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.


Mock Manicotti (Gluten Free)

Mock manicotti

Mock Manicotti (pictured with Meaty Marinara Sauce)

The human brain can connect tastes and smells to memories from long ago. I do not question that logic one bit, especially since there are certain recipes that make my heart my heart sing.

The joy in this dish comes from my early days with Mystery Man. (You can catch the entire history here, here and here).

In between dances we would sit at a table, catch up on the day’s happenings and enjoy a drink. Gin and Tonic for him, Corona with a lime for me. The conversations were all over the place. Cooking, movies, our families, and dance steps were weekly topics. I was not par­ticularly attracted to Mystery Man and neither him to me. We were friends, dance partners, nothing more.

On more than one occasion, Mystery Man mentioned he liked to cook, was good at it, and was known to host a dinner party or two. I laughed it off, until one day the topic turned into a little friendly competition. I’ll cook for you, then you cook for me. We’ll see who can bring the heat.

The competition so intense, we went from one dinner each, to two, then three… In fact I think we are still competing (but I’m winning, for the record).

This dish (in it’s original manicotti shape) was one of the first Mystery Man made for me. It had the best balanced blend of cheeses, the pasta was cooked to perfection, and he had picked up a bottle of wine that complemented the course. He was proud, but not smug, and I was secretly impressed.

For some reason I had forgotten about this dish, until last week Vintage Thread brought a version over for dinner. She used the Tinkyada Lasagna noodles and rolled them for a faux manicotti. It worked beautifully. I dug out Mystery Man’s recipe this week and used Barilla Penne Pasta in a layering method. It worked beautifully, too, and in both cases, my heart sang.




Chicken Parmesan

Chicken Parm

Sometimes there is not a story. Let’s face it, we all have to eat and if I had to have a story for all the food that goes in my belly, well, I would not be eating on a regular basis. For me, not eating is not an option. If my husband* has learned anything in our relationship he knows if he keeps me warm, rested, and my belly full, there is not much else I could ever ask for. He even made this known while we attended a pre-marital workshop years ago. The others in the group laughed – they thought he was kidding. We gave each other a knowing look, and with that we breezed through the rest of the class.

I saw this recipe on America’s Test Kitchen and made it for two reasons. I was hungry and had the right ingredients hanging out in my fridge. It is one of our favorites, and over the years I have made some changes (yes, I even try to improve upon their recipes). It can be a weeknight meal with some simple boiled and oiled pasta and your favorite veg, or you can go all out and impress guests with homemade Spaghetti Sauce (post coming soon!) that has been simmering on the stove most of the day.

Make plenty, because slicing this on an angle and piling on a nice ciabatta makes for a tasty lunch the next day.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

*I will be referring to my husband as Mystery Man from now on… post coming on that, too.


Chicken Parmesan


2 – 8 Ounce Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts

1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour plus 1 Tablespoon

1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese (grated on the smallest holes of a box grater, or use a micro plane)

3 Large Egg Whites

1 Cup Parmesan Cheese (grated on the largest holes of a box grater)

1 Cup Romano Cheese (grated on the largest holes of a box grater)

4 Teaspoons Olive Oil



• Place chicken in freezer for about 15 minutes. Until firm, but not frozen.

• Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 200 degrees.

• Set up a line of three pie pans or bowls with large surface areas.

• In pan number one, whisk together 1/4 cup flour and ¼ cup micro-grated parmesan cheese.

• In pan number two whisk egg whites until slightly foamy.

• In pan number three combine 1 cup Parmesan, 1 cup Romano and remaining tablespoon flour.

• Remove chicken from freezer and slice in half lengthwise to make two thin cutlets. (Place on cutting board and press down on breasts with one hand while horizon­tally cutting the chicken with a sharp knife.) You should have 4 cutlets.

• Place chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap (or into a plastic bag) and pound with the smooth side of a meat tenderizer to an even 1/4 inch thickness.

• Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a nonstick skillet (12”) over medium-high heat until it shimmers.

• Place a rimmed baking sheet, seated with a wire rack, nearby.

• Using tongs, work down the line of your prepared pie pans, and work with one piece of chicken at a time.

• Coat with flour on both sides, shake off excess.

• Coat evenly with egg white mixture on both sides and let excess run off.

• Press both sides gently into Parmesan/Romano mixture

• Place 2 cutlets in the heated skillet and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 3 minutes, until cheese is golden brown.

• Flip chicken over and cook for another 3 minutes, until golden brown and no longer pink in the center.

• Remove chicken from pan and place on baking sheet with wire rack. Keep warm in pre-heated oven.

• Wipe the pan out with a paper towel. Add 2 teaspoons olive oil and repeat the cooking process until all cutlets are done.