Almost Margharita Pizza Rolls – Dinner/Appetizer/Side

Almost Margharita Pizza Rolls – Dinner/Appetizer/Side

Almost Margherita Pizza Rolls


Everyone knows about those disaster days where nothing goes as you planned and you completely mess up the dinner schedule.  This recipe came from one of those days.  First I planned on making some beignets for an afternoon snack from the dough I had frozen earlier.  Once it thawed, I realized it was pizza dough, not beignet dough and I had some nice Roma tomatoes that should be used up, so I decided to make pizza.   

Of course, I got home later than I had planned to start dinner, then realized that I had no pizza sauce (but I had defrosted some nice chili – reenforcing my “you really need to label the stuff in the freezer” lecture to myself), no pepperoni and it was so late I really didn’t want to wait for the 1/2 hour or so it takes for the pizza stone or iron skillet to heat up before making the pizza.  So . . .  somewhere, and unfortunately I couldn’t remember where, I had seen a recipe for some garlic rolls where you put some garlic and oil or butter in the bottom of an iron skillet, top it with pieces of dough, kind of like monkey bread, then when it is baked, you flip it over on a plate that looked pretty good so I decided to go with that idea and cross it with a deep dish skillet pizza.  I wanted to make it into more of a meal so I added tomatoes and covered the top of the dough with cheese.  It was wonderful!  Husband asked what it was and I had no answer – if you can think of a better name for it I would be ever so grateful.   

We have had it several times since then and I did change it to put the tomatoes and garlic on the top of the dough instead of under it because it makes for a really crispy bottom, was a little easier to get out of the pan and looks more appealing.  Each time it was great – as a meal, an appetizer and as a side with pasta.  I’ve used pizza dough and frozen dinner roll dough and both worked equally well, although I sort of prefer the pizza dough if you are serving it as a main dish as it is a little more substantial.  

Almost Margherita Pizza Rolls



3 tbsp olive oil plus more for drizzling  

1 package pizza dough or one dozen thawed frozen dough for dinner rolls  

1 head garlic minced  

3-4 sliced tomatoes (Roma is best)  

salt and pepper  

1 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese  

1/4 cup shredded fresh basil leaves  

Ingredients for Almost Margherita Pizza Rolls



Place oil in the bottom of a 10″ iron or oven proof skillet (you could even use a cake pan as long as it had high sides).  It should cover the bottom of the pan completely.  

Cut the dough into pieces about 1/2-1 inch (if using the rolls, cut each in fourth’s) they can be random shapes.  Place the dough in the pan and sprinkle the garlic over the pieces.  The dough should come pretty close to covering the bottom of the pan with just a little space between the pieces.  

Dough and Garlic in the pan


Cover the dough with a layer of sliced tomatoes and drizzle with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.   

Tomato Layer


Cover with Mozzarella  

Top with Cheese


Bake in a 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes until cheese is bubbling and lightly brown and the rolls in the middle are cooked.  

Done Baking


Finally, sprinkle with the fresh basil.  Using a spatula, go around the edges to loosen any cheese that might be stuck, then the rolls can be separated and lifted out.  

Almost Margherita Pizza Rolls Ready to Serve

Less than 30 Minute Chicken Fajitas

Less than 30 Minute Chicken Fajitas

Chicken Fajitas


This recipe is for one of those days when you want something fresh, but quick although it probably isn’t the traditional method.  It has only a few ingredients, most of them you probably already have on hand, it tastes great and is done in no time.  This is the perfect time to use that iron skillet (which I’ve recently discovered is now tied with my gigantic non-stick skillet for favorite) but if you don’t have one it will still be fine in a regular skillet.  Pre-cooked and sliced chicken breast (refrigerated or frozen) can be pretty bland, but this is great because browning it in the skillet and a few spices will add a lot of flavor.     


1 lb pre-cooked sliced boneless chicken breast  

2 limes juiced  

2 tbsp taco seasoning mix  

4 cloves garlic minced  

1 large onion sliced thinly  

4 bell peppers of various colors sliced  

4 flour tortillas warmed  


First if frozen, thaw the chicken strips in the microwave, then marinate for 5-10 minutes in the lime juice, garlic and taco seasoning mix while you are chopping the vegetables.  Over a very high heat, cook the chicken breasts with the marinade until the marinade evaporates and the chicken starts to get some nice brown/almost charred spots.   

Chicken strips and marinade


Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside covered with foil to keep warm.  I like my onions well caramelized but the peppers still crisp so next I add only the onions and cook until they begin to brown, then add the peppers and cook just until they are warm through but still a little crisp.  

Onions and Peppers

Serve the chicken and vegetables with warm tortillas (wrap in a moist paper towel and microwave for 15-30 seconds until warmed.)

David Rocco’s LA SALSA DI 5 MINUTI (10 Minute Basic Pasta Sauce)

David Rocco’s LA SALSA DI 5 MINUTI (10 Minute Basic Pasta Sauce)

David Rocco's La Salsa di 5 Minuti: Five Minute Sauce


This one is for Mom, she asked if I’d tried it and said it was great.  She was right! Of course, I just couldn’t follow the recipe exactly because it didn’t have enough garlic so I added a little more but otherwise followed the plan. Here’s the recipe for La Salsa Di 5 Minuti.  I don’t speak Italian but based on the name it seems like it should take 5 minutes, but it’s 10.  What more can you ask for on a weeknight – a small number of ingredients, 10 minutes (well more like 20 counting prep and if you add the rolls) and hardly any dishes. You can start your pasta cooking while you make the sauce.  If you have more time, you could add some sausage or meatballs but it was fine without. 



Onions and Garlic


Sauce Cooking


Final Step


I served it with my quick version of garlic knots (minus the knot) – home-baked (sort of) garlic rolls.  You can use refrigerated, frozen or bake-N-serve dinner rolls, baked according to the package directions.  As soon as you take them out of the oven, you smother them with :      

1/4 cup butter or good olive oil     

1 head freshly chopped garlic      

1 Tbs Italian Spice Mix      

2 Tbs grated Parmesan Cheese 

Put all ingredients in a microwave safe bowl or cup, preferably with a pour spout.  Microwave for 1 minute just as you take the rolls out of the oven.  Put the rolls in a bowl, pour the butter/oil mixture over them and toss them around in the bowl to cover.     

Smother the rolls with butter


Quick Garlic Rolls

Meat Sauce for Pasta (party/freezer size)

Meat Sauce for Pasta (party/freezer size)

Meat Sauce for Pasta


Son texted from college last week asking “how do I make spaghetti?”  Knowing that his dorm room this year has a small kitchen I was quite optimistic that he was beginning to show an interest in cooking.  In the past his cooking skills have been pretty much zero and he’s never been the least bit interested in anything but the eating.  Of course I was deflated when he clarified that he had a jar of “gasp” Ragu (which afterwards, without prompting, he said was pretty lame – thank goodness his taste buds are still working).  Being the one who never, ever, ever uses jar sauce, I promised to make him some (he happened to be coming home for the weekend) and using the handy sucker machine, aka Food Saver, I made a big pot of meat sauce and froze it in pouches suitable for 1 lb of pasta each.  Of course I also had to make and freeze his favorite mac-n-cheese and White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies for Roommate.   I baked a dozen and sent them with some frozen dough for later.  

This sauce is great and doesn’t really take that much effort, although I do simmer it for a long time.  It works with any kind of pasta and makes a great lasagna.  Also you can make it a day or two ahead and it gets even better and it freezes really well.  


3 lb ground beef  

2 tbsp olive oil  

2 onions chopped  

1-3 heads of garlic minced (depending on your preference, I use 3 as I belong to the never too much garlic group)  

2-3 tbsp basil ( again I like a lot so I use 3)  

2-3 tbsp oregano (same here)  

2 cups beef broth  

1 6 lb 6 oz can of crushed tomatoes  

salt and pepper to taste  

Ingredients for Pasta Meat Sauce


First brown the ground beef in a large dutch oven or pot over medium high heat  

Browned ground beef


Then drain the ground beef well  

Draining the ground beef


While the meat is draining, using the fat left in the pan and adding the olive oil, add the chopped onions and cook over medium high heat until beginning to brown.  Add the chopped garlic and cook for an additional 1 minute.  The browning on the pan gives it extra flavor.  

Onions and Garlic Browning


Add the beef broth, scraping up any browned portions.  Continue cooking until the broth is reduced to almost gone, then add the spices and cook for about 1 more minute.  

Beef broth reduced


Adding spices

Finally, add the crushed tomatoes, bring to a boil, then lower the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally for as long as you can stand it but at least an hour.  I usually let it go for about 3 hours.

White Nectarines with Honey Caramel Tart

White Nectarines with Honey Caramel Tart

White Nectarine Honey Caramel Tart

This is another variation (I made a lot of honey caramel and can’t resist fruits) of a simple but great looking dessert that only takes a few minutes.


4-6 fresh white nectarines sliced (or regular nectarines or peaches or apples or pears . . . you get the idea)

1 package puff pastry (2 layers)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup honey caramel sauce, warmed to pouring consistency

Non-stick spray


Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray and lay out a layer of puff pastry.  Leaving a 2 inch border around the edges, layer the fruit, sprinkle with cinnamon and drizzle with honey caramel sauce.  You could also add pecans or other nuts if you want.

Puff pastry with nectarines

Cover with the second layer of puff pastry and using your thumb, go around the entire edge pressing firmly to seal  and using a fork, prick several times over the fruit to release the steam while baking so the crust doesn’t get soggy.  Don’t prick around the edges as you want that to puff up well.  For a nice brown crust, spray with non-stick spray (or brush with melted butter but the spray is a lot faster).

Ready to Bake

Bake at 400 degrees until browned and flaky, about 25-30 minutes.

Tart baked and ready to serve

Slice into rectangles and serve on a plate with whipped cream, drizzle more honey caramel and fruit or berries for garnish.

White Nectarine Honey Caramel Tart