Cheesy Shells and Sausage – Instant Pot (gf)

Serves 6-8


4 tablespoons butter

2 large shallots, diced

2 pounds Italian sausage links

– I use 2 packages of Johnsonville Mild Italian links

1 tablespoon crushed garlic

               – I use the minced garlic in a jar

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

2  cans (14.5 oz each) chicken broth

3/4 cup white wine

– this is 1 single serve mini bottle

1 package (10 oz) cherry or grape tomatoes

2 boxes (8 oz) Banza gluten free pasta shells

               – or 1 pound traditional shells

8 ounces baby spinach

1/3 cup half-and-half or heavy cream

1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese

               – plus more for garnish

1 package (5.2 ounce) Boursin Garlic & Fine Herb cheese

               – or 5 ounces cream cheese


Add butter to Instant Pot (6 quart) and press “Saute” and adjust so it’s on the “High” setting.

Melt the butter until sizzling then add the shallots. Let the shallots soften while stirring for 2-3 minutes.

Add the sausage, garlic and Italian seasoning and cook while intermittently stirring for about 4 minutes. The sausage does not have to be cooked through at the end of this step.

Stir in the chicken broth, wine and tomatoes. Stop stirring and add the pasta. There will be no more stirring until the end. With the back of a spatula, spread the pasta evenly and lightly press into liquid. The upper most layer of pasta will not be covered with liquid, and that’s ok.

Pile the spinach on top. It will look like a lot of spinach – don’t worry – it’s not.

Secure the lid on the pot and ensure the vent arrow is pointed to “sealing.” Re-set the pot by canceling, or unplugging and plugging back in. Press “manual’ or “pressure cook” on High for 6 minutes.

It will take time for the pot to come to pressure before counting down the 6 minutes. (Mine takes 10/15 minutes).

Once the pot runs out of time (and beeps that it’s finished with the 6 minutes), carefully release the pressure.

Open the pot and using a rubber spatula carefully fold in the cream, parmesan and Boursin cheeses.

Serve! Top with extra parmesan cheese.


Meaty Marinara Sauce (Gluten Free) (Slow Cooker)

It’s so good I missed the photo op…


There are several things that makes this Meaty Marinara Sauce one of my go-to meals. First off, it uses one of my favorite things – a slow cooker. Second, my other business is on full throttle, and that means I have little to no time to put a meal on the table every night. But since I have expensive taste, going out to dinner regularly is not healthy for the wallet, let alone my waist line. The third and final reason? I think I was Italian in another life.

My friend Vintage Thread gave me the original recipe and, me being me, couldn’t leave well enough alone. So I tweaked it here and there, and now I make it in large quantities and freeze it in four-person portions. It’s quick, easy, and hearty. Just what we need right now in the Midwest where the weather seemed to take summer, pole vault right over fall, and land us firmly in winter.


Meaty Marinara Sauce

1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb spicy sausage
1/2 lb ground turkey
1 onion, diced
2 – 15 ounce cans tomato sauce (Hunt’s brand or better)
2 – 12 ounce cans tomato paste (Hunt’s brand or better)
2 envelopes (approximately 1.5 ounces each)Italian spaghetti sauce seasoning mix (McCormicks or Lawry’s brand)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon oregano (freshly minces, or dried)
1 clove garlic (pushed through a press, or minced very fine)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
4 cups water

•    In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the meat until no longer pink. Cook the onions until soft and translucent. Drain well and transfer to slow cooker.
•    Stir in all remaining ingredients and set slow cooker on Low for 8 hours.
•    Serve with pasta and top with Romano or Parmesan cheese.

Freeze left overs in one cup servings for later use. To thaw, place in refrigerator overnight or microwave for 2 minutes at 50% power. Transfer to sauce pan to heat on stove top until pasta is ready and sauce is hot.

Italian Meatballs (Gluten Free)


My 16th birthday was just one week away. The big day included an appointment at the local BMV for my driver’s test, an appointment at the orthodontist to remove my three-year-old braces, and most importantly, I planned to go job hunting.

You see, a few weeks prior, I attended a meeting at my school for the foreign language club and learned of a twenty-one-day European tour offered to their members. I had the itinerary memorized.

(…and I still do…Land in Madrid, via New York City. Take a night train to Paris. Ride a tour bus and stop in Lucerne, Switzerland, head south into Italy and stop in Florence, Sienna, and Rome. Make our way back north to Venice, then skip over to Austria and see Innsbruck. Germany is next with a stop in Munich and Frankfurt. Skip up to the Netherlands and say hello to Amsterdam then hop on the ferry over to England and spend a day in London. Pack our bags for good and head home.)

That evening I took all the brochures home to my parents to plead my case. In my mind, the fact that I would be the first to have this awesome opportunity to travel parts of the world only my Grandfather had seen during the war was a no brainer. They should say “yes”, sign up for the payment plan, and in nine months I would be on my way.

Instead, they said nothing. They looked at one another. My Dad looked at Mom, then mumbled to me “No way we can pay for this. Get a job and pay for it yourself.” That was the end of the discussion*.

So, I needed a job.

First stop. Bob Evans restaurant. I had on my Sunday best, I couldn’t stop smiling from the new feeling of smooth teeth, and I marched on in there and handed the manager my application. He hired me on the spot. Just three shifts a week, but it was a start.

I trained, learned, became a shift leader, and everyone knew I would pick up any hours available. Six months later, all the installment payments were made and the remaining three months I worked for spending money.

The summer between my Sophomore and Junior year of high school became a journey of a lifetime, and this is precisely when I fell in love with anything and everything Italian. Especially the food.

It was seven years before I found a meatball in my hometown that rivaled those in my fond memories. Mystery Man and I stumbled upon a hole-in-the-wall Italian place named “Armando’s Italian Market”. We became so well known in the joint that Lady Linda at the front counter covertly shared his Italian Meatball secrets with us. After Armando retired and closed the place down, we set our minds to making them ourselves.

*One week before jetting off to Europe at the age of sixteen, Dad approached Mom and told her they could not possibly let me go – I was too young, naive, and had never traveled more than one state from my hometown. He was not serious when he told me to get a job. That was his way of saying “no”.  While Mom agreed, she would not let my hard work go without reward and she

Here they are!

*While Armando’s were not Gluten Free, I have adapted this recipe to meet my dietary needs.




Spicy Italian Meatballs
Makes approximately 72 (2 ounce) meatballs


3 lbs ground beef
3 lbs spicy Italian sausage (casings removed)
3 c. Romano Cheese (grated)
3 c. Dry Italian Bread Crumbs (One whole loaf of Udi’s white sandwich bread, and various spices. See instructions below.)
6 eggs
6 cloves garlic

Canola Oil for Deep Fryer


•    Pour canola oil into deep fryer to the ‘fill’ line. Heat to 300 degrees.
•    Working in small batches at a time, place 1/2 pound ground beef, 1/2 pound spicy Italian sausage, 1 cup Romano cheese, 1 cup bread crumbs, 1 egg and 1 clove of grated garlic in a large food processor. Combine for approximately 15 seconds (or mix by hand in a large bowl).
•    Roll into 2” balls. (I weigh them into 2 ounce portions)
•    Place on a rimmed baking sheet.
•    Using tongs, place meatballs into fryer basket, being careful not to overcrowd.
•    Fry for five minutes.
•    Remove from the fryer and place on cooling rack nested in a rimmed baking sheet.
•    Repeat with remaining meatballs.
•    Place number of desired meatballs into saucepan with marinara sauce, heat through and serve.


Use only Romano cheese.

To freeze meatballs, let them cool completely and portion desired amount in quart size freezer bags. Thaw directly in warm marinara sauce.

Make your own bread crumbs:
Place 1/4 Udi’s bread loaf in food processor. Pulse until all bits and pieces are smaller than a pea. Add Italian seasonings, such as Oregano, Thyme, Basil, Garlic Powder, etc. Toss crumbs with olive oil and spread out over two rimmed baking sheets. Bake at 400 degrees until brown. Cool completely before using. (Freeze any leftover crumbs for other recipes.)