Turkey Stuffed Pasta Shells

I have always favored using ‘conchiglioni’ pasta, the name derives from the Italian word meaning ‘seashells’. Their shape, size and consistency are the perfect vessel for bold, rich fillings and flavorful sauces. Baked pastas, or ‘pastas al forno’ as they are called in Italy, date back to the Renaissance when they were being served at the banquets of nobles.

Over the years, I have stuffed jumbo pasta shells with just about every imaginable filling I could conjure up. To say the least, I love this kind of meal.

Since we are just past ‘turkey season’ and if you are someone who enjoys that festive meal … here’s a new spin on it. Turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and gravy all tucked into some pasta shells.

Without a doubt, these shells were even better than I had expected and this recipe made enough that I froze some for another meal. What’s not to like about that?

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Turkey Stuffed Pasta Shells
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta shells according to package directions for al dente. Drain & set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, scramble-fry ground turkey with spices until no longer pink.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  4. In a large bowl, combine mozzarella cheese, turkey, stuffing & green onions. In a small bowl, Stir sweet potatoes with chili powder.
  5. Fill each pasta shell with 2 Tbsp stuffing mixture & 2 tsp sweet potato mixture. Combine 1 cup of gravy with any remaining filling & spread on the bottom of a 13" x 9" baking dish. Place filled shells overtop, drizzle with remaining gravy & sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  6. Bake, covered for 15-20 minutes or until heated through. Serve with cranberry sauce if you wish.

Italian Sausage Lasagna

Whether you prefer a sweet or spicy variety, there’s no denying the delicious versatility of Italian sausage.

The predominant flavor in ‘mild’ Italian sausage is fennel, or actual anise, a licorice like flavor with a little more earthiness. This emulates the style of sausages in Northern Italy, known for milder flavors with a noticeable presence of both fennel and garlic. It will also typically have a small amount of red pepper flakes to open up the flavors.

The ‘hot’ designation means a higher content of pepper flakes, or the addition of cayenne, giving you that spicier flavor that is more common in the southern regions of Italy.

‘Sweet’ is pretty straightforward, little bit of sugar, milder flavors around that, sometimes some mild herbs, typically a lot of basil and such to round it out.

In this meal, the layers of lasagna noodles blanket a creamy béchamel sauce and a filling with a savory ‘Italian sausage’ flavor and tender artichokes. Truly a comfort food meal.

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Italian Sausage Lasagna
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Instructions
Filling
  1. Drain artichokes (reserving oil) & slice in halves; set aside. In a heavy skillet, heat artichoke marinade oil; sauté garlic, onions & mushrooms for a few minutes.
  2. Add ground pork, sun-dried tomatoes & spices. Cook over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; add artichokes. Remove from skillet & set aside until ready to assemble lasagna.
Béchamel Sauce
  1. In the skillet, melt butter over low heat. Once the butter is completely melted and bubbling, add the flour & mix well. Cook for a couple of minutes until flour just begins to take on some color.
  2. Slowly start adding the milk, whisking continuously to prevent lumps from forming. Continue to simmer until the sauce begins to thicken, stirring often. Season with a pinch of salt, white pepper & nutmeg.
  3. Set aside until you are ready to use, by pouring the sauce into a glass bowl & covering with a buttered sheet of plastic wrap. Cook lasagna noodles. Grate cheeses.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish, spread 1/2 cup of the béchamel sauce on the bottom. (Set aside 1 cup of the béchamel sauce for the top.) Arrange a single layer of lasagna noodles over sauce; spread some of the filling over noodles, top with a sprinkling of the grated cheeses. (Make sure to reserve a bit of cheese for the topping.) Repeat layers, ending with noodles.
  3. Spread the reserved 1 cup of béchamel sauce over the noodles & top withy the remaining grated cheese. Cover with foil, bake for 35 minutes, remove foil & bake until bubbly & lightly browned on top, about another 15-20 minutes.
  4. Allow to stand 10 minutes before serving.

Swedish Meatball & Potato Casserole

No doubt, since we have just finished the 2019 Christmas season, you enjoyed some Swedish meatball hors de ouvers. Personally, I love the little morsels so I thought it would be interesting to turn them into a main course casserole.

I have heard the question asked as to what the difference between Italian and Swedish meatballs is. First of all, the meat blend of ground beef, veal and pork are the main players in both styles. The difference comes in the ratio of each meat being used. While both varieties include ingredients such as minced onion and milk soaked bread or crumbs, the seasoning in these two iconic meatballs differs greatly. Swedish meatballs traditionally use spices such as allspice, nutmeg, white pepper and ginger while Italian calls for grated Parmesan, garlic, parsley, fennel seed and oregano.

Another ingredient that is most always used in Swedish meatballs is mashed potatoes. Size is important … Italian meatballs (other than in soup) are quite large whereas Swedish are generally like a hearty teaspoon full.

When it comes to sauce, this is a big part of the flavoring component that sets them apart. Swedish meatballs are cooked in a cream gravy made with beef broth whereas Italian meatballs are served in a tangy, bright red tomato sauce.

All that being said, it brings me back to my casserole. It combines all the ingredients of the Swedish meatballs put uniquely together in a casserole and topped with a mozzarella cheese. Perfect January meal!

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Swedish Meatball & Potato Casserole
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, European
Servings
Ingredients
White Sauce
Potatoes
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, European
Servings
Ingredients
White Sauce
Potatoes
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Instructions
White Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, cook margarine & flour until bubbly then slowly add broth & cream. Gently boil for a few minutes; add soya sauce, salt & pepper. Remove from heat & set aside.
Potatoes
  1. Boil potatoes in salted water until tender but not overcooked; cut into 1/2-inch slices. Arrange them on the bottom & sides of a 8-inch round baking dish.
Meatballs
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a bowl, combine all meatball ingredients & form into balls. Arrange them over the slices of the potatoes on the bottom of baking dish. Use the remaining potato slices to create 'walls' between each meatball.
  2. Pour white sauce into each meatball 'pocket'. Sprinkle entire dish with grated mozzarella cheese. Bake 45 minutes or until meatballs are cooked & cheese is golden.
Recipe Notes
  • You can definitely use whatever ratio of meat combo you prefer or just use one one type, your choice.

Cauliflower Monte Cristo Lasagna

Do you recall the Monte Cristo sandwiches of ‘yesteryear’? There was a time when you could find this sandwich on most restaurant lunch menus across North America. Basically, its ham and cheese sandwiched between two pieces of french toast, smothered in egg batter, deep fried, sprinkled with powdered sugar and dipped in a side of jelly. It’s where salty meets sweet and savory.

It’s believed that the Monte Cristo evolved from the French sandwich called ‘Croque Monsieur‘. The original grilled cheese sandwich consisted of Gruyere cheese and lean ham between two slices of crust-less bread, fried in clarified butter.

This sandwich, although delicious, is neither health or diet food but sometimes its fun to just enjoy these kind of things in moderation, of course.

This ‘lasagna‘ turned out to be real tasty. It kind of puts a new spin on an old classic. Instead of french toast, the ham and cheese are layered in between a baked cauliflower mixture that resembles slices of bread or lasagna noodles. Serve with cauliflower sauce or a sauce of your own choice.

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Cauliflower Monte Cristo Lasagna
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Rating: 4.67
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, European
Servings
Ingredients
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, European
Servings
Ingredients
Votes: 3
Rating: 4.67
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Instructions
Cauliflower 'Pasta'
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the tablespoon of salt & lemon juice. Cut cauliflower into florets, add to boiling mixture & cook until they are soft. Drain cooked cauliflower & roughly crush them into 'mush'. Add breadcrumbs, Parmesan, egg, garlic, Italian herbs, salt & pepper; mix well.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Press cauliflower mixture on baking sheet into a 9 x 9-inch square. Bake for about 15 minutes or until crispy. Remove from oven, cut cauliflower into 3 strips. In a buttered baking dish place the first strip. Cover with half of each of the ham & cheese slices. Put another strip of cauliflower on it & top with the rest of the ham & cheese slices. Place the third strip of cauliflower on top & sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Adjust oven temperature to 350 F. & bake 'lasagna' for about 30 minutes.
Cauliflower Sauce
  1. Add butter to a blender or food processor. Cook cauliflower according to package instructions. Using a slotted spoon, drain off any excess water, transfer to blender. Add the vegetable broth, Parmesan, garlic, milk, salt & pepper. Process until a very smooth consistency is reached. Serve warm over Monte Cristo lasagna.

Halloween Treats

Well here we are, the end of October already, and Halloween has arrived. A number of years ago, Brion and I decided to take a different approach to this occasion. Rather than spending the evening running to the door to hand out treats, I would make some special goodies for our immediate neighbor’s ‘kids’. We have been lucky to have had the same neighbors for many years. Since food is my passion, its always fun to ‘create’ something that I think our four ‘young’ people will enjoy.

My choice of treats this year are brownie ghosts, krispie candy corn and some bite size pizzas. Most kids love chocolate so I think brownies will cover that and I swapped out the ‘waxy’ candy for rice krispies in the candy corn treats. Pizza bites aren’t exactly following the Halloween theme but the kids are getting older and I’m sure they will love them anyway.

Just an interesting little side note on the actual candy corn ‘candy’ since they seem to be synonymous with Halloween. Originally they were never tied to any time of year. Many candies of the day were molded into what was recognizable to regular folks. At the time, that was vegetables, fruits and other simple, earthy things.

When the Goelitz Confectionery Company first produced candy corn, it was called ‘chicken feed’. The boxes were illustrated with a colorful rooster logo and a tag line that read: ‘Something Worth Crowing For’. The multi-colored design was ground-breaking in the candy industry at the time it was invented. One of candy corn’s least favored qualities is that waxy texture. Strangely enough, even after more than 120 years, it still has a huge following as well as many other candy corn related and/or flavored recipes on the market.

ENJOY YOUR HALLOWEEN IN WHATEVER WAY WORKS FOR YOU!

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Brownie Ghosts - 'Krispie' Candy Corn - Pizza Pinwheels
Votes: 1
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
BOTTOM Layer of Brownies
MIDDLE Layer of Brownies
Fudge Frosting
White Chocolate Ghosts
Chocolate Dipped Candy Corn Treats
Mini Pizza Pinwheels
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
BOTTOM Layer of Brownies
MIDDLE Layer of Brownies
Fudge Frosting
White Chocolate Ghosts
Chocolate Dipped Candy Corn Treats
Mini Pizza Pinwheels
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Bottom Layer of Brownies
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 9 X 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Combine all bottom layer ingredients until crumbly. Pat into pan & bake for 10 minutes.
Middle Layer of Brownies
  1. In the microwave, very carefully melt chocolate (do NOT overheat) & add butter. Stir until combined & slightly cool; add beaten egg & sugar. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder & salt. Add to chocolate mixture alternately with combined milk & vanilla. Fold in walnuts. Carefully spread batter over bottom layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes; do not OVER BAKE. Remove from oven & cool. Slice into 20 squares.
Fudge Frosting
  1. If you prefer to make your chocolate ghosts BEFORE the frosting, it will give them ample time to set before needed. TO MAKE FROSTING: Carefully melt chocolate & butter in microwave. Cool slightly; stir in powdered sugar & vanilla. Blend in hot water & beat until a smooth consistency. Spread icing evenly over brownies & decorate with a white chocolate ghosts.
White Chocolate Ghosts
  1. Carefully melt white chocolate wafers in microwave. Pour melted chocolate into a piping bag fitted with a small hole tip. Place a large piece of waxed paper on a flat surface with a printout of ghost shapes underneath. Trace outline, then fill in the center. Allow to set completely, then peel ghosts from waxed paper & press lightly on top of brownies.
Chocolate Dipped Candy Corn Treats
  1. Butter 2 round 5-inch baking pans. In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter. Add marshmallows & stir constantly until they are melted. Stir in a few drops of orange coloring & remove the pot from heat. Add rice krispies, being sure to stir until well coated. Press into prepared pans to set. Once treats have set, cut them into triangles & use your hand to gently round the corners for a more realistic look.
  2. Melt candy coatings in separate dishes. Lay out a sheet of parchment paper. Dip the base of each triangle into the yellow chocolate, shaking off excess, then dip the tips into the white chocolate. Place them onto the parchment paper. Once the chocolate has set, you can store the treats at room temperature in an airtight container for up to three days. Yield 30 treats.
Mini Pizza Pinwheels
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. set aside.
  2. Grate cheeses & combine in a small dish. Remove dough from packaging but DO NOT unroll. Slice each roll into 12 disks & space out on parchment paper. Using a 1/4 cup dry measure, (make sure you lightly butter & flour the bottom of your measure or it will stick to the dough). Press down the little disks to form a cavity. Divide the pizza sauce & grated cheese between the 24 disks.
  3. Bake 10-12 minutes; remove from oven & cool on a wire rack.

Savory Artichoke, Chicken & Mushroom Galette

Over the last few years, marinated artichokes have become one of the ‘go-to’ ingredients on my pantry shelf. Jarred marinated artichoke hearts add an instant burst of flavor and unlike fresh artichokes, they are available all year around. Might I add, they require zero preparation! Keep in mind, these are the ones in glass jars, not the canned ones that can be flavorless and soggy.

Some of the ways I have made use of them were: as a pizza topping, veggie dip, on crostini, with roasted potatoes, omelettes or in au gratin dishes.

As you have probably noticed if you follow my blog, I love savory pastries all year long. Spring through winter they showcase their ingredients so beautifully. If you’re someone who feels intimidated by pastry, galettes give you opportunity to make a free-form masterpiece. This recipe simplifies it even more by using frozen puff pastry. Yet another reason to keep a package on hand in your freezer.

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Savory Artichoke, Chicken & Mushroom Galette
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Servings
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Instructions
Filling
  1. Slice breast & marinate in artichoke MARINADE (liquid only) for about 30 minutes. In a skillet, cook chopped bacon, onion, garlic & chopped mushrooms over medium heat until bacon is cooked & the mushrooms have released most of their liquids.
  2. Add the chicken & marinade & continue to cook until the liquid is evaporated. Remove from heat. In a bowl, beat together cream cheese, milk, egg & grated Parmesan cheese & fold into chicken mixture as well as the reserved artichoke pieces.
Pastry
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. On a large piece of parchment paper, roll out thawed, puff pastry 'SHEET' into a rough 12-inch 'CIRCLE'. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella cheese over pastry, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Spoon cooked mixture over cheese then fold edges of pastry in about an inch, 'pleating' to keep filling in. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella cheese on top of filling.
  2. Brush pastry edge with egg wash & bake for 25 minutes or until puff pastry is golden & filling is slightly browning. Remove from oven; slice & serve.

Scalloped Potato Roll

I guess this meal could be classed as making the most of a traditional comfort food. Scalloped potatoes seem to feed both stomach and soul. Maybe that comes from so many of us having childhood memories of this dish. It seems most of the recipes now contain cheese. From what I remember, it was basically thin sliced potatoes and onions placed in a baking dish alternated with flour, butter, hot milk, salt & pepper and topped with buttered bread crumbs. It tasted so creamy and good!

Meatloaf and scalloped potatoes seem to be synonymous with each other. When I saw this recipe for scalloped potato roll on the internet, I felt it certainly kicked the two up a notch. You can use whatever ground meat that you prefer. I like a combo of beef, veal and pork. Beef is necessary for texture as well as flavor, veal contains a high level of gelatin keeping meat tender and the pork adds flavor. Just a little side note for what its worth — if you only have ground beef on hand, add half a teaspoon of unflavored powdered gelatin to 454 gm. The gelatin will act much like veal, keeping the texture softer and moister.

This meal looks like a lot of work but it really isn’t. The combo of roasted potatoes, ground meat, three cheeses and spinach or chard is excellent.


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Scalloped Potato Roll

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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, European

Servings

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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 11 X 7-inch baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle half of the Parmesan cheese evenly over parchment. Peel & slice potatoes 1/8-inch thick. Rinse & pat dry on paper towels. Place the potatoes over the Parmesan so each potato is overlapping the previous potato both vertically and horizontally. Continue until the entire pan is filled with potatoes. Sprinkle the rest of the Parmesan evenly over the potatoes. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt. Bake 30 minutes, until golden. The potatoes should be slightly crispy & flexible .

  2. In a saucepan, heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil & saute onions until caramelized, about 15 minutes. Add ground meat, scramble fry with onions. Mix in tomatoes, 3 Tbsp parsley, paprika, 1 tsp salt & 1/2 tsp pepper. Stir, cooking until meat is browned & cooked through. Remove from heat & place in a bowl.

  3. Add 2 Tbsp of olive oil to the saucepan. Add spinach (or chard); cook until wilted. Add 1 tsp of salt & the garlic; stir to combine then remove from heat. Combine ricotta with spinach mixture & spread evenly over potato 'sheet' followed by the meat mixture & then topping all with the mozzarella.

  4. Take one end of the potato sheet, holding the parchment paper begin rolling upward, making sure the ingredients are not coming out the ends. Once the filled potato sheet is completely rolled, arrange it in the center of the parchment on the baking sheet & bake for about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining parsley & a bit more cheese if you wish.

Corned Beef & Cabbage Pizza

CELEBRATING OKTOBERFEST!

Even if it is a little hard to admit summer has ended and fall is officially here, Oktoberfest seems like a great little celebration to ease into the coming winter months.

Oktoberfest began as a wedding celebration more than 200 years ago in Munich, Germany, when Bavaria’s, Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12,1810. The wedding was celebrated with multiple days of drinking, feasting and horse races. Everybody had so much fun that it was resolved to repeat the celebration, which has been done, every year since.

Beer enthusiasts from all over the world flock to Munich for Oktoberfest, where they feast on everything from steins of beer to plates of sauerkraut, bratwurst, cabbage rolls, sausage and wiener schnitzel. Bavarian music fills the air to promote the fun atmosphere of Oktoberfest.

While the true celebration has to be experienced in Munich, there are actually some great Canadian events that try to duplicate the festivities without having to travel abroad. In different parts of the country this is a fun and social sampling event featuring many local craft and authentic Bavarian breweries as well as authentic food, Oktoberfest music, dancers, games, etc..

To acknowledge this holiday we are having a corned beef, cabbage & potato pizza with a rye bread crust. It seems a good mix of German-Canadian food to me ?!

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Corned Beef & Cabbage Pizza
Instructions
Rye Pizza Crust
  1. In a bowl, combine flours & salt. Pour 1/2 cup water into a microwave-safe bowl; heat for 30 seconds. Stir brown sugar into water until dissolved; add yeast & stir. Let mixture stand about 10 minutes, until bubbly. Pour yeast mixture into flour mixture. Pour remaining 1 cup of water into microwave-safe bowl; heat for 30 seconds.
  2. Stir olive oil into warm water; pour over flour mixture. Knead flour mixture, adding more all-purpose flour if dough is sticky, until dough is smooth & holds together. Form dough into a ball & place in a buttered bowl. Cover with a tea towel & let rise in a warm place about an hour or until doubled in size.
Fillings
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Toss thinly sliced potato with 2 Tbsp olive oil in a plastic bag. Combine paprika, rosemary, garlic powder, salt & pepper; add to potato slices & toss again. Roast in a single layer on a baking sheet about 10-15 minutes. In a skillet, add sauerkraut with juice & diced onion. Simmer for a few minutes until onion is tender. Drain well; set aside to cool slightly.
Assembly
  1. Punch down dough. Sprinkle a 14-inch pizza pan with cornmeal & press dough out to fit pan. Top crust with monterey jack cheese, corned beef & onion/sauerkraut mixture. Lay roasted potato slices to cover pizza then sprinkle with mozzarella & Parmesan cheeses. Bake pizza for 12-15 minutes or until golden & crispy. Once pizza is done baking, drizzle with Russian dressing & slice.

Cauliflower Crust Pizza with Ground Beef & Olives

Ricing vegetables has been around for as long as I remember. Maybe not to the degree that is happening today. I recall a utensil my mother had that resembled a large garlic press. It was called a potato ricer and to my knowledge was only used for potatoes to change the texture.

As time has passed, this idea has evolved into so much more. Cauliflower ‘rice’ came on the scene as a popular grain-free alternative to rice. As with many food trends, the ‘riced’ craze has continued using other veggies like sweet potatoes, broccoli, carrots, onions and peas.

The grocery stores have jumped on the bandwagon with fresh and frozen products and in a variety of plain and flavored versions.

Making your own riced vegetables is even easier than in days gone by. Just trim, chop and pulse your veggies in a food processor. Cook with a quick steam or saute and flavor with some fresh herbs and spices. Of course, you can always change it up with other chopped veggies, nuts or a sprinkle of cheese.

Riced cauliflower can be used on its own, fried, in baked casseroles or as I’m using it today, in a pizza crust. A different texture than traditional pizza crust but loaded with flavor. Its sort of firm, chewy and soft all at the same time. I wasn’t sure how well we would like this pizza but it tasted just great with the addition of some homemade bread sticks.

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Cauliflower Crust Pizza with Ground Beef & Olives
Instructions
Cauliflower Crust
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a 14-inch pizza with parchment paper. Process cauliflower. In a bowl, combine all crust ingredients. Pat mixture onto pizza pan & press to form pizza crust. Bake 15-20 minutes; remove from oven.
Pizza Toppings
  1. In a skillet, crumble fry beef & mushrooms with spices until cooked. Drain & cool slightly. Carefully 'spread' cauliflower crust with tomato sauce. Top with mozzarella cheese, meat mixture, red peppers & sliced olives. Sprinkle with grated parmigano-reggiano & bake an additional 7-10 minutes, until cheese melted. Remove from oven & allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.