and reduce the heat. Simmer uncovered for 5 minutes.
- In a bowl, whisk about 1/3 cup of the hot broth from the pan into the cream cheese spread until it is smooth.
- Put cream cheese/broth mixture into the saucepan. Pour in the can of tomato soup. Heat through.
- Sprinkle with chives before serving if desired.
Easy Chicken Alfredo
- 1 box of linguine, penne or your favorite pasta
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 3 tablespoons plus ½ stick of butter
- ¾ cup whipping cream
- Pepper to taste
- Optional: Thinly sliced zucchini or yellow squash
- Cook and drain the pasta as directed on the box.
- Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. For extra cheesiness, you can coat with an extra 3 Tbsp of parmesan cheese.
- Heat 3 Tablespoons butter in a large skillet and cook chicken until golden and tender (You can cook the optional vegetables right in with the chicken)
- Add cream, butter, parmesan and pepper to the skillet. Stir frequently and heat until the butter and cheese are thoroughly melted and combined.
- Mix chicken and sauce with pasta.
This recipe is my own adaptation based on a recipe from an earlier edition of this “6 Ingredients or Less Pasta & Casseroles” cookbook. When we were in college, my wonderful husband sent me this cookbook while I was doing study abroad, living in London in one of the smallest apartments known to man. (It was trumped only by my downstairs neighbors whose oven door didn’t open all the way because it hit the bed.) He knew my love for Italian food and guessed that my tiny apartment’s kitchen couldn’t hold more than 6 ingredients at a time. There are a surprising number of really good recipes in it. Especially if you love cheese like I do.
What I love best about both these recipes is that they are “company-worthy” or make you feel like you are getting restaurant quality food, but they are so easy to make. So, now you have a soup starter and a main dish. I wish I could leave you with a fantastic cheesecake recipe to top off this gluttonously cheesy meal. But, I am notoriously bad at making cheesecake. In fact, my husband has begged me to never attempt it again. So, instead, I suggest you go try that heavenly cheesecake at Baroncini’s. You will love it!