Roasted Vegetable Baked Penne

This was actually supposed to be a baked ziti, but it turns out ziti is just about impossible to find in grocery stores right now, so I went with a Roasted Vegetable Baked Penne instead. Sometimes you just have to roll with it! This recipe is a very vegetable-forward version of my Classic Baked Ziti, chock […]

The post Roasted Vegetable Baked Penne appeared first on Budget Bytes.

This was actually supposed to be a baked ziti, but it turns out ziti is just about impossible to find in grocery stores right now, so I went with a Roasted Vegetable Baked Penne instead. Sometimes you just have to roll with it! This recipe is a very vegetable-forward version of my Classic Baked Ziti, chock full of colorful vegetables, a quick homemade red sauce, and layers of ooey-gooey cheese. This recipes makes a LOT of pasta but the leftovers are awesome and freezable! 

Overhead view of a casserole dish full of roasted vegetable baked penne

Take a Short Cut

This roasted vegetable baked penne is kind of a labor of love because there are so many moving parts, BUT you can take a short cut by using some jarred pasta sauce instead of making your own. Use about one and a half 24oz. jars of store-bought pasta sauce in place of the homemade sauce listed below.

How to Store Leftovers

As I mentioned in the intro, this makes a LOT of pasta. But the leftovers are super yummy, and it makes a really great item to stash in your freezer for grab-n-go lunches or quick dinners on busy nights. After baking, divide the pasta into single serving containers and transfer to the refrigerator. Once fully cooled, you can transfer some (or all) of the containers to the freezer for longer storage. I usually leave as many as I can eat in one week in the fridge and freeze the left. The leftovers can be reheated quickly in the microwave.

What Vegetables Can You Use?

I used a classic mix of zucchini, yellow squash, red onion, and bell pepper so I could have a really colorful mix. If you want to substitute any of these vegetables, here are some other good options:

  • Mushrooms
  • Eggplant
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots

In general you want to opt for softer vegetables for this dish, as opposed to harder root vegetables, but if you do want to include vegetables that are more firm, make sure to cut them into much smaller pieces to help them soften more quickly while they roast.

Close up front view of roasted vegetable baked penne being scooped out of the casserole dish

 
Overhead view of roasted vegetable baked penne being scooped out of the casserole dish

Roasted Vegetable Baked Penne

Layers of pasta, flavorful roasted vegetables, a simple homemade red sauce, and melty cheese make this roasted vegetable baked penne to die for!
Total Cost $11.34 recipe / $1.42 serving
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings 8
Calories 494.86kcal
Author Beth - Budget Bytes

Ingredients

Roasted Vegetables

  • 1 red onion $0.44
  • 1 zucchini $0.79
  • 1 yellow squash $1.11
  • 1 bell pepper $1.69
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil $0.26
  • tsp salt $0.02
  • tsp pepper $0.02

Simple Red Sauce

  • 1 yellow onion $0.32
  • 2 Tbsp butter $0.26
  • 1 28oz. can crushed tomatoes $0.79
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste $0.12
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning* $0.30
  • ¼ tsp salt $0.02
  • ½ cup water $0.02

Pasta & Cheese

  • 1 lb. penne $1.00
  • 15 oz. ricotta $2.19
  • 2 cups shredded Italian cheese blend**, divided $1.86
  • 1/4 tsp pepper $0.02
  • 1/4 tsp salt $0.02
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional garnish) $0.11

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Dice the red onion, zucchini, yellow squash, and bell pepper into 1-inch pieces. Spread the diced vegetables out over a large baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss until all the vegetables are coated in oil.
  • Roast the vegetables in the preheated oven, stirring once half way through, for about 45 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and the edges are brown and caramelized.
  • While the vegetables are roasting, begin the red sauce. Finely dice the yellow onion and add it to a sauce pot with the butter. Sauté for a few minutes, or until the onion is soft. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, salt, and water.
  • Stir the sauce to combine. Allow the sauce to come up to a simmer, then turn the heat down to low and let the sauce simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are finished roasting (about 30 minutes).
  • In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the shredded Italian cheese blend, and ¼ tsp each of salt and pepper.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the penne. Once boiling, add the penne and continue to boil until the pasta is tender. Drain the penne in a colander, then return it to the pot with the heat turned off.
  • Stir one cup of the red sauce into the drained pasta to coat the pasta in flavor. Add the roasted vegetables to the remaining red sauce and stir to combine.
  • To layer the casserole, place half of the sauce coated penne in the bottom of a 9x13" or 3 quart casserole dish. Add half of the cheese mixture on top in dollops, followed by half of the roasted vegetable and red sauce mixture. The ingredients do not need to create a solid layer or completely cover the previous layer. Repeat with a second layer of pasta, cheese, and vegetable red sauce. Finally, top the casserole with the second cup of shredded Italian cheese blend.
  • Cover the casserole with foil, making sure it doesn't touch the cheese on top. Place the casserole in the oven (still turned on to 400ºF) and bake for 35 minutes. After 35 minutes, remove the foil and switch the oven from bake to broil. Broil the top of the casserole to brown the cheese for 3-5 minutes (watch closely as broilers can vary quite a bit from oven to oven). Top with chopped parsley if desired and serve!

Notes

*If you do not have Italian seasoning, you can replace this with equal parts dried basil, dried oregano, dried morjoram, and thyme.
*If you do not have shredded Italian cheese blend, use equal amounts shredded mozzarella, Parmesan, and provolone. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 494.86kcal | Carbohydrates: 60.24g | Protein: 20.76g | Fat: 19.79g | Sodium: 681.56mg | Fiber: 5.35g

How to Make Roasted Vegetable Baked Penne

Whole vegetables on a cutting board

For the roasted vegetables I used one red onion, one zucchini, one yellow squash, and one red bell pepper. You can choose just about any vegetable you’d like (see notes above the recipe for suggestions).

Diced vegetables on a baking sheet

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Dice the vegetables into 1-inch pieces. Place the diced vegetables on a large baking sheet, drizzle with 2 Tbsp olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss the vegetables until they are coated in oil.

Roasted vegetables on the baking sheet

Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and roast, stirring once halfway through, for about 45 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and caramelized on the edges.

Diced onion and butter in a sauce pot

While the vegetables are roasting, begin the rest of the casserole. Start with the homemade red sauce. Dice one yellow onion and add it to a sauce pot with 2 Tbsp butter. Sauté over medium heat until the onions are soft.

Red sauce ingredients in the pot

Once the onions are soft, add one 28oz. can crushed tomatoes, 3 Tbsp tomato paste, 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning, 1/4 tsp salt, and ½ cup water. Stir to combine. Allow the sauce to come up to the simmer, then turn the heat down to low and let it continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are done roasting (about 30 minutes). 

Cheese mixture ingredients in a bowl

While the vegetables are roasting and the red sauce is simmering away, prepare the cheese. Stir together 15oz. ricotta, 1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend, ¼ tsp pepper, and ¼ tsp salt.

Stirring red sauce into cooked pasta.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Once boiling, add 1 lb. penne and continue to boil until the penne is tender. Drain the pasta in a colander, then return it to the pot with the heat turned off. Add 1 cup of the red sauce and stir to coat.

Roasted vegetables added to the pot of red sauce.

Stir the roasted vegetables into the rest of the red sauce.

Layer one of baked penne in the casserole dish

Now that the sauce, cheese, and pasta are done, it’s time to start layering! Add half of the sauce coated pasta to the bottom of a 9×13″ (3 quart) casserole dish. Next, add half of the cheese mixture in dollops, followed by half of the vegetable red sauce. Each layer will not fully cover the previous layer. You don’t need to spend time trying to spread it out. It will all melt together as it bakes.

Second layers of baked penne in the casserole dish

Repeat with a second layer of pasta, cheese, and vegetable red sauce. Finally, add the second cup of shredded Italian cheese blend on top.

Baked Penne casserole with foil covering half the dish

Cover the casserole dish with foil, taking care not to let it touch the cheese. Bake the casserole for 35 minutes.

Finished roasted vegetable baked penne in the casserole dish

After 35 minutes, remove the foil and change the oven from bake to broil. Let it broil for a few minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown on top. Top with a couple tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley for garnish, if desired.

Overhead view of roasted vegetable baked penne being scooped out of the casserole dish

Enjoy!

The post Roasted Vegetable Baked Penne appeared first on Budget Bytes.

No-Knead Focaccia

Once you try focaccia, you’ll never go back to plain bread! This hearty No-Knead Focaccia is coated in olive oil and herbs, making every bite full of delicious flavor. And the best part? It only takes about 5 minutes of hands-on work to make an amazing loaf. This delicious bread pretty much makes itself! Originally […]

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Once you try focaccia, you’ll never go back to plain bread! This hearty No-Knead Focaccia is coated in olive oil and herbs, making every bite full of delicious flavor. And the best part? It only takes about 5 minutes of hands-on work to make an amazing loaf. This delicious bread pretty much makes itself!

Originally published 4-30-2011, updated 5-28-2020.

 A stack of focaccia slices, sides visible showing off bubbles

How Does No-Knead Bread Work?

When making regular bread, you have to use a lot of elbow grease kneading the dough to make the gluten strands line up and form a sort of matrix that gives the dough strength and texture. With no-knead bread, the dough is allowed to ferment overnight. During fermentation enzymes break down the gluten in a process called autolysis, which makes it easier for them to untangle, line up, and form the matrix that usually takes a lot of kneading to form. 

An added bonus is that overnight fermentation adds a lot of flavor to the bread. AND, since the yeast has so much time to grow and multiply, you only need to use ¼ tsp yeast, compared to about 2 tsp for a normal loaf of bread! Win-win!

What Kind of Yeast Can I Use?

This no-knead style bread is a little unique because the yeast is combined with dry flour, instead of being mixed with water and allowed to “proof” first. Because it’s not proofed first, you’ll need a specific kind of yeast—instant yeast or bread machine yeast. These types of yeast do not need to be “woken up” in warm water before being added to bread dough.

What Do You Serve With Focaccia?

Focaccia is such a versatile bread! It makes a great side dish with just about any meal, but I think it’s particularly nice with soups and stews. It’s hearty texture makes it great for dipping, dunking, and sopping up sauces, stews, and soups. It’s also fantastic for sandwiches, especially pressed sandwiches like paninis. You can also use this bread to make pizzas or flatbreads. Simply top it with your favorite cheese, meat, or vegetables and bake again until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Freeze the Extras!

This makes a BIG batch of focaccia bread, so I highly suggest freezing the leftovers. Most bread, including focaccia, freeze beautifully, so you can have homemade bread with any meal without a lot of work. To freeze the focaccia, simply let it cool completely until it is room temperature, cut it into slices (whichever size or shape you prefer), then place it in a gallon-sized freezer bag. The frozen no-knead focaccia thaws quickly at room temperature.

Can I Use Whole Wheat Flour?

Yes, you can substitute some of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat. Using all whole-wheat flour generally creates a very heavy and dense bread, so I highly suggest using only some, up to 50%, whole wheat flour. You may need to use slightly more water, as whole wheat flour absorbs more moisture than all-purpose flour.

A hand holding a slice of focaccia so you can see the bubbles in the side

 
A stack of no knead focaccia slices viewed from the side

No-knead Focaccia Bread

Fresh, hearty focaccia bread is incredibly simple to make with this no-knead method. It's perfect for sandwiches or dunking into soups and stews. 
Total Cost $1.31 recipe / $0.11 serving
Prep Time 16 hours
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 16 hours 20 minutes
Servings 12 squares
Calories 177.83kcal
Author Beth - Budget Bytes

Ingredients

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour $0.61
  • 1/4 tsp instant yeast $0.02
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt $0.03
  • 2 cups water $0.00
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided $0.32
  • 2 Tbsp cornmeal $0.03
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning $0.30

Instructions

  • The night before, combine the flour, salt and yeast in a bowl. Stir until everything is evenly combined. Add the water and stir until it forms one cohesive, sticky, shaggy ball of dough with no dry flour left on the bottom of the bowl. If there is still dry flour in bowl, add a little water (1-2 Tbsp) until the dough comes together (scroll down to the step by step photos for examples). Loosely cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature for 12-18 hours.
  • The next day the dough will be wet, bubbly, and very fluffy. Dust the top of the dough with some flour, then scrape the dough from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough over on itself a few times until it forms a ball in the center of the bowl.
  • Line a baking sheet with foil then drizzle with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Spread the oil to coat the surface of the foil, then sprinkle cornmeal on top of the oil.
  • Transfer the dough to the baking sheet. Stretch and pat the dough out into a large rectangle. You may need to dust your hands with flour throughout this process to keep the dough from sticking.
  • Drizzle olive oil over the surface of the dough and use a soft brush to spread it evenly over the surface. Sprinkle the Italian seasoning (or any type of herbs) over top. Let the dough rise for another hour.
  • Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Using your fingers, press dimples into the risen dough. Bake the focaccia for 20-25 minutes in the preheated oven or until the surface is golden brown. After removing from the oven, allow the focaccia to cool before slicing and serving.

Nutrition

Serving: 1sqaure | Calories: 177.83kcal | Carbohydrates: 33.13g | Protein: 4.45g | Fat: 2.69g | Sodium: 356.03mg | Fiber: 1.22g

Try More No-Knead Bread Recipes:

Three slices of no-knead focaccia piled on a wooden cutting board

 

How to Make No-Knead Focaccia – Step By Step Photos

Flour Yeast and salt in a bowl

Start with 4 cups all-purpose flour, ¼ tsp instant yeast, and 1.5 tsp salt. Stir them together until everything is well combined.

Water being poured into flour mixture

Add 2 cups water to the flour mixture. This part will require a little flexibility on your part. You may need to add slightly less or slightly more water depending on the ambient humidity in your home and fluctuations with measuring the flour. I’ll show you what to look for in the next photos.

Dough that is too dry

Stir the water into the flour until it forms a ball of sticky dough and there is no more dry flour left on the bottom of the bowl. In the photo above, the dough is too dry. You can see dry flour on the bottom of the bowl and the dough ball is not cohesive. If this is your dough, add a tablespoon or two more water.

Sticky dough ball

Your dough should look like this. Sticky, but not slimy or shiny, and no dry flour on the bottom of the bowl. This style of dough is much more wet than traditional bread dough. Cover the bowl loosely and allow it to sit at room temperature for 12-18 hours.

Bubbly, fermented dough

After 12-18 hours the dough will look very bubbly and large, like this. Am I weird for thinking that’s gorgeous??

Pull dough from sides of the bowl

Sprinkle a little flour over the dough to keep your hands from sticking and pull the dough from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough over onto itself a few times until it forms a sort of ball. Keep your hands well floured as you do this.

Dough ball in the bowl

This is what the dough looks like after I folded it onto itself a few times. The gluten matrix is well developed. You can tell by how smooth it is and the air bubbles trapped right under the surface.

Olive oil being drizzled onto a baking sheet

Line a baking sheet with foil, then drizzle 1 Tbsp olive oil over the surface. Use your hands to spread the oil to evenly coat the surface of the foil, then sprinkle about 2 Tbsp cornmeal over the oil.

Shaped focaccia on baking sheet, topped with more oil and herbs

Transfer the ball of dough to the prepared baking sheet and press and stretch it out until it fills the entire baking sheet. Drizzle one more tablespoon of olive oil over the surface of the dough, then sprinkle 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning over the surface (you can use a mix of basil, oregano, and red pepper if you don’t have Italian seasoning).

Fingers making indentations in unbaked focaccia

Let the dough rise for one hour (or a little more if your ambient room temperature is on the cool side). When you get close to the end of the rise time, begin preheating your oven to 425ºF. Use your fingers to make dimples all over the dough.

Baked focaccia on the baking sheet

Once the focaccia has risen and the oven is fully preheated, transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake the focaccia for 20-25 minutes, or until it is nicely golden brown on top.

Focaccia on baking sheet, cut open

Look at those gorgeous bubbles!

No Knead Focaccia loaf cut into squares

Let the bread cool before slicing. You can slice it into 12 squares, or into strips, which are nice for dipping and dunking into soups and stews.

The post No-Knead Focaccia appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Pizza Pasta Salad

This is kind of just like a basic Italian pasta salad, but I’m calling it “Pizza Pasta Salad” because this is how I use my leftover pizza toppings. Haha! When you buy a jar of peppers, olives, or any other pizza toppings, it’s always way too much for one pizza, so I repurpose all the […]

The post Pizza Pasta Salad appeared first on Budget Bytes.

This is kind of just like a basic Italian pasta salad, but I’m calling it “Pizza Pasta Salad” because this is how I use my leftover pizza toppings. Haha! When you buy a jar of peppers, olives, or any other pizza toppings, it’s always way too much for one pizza, so I repurpose all the pizza toppings in a pasta salad the next day. And the best part is that this Pizza Pasta Salad is another one of those great “refrigerator salads” that hold up well for days, so you can keep munching away happily throughout the week!

Repurposed Pizza Topping Pasta Salad

Overhead view of a serving bowl full of pizza pasta salad, wooden spoons on the side

What’s In Pizza Pasta Salad?

Whatever you want! Ha! That’s the beauty of this one. In my pizza pasta salad I included mozzarella, pepperoni, green bell pepper, black olives, red onion, and banana peppers. Here are some other things that would be awesome in this pasta salad:

  • Bacon
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Jalapeños
  • Spinach
  • Green Olives
  • Ham
  • Salami
  • Pesto
  • Feta
  • Fresh herbs (oregano, basil, parsley)
  • Mushrooms (marinated mushrooms would be even better)
  • Artichoke hearts

Honestly, the only thing I probably wouldn’t put in my pizza pasta salad is pineapple. While I am a pineapple-pizza fan (sorry-not-sorry), I don’t think it would be very good in this pasta salad.

What Dressing Do you Use?

In the recipe below I’ve included a homemade Italian dressing with grated Parmesan cheese. If you want to take a short cut and use a store bought dressing, I suggest some sort of Italian dressing or Caesar dressing (non-creamy style), and if it doesn’t have Parmesan already in it, I would add some. The Parmesan cheese really adds some oomph to this pizza pasta salad.

Can I Use a Different Pasta?

Absolutely! This recipe is endlessly versatile. You can use any short shaped pasta, like bowtie, penne, or even shells. While you can use a long shape pasta like spaghetti, that type tends to be difficult to stir chunky objects into (they like to fall to the sides or bottom of the bowl). This recipe should also work fine with whole wheat or gluten free pasta.

How Long Does Pizza Pasta Stay Good?

This pasta salad is very refrigerator friendly and will last about 4-5 days in your refrigerator. That means it’s great for your weekly meal prep!

Love refrigerator salads as much as I do? Check out my round up of 19 Refrigerator Salads for Eating Healthy on the Go!

Close up of a large spoonful of pizza pasta salad on a wooden spoon, bowl in the background

 
Close up of a serving bowl of pizza pasta salad, a wooden spoon in the side
Print

Italian Pizza Pasta Salad

Repurpose your leftover pizza toppings into this deliciously simple Italian style pizza pasta salad. Including a simple homemade Italian dressing!
Total Cost $7.98 recipe / $1.00 serving
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 8 1 cup each
Calories 394.33kcal
Author Beth - Budget Bytes

Ingredients

Homemade Italian Dressing

  • 1/2 cup olive oil $0.84
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar $0.40
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard $0.06
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder $0.02
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning $0.30
  • 1/2 tsp salt $0.02
  • 1/4 tsp pepper $0.02
  • 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan $0.22

Pasta Salad

  • 1 lb. rotini pasta $1.00
  • 3 oz. pepperoni $1.25
  • 4 oz. mozzarella $1.15
  • 1 green bell pepper $0.89
  • 1/4 cup red onion $0.11
  • 1/2 12oz. jar banana pepper rings $1.00
  • 1/2 4oz. can sliced black olives $0.70

Instructions

  • Make the Italian dressing first so the flavors have a few minutes to blend. Add the olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and Parmesan to a bowl or jar. Whisk the ingredients together, or place a lid on the jar and shake until combined. Set the dressing aside.
  • Cook the rotini according to the package directions (boil for 7-10 minutes, or until tender). Drain the pasta in a colander and rinse briefly with cool water. Let the pasta drain well, shaking the colander every few minutes to remove excess water from the pasta.
  • While the pasta is cooking and draining, prepare the other pasta salad ingredients. Cut the pepperoni in half or into quarters, and chop the mozzarella into small cubes. Dice the bell pepper and red onion. Drain the banana pepper rings and black olives.
  • When the pasta is cooked, cooled, and drained well, transfer it to a large bowl. Add the rest of the prepared ingredients (pepperoni, mozzarella, bell pepper, red onion, banana peppers, and black olives). Toss the ingredients to combine.
  • Give the dressing another shake or stir before drizzling it over the pasta salad. Toss the pasta salad once again to coat everything in the dressing. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cup | Calories: 394.33kcal | Carbohydrates: 44.11g | Protein: 10.01g | Fat: 19.61g | Sodium: 385.08mg | Fiber: 2.18g

Scroll down to see the step by step photos!

Close up of a serving bowl of pizza pasta salad, a wooden spoon in the side

How to Make Pizza Pasta Salad – Step by Step Photos

A jar of homemade Italian dressing with a spoon lifting a bit out of the jar

Make the Italian dressing first, so the flavors have a few minutes to blend. Add ½ cup olive oil, ¼ red wine vinegar, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, ¼ tsp garlic powder, 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning, ½ tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper, and 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese to a bowl or jar. Either whisk the ingredients together or close the jar and shake until combined. Set the dressing aside.

Cooked rotini pasta in a colander

Cook one pound of rotini pasta according to the package directions (boil for 7-10 minutes, or until tender). Drain the pasta in a colander and rinse briefly with cool water. Let the pasta drain well, shaking the colander every few minutes to shake off excess water.

Mozzarella and pepperoni on a cutting board

While the pasta is cooking and cooling, prepare the rest of the pasta salad ingredients. Chop 4oz. mozzarella into small cubes and cut 3oz. (half of a 6oz. package) pepperoni into half rounds or quarter rounds.

Bell pepper, red onion, black olives, and banana peppers on a cutting board

Dice one green bell pepper and about ¼ cup red onion. Drain ½ of a 12oz. jar banana pepper rings, and ½ of a 4oz. can sliced black olives. 

Pasta salad ingredients in a bowl

Once the pasta is cooked, cooled, and drained well, transfer it to a large bowl. Add the pepperoni, mozzarella, green bell pepper, red onion, banana peppers, and black olives to the bowl. Toss these ingredients together.

Shaken jar of dressing held over the bowl of pasta salad.

Give the dressing one last stir or shake…

Italian dressing being poured over pasta salad

Then pour the dressing over the pasta salad.

Tossed pizza pasta salad in a large bowl

Toss the salad again until everything is well coated in dressing. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat!

Overhead view of pizza pasta salad in a serving bowl with wooden salad utensils on the side

The post Pizza Pasta Salad appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

This Baked Eggplant Parmesan recipe is lightened up a bit with baked (instead of fried) panko-crusted roasted eggplant, and layered up with a zesty combination of marinara, cheeses and fresh herbs. I will be the first to admit that I’m still on the fence about how much I really love eggplant. But when it comes […]

This Baked Eggplant Parmesan recipe is lightened up a bit with baked (instead of fried) panko-crusted roasted eggplant, and layered up with a zesty combination of marinara, cheeses and fresh herbs.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

I will be the first to admit that I’m still on the fence about how much I really love eggplant.

But when it comes to eggplant Parmesan, count me in anytime. ♡

Yes, all of those layers of cozy marinara sauce, gooey melted Mozzarella, sweet fresh basil, and of course, lots and lots of freshly-grated Parmesan probably have something to with my love of this eggplant Parm.  But I’m also especially partial to the zesty toasted breading used to coat the roasted eggplant rounds in this particular recipe.  It’s not authentically Italian (melanzane alla parmigiana in Italy actually doesn’t include any breading for the eggplant), but it’s the delicious American-style version of eggplant Parmesan that I grew up loving.  And — bonus — this crispy breading in this recipe is baked instead of deep-fried.  And most importantly, super delicious.

Over the years, thousands of our readers have made and loved this baked eggplant Parmesan recipe.  So now that eggplant season has begun again here in Barcelona, I thought I would snap some fresh pics and bump this recipe back to the top of the blog for any of you who have yet to give it a try.  Trust me, it’s a winner!

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Salisbury Steak with Mushroom Gravy

My boyfriend saw what I was cooking and said, “What is this, the “Hungry Man” edition of Budget Bytes? 😆 What can I say, this pandemic has me craving comfort food! And for some reason, Salisbury Steak has been on my mind for weeks. So I set to work putting together a super simple version […]

The post Salisbury Steak with Mushroom Gravy appeared first on Budget Bytes.

My boyfriend saw what I was cooking and said, “What is this, the “Hungry Man” edition of Budget Bytes? 😆 What can I say, this pandemic has me craving comfort food! And for some reason, Salisbury Steak has been on my mind for weeks. So I set to work putting together a super simple version of Salisbury Steak, smothered with a mushroom and onion gravy, perfect for serving over a hot bed of fluffy mashed potatoes. Add a little something green (peas, in this case), and you have a classic “meat and potatoes” comfort meal. 

It’s funny because the very first time I ever had Salisbury Steak was in a frozen TV dinner in the 1980’s. So, this kind of is a Hungry Man edition of Budget Bytes. :P

Easy Salisbury Steak with Mushroom and Onion Gravy

Salisbury steak with mushroom gravy on a plate with mashed potatoes and peas, a fork on the side.

What is Salisbury Steak?

If you weren’t as lucky as I was to experience Salisbury Steak for the first time as a frozen TV dinner in the 80’s (read: sarcasm), then let me tell you a little about this classic comfort food. It’s a bit like a mini-meatloaf or big, flat meatball. It’s a mixture of ground beef and seasonings, plus a little breadcrumbs and egg to keep it all moist and tender. It’s usually cooked in a skillet and smothered with gravy. The dish gets its name from Dr. Salisbury, who recommended a version of this dish in the late 19th century as a part of his meat-centric diet (read more on Wikipedia). 

What to Serve with Salisbury Steak

The mushroom and onion gravy made with this Salisbury Steak is so delicious that you definitely want some sort of starch to soak it up. I served mine with fluffy mashed potatoes, but you could also spoon it over hot rice. Or, just serve with some crusty bread so sop up the gravy from your plate.

I really suggest having a vegetable or two on the side as well. Definitely something green, like the peas shown in my photos, or roasted broccoli. As a second vegetable, I’d probably go with something orange, like roasted carrots. Roasted Asparagus and Tomatoes would also make a great, colorful side to Salisbury Steak. With my leftovers, I added a scoop of sauerkraut on top and that was an AMAZING combination.

How are the Leftovers?

AWESOME. We reheated leftovers of this dish in the microwave and happily gobbled them up. Your leftovers should keep for about 4 days in the refrigerator. And while I haven’t tested freezing this one, this is definitely a dish that I would normally have frozen, if we hadn’t eaten it so fast. The gravy may separate a little upon thawing and reheating, as many flour thickened sauces do, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad and won’t be noticed if it’s mixed right into your mashed potatoes.

Gravy being spooned over a Salisbury Steak in the skillet

What Percent Fat Beef Should I Use?

You can use any type of ground beef for this recipe. If you use a higher fat ground beef, like 15% fat, the extra fat will be absorbed by the breadcrumbs and make the Salisbury Steak extra tender. If you use a more lean ground beef, like 93% fat, your Salisbury Steak will be a little more firm, but will be kept moist by the egg and breadcrumbs.

What Kind of Mushrooms Should I Use?

I used Baby Bella mushrooms because they give the gravy a wonderful color and they’re quite affordable at Aldi. If you have a limited selection or Baby Bella mushrooms are too expensive in your area, regular button mushrooms can be used instead. Your gravy may be slightly lighter in color when using white button mushrooms.

Salisbury Steak in rectangular meal prep containers with mashed potatoes and peas

 
A plate full of Salisbury Steak with Mushroom Gravy, mashed potatoes, and green peas.
Print

Salisbury Steak with Mushroom Gravy

Homemade Salisbury Steak with a rich mushroom gravy is a quick, simple, and hearty weeknight dinner that will fill even the biggest of appetites!
Total Cost $8.34 recipe / $2.09 serving
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 446.88kcal
Author Beth - Budget Bytes

Ingredients

  • 1 yellow onion, divided $0.32
  • 1 lb. ground beef $5.15
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs $0.13
  • 1 large egg $0.23
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce, divided $0.05
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning $0.10
  • 1/2 tsp salt $0.02
  • 1/4 tsp pepper $0.03
  • 1 Tbsp cooking oil $0.04
  • 8 oz. mushrooms $1.69
  • 2 Tbsp butter $0.26
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour $0.02
  • 1.5 cups beef broth* $0.20
  • salt and pepper to taste $0.05

Instructions

  • Finely mince about ½ cup of the onion and slice the remainder of the onion. The minced onion will go in the ground beef mixture, the rest will be used for the gravy.
  • Add the ground beef, minced onion, breadcrumbs, egg, 1 Tbsp of the Worcestershire sauce (the remainder will go in the gravy), Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper to a large bowl. Use your hands to mix the ingredients together until they are evenly combined. Divide the mixture into four equal parts, and shape each into a flattened oval.
  • Add the cooking oil to a large skillet and heat over medium. Once the skillet is hot, add the shaped beef patties and cook for about 5 minutes on each side, or until they are well browned on each side. Transfer the cooked patties to a clean plate.
  • While the beef patties are cooking, slice the mushrooms. After removing the beef from the skillet, add the sliced mushrooms and the remaining sliced onion along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Continue to cook the mushrooms and onions over medium until they are soft. Allow the moisture released from the onions and mushrooms to help you dissolve any browned bits off the bottom of the skillet as you stir.
  • Once the mushrooms and onions have softened and most of the moisture has evaporated off the bottom of the skillet, add the butter and flour. Continue to stir and cook for about two minutes. The flour and butter will form a paste and begin to coat the bottom of the skillet.
  • Add the beef broth and one tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce to the skillet. Stir to dissolve the flour into the broth, making sure to dissolve any flour that is stuck to the bottom of the skillet. Allow the broth to come up to simmer (still over medium heat), stirring often. Once it reaches a simmer, it will thicken into a gravy.
  • Once the gravy is simmering, add the beef patties back to the skillet with the broth, mushrooms, and onions. Spoon the gravy over top, and continue to simmer the beef in the gravy for an additional five minutes. Taste the gravy and adjust the salt and pepper to your liking.

Notes

*I use Better Than Bouillon to make my broth, which as a full, robust flavor. The flavor of your broth will greatly impact the overall flavor of your gravy, so make sure to use one that has great flavor.

Nutrition

Serving: 1steak with gravy | Calories: 446.88kcal | Carbohydrates: 20.6g | Protein: 27.35g | Fat: 27.78g | Sodium: 1009.73mg | Fiber: 1.83g

Scroll down to see the step by step photos!

Close up side view of a Salisbury Steak on a plate with peas and mashed potatoes, and a piece of the steak cut off the side.

How to Make Salisbury Steak – Step by Step Photos

Sliced and minced onion on a cutting board

Mince about ½ cup of one yellow onion, and slice the rest of the onion. The minced portion will go IN the Salisbury Steaks, the sliced portion will go into the gravy. If you have a small onion, you’ll probably mince about half and slice half. If you have a larger onion, you’ll mince about ¼ of the onion and slice the remaining ¾ onion.

Salisbury Steak ingredients in a bowl

Add 1 lb. ground beef, the minced onion, one large egg, ½ cup breadcrumbs, 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp Italian seasoning, ½  tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper to a bowl.

Shaped Salisbury Steak patties in a bowl

Use your hands to combine the ingredients until they are evenly mixed. Divide the mixture into four equal pieces, then shape them into flattened ovals.

Cooked beef patties in a skillet

Heat 1 Tbsp cooking oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the shaped patties in the hot skillet for about five minutes on each side, or until they are well browned on each side. Remove the cooked patties to a clean plate.

Sliced mushrooms on a cutting board with the sliced onion.

While the beef patties are cooking, slice 8 oz. mushrooms.

Onions and Mushrooms added to the skillet

After removing the cooked beef from the skillet, add the sliced onion and mushrooms. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, then continue to cook the onions and mushrooms over medium heat until they have softened. Allow the moisture released from the onions and mushrooms to help dissolve any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet.

Butter and flour added to the skillet with the mushrooms and onions.

Once the mushrooms and onions have softened and most of the moisture has evaporated from the skillet, add 2 Tbsp butter and 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour. Continue to stir and cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes more. The flour and butter will form a paste and begin to coat the bottom of the skillet.

Beef broth being poured into the skillet

Add 1.5 cups beef broth and another 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce to the skillet. Stir and cook over medium heat, dissolving the flour into the broth. When the broth reaches a simmer, it will thicken into a gravy.

Beef patties returned to gravy in the skillet

Return the beef patties to the skillet with the gravy and spoon the gravy over top. 

Simmered Salisbury Steaks in the skillet with mushroom gravy.

Continue to let the patties simmer in the gravy for another five minutes. 

Close up side view of the Salisbury Steak in the skillet with mushroom gravy.

Taste the gravy and adjust the salt and pepper if needed.

A plate full of Salisbury Steak with Mushroom Gravy, mashed potatoes, and green peas.

Serve with mashed potatoes and peas for a classic comfort meal!

The post Salisbury Steak with Mushroom Gravy appeared first on Budget Bytes.

Classic Baked Ziti

As soon as the weather turns cool, I grab the cozy sweaters and start cooking the comfort food, like this Classic Baked Ziti. It’s rich and gooey with its layers of pasta, homemade red sauce with Italian sausage, and three types of melty cheese. Total comfort in a bowl. And the best part is that […]

The post Classic Baked Ziti appeared first on Budget Bytes.

As soon as the weather turns cool, I grab the cozy sweaters and start cooking the comfort food, like this Classic Baked Ziti. It’s rich and gooey with its layers of pasta, homemade red sauce with Italian sausage, and three types of melty cheese. Total comfort in a bowl. And the best part is that Baked Ziti is not fussy. You don’t have to worry about delicate sheet pasta or getting your layers perfect. It’s freeform, messy goodness at its best!

Classic Baked Ziti with Sausage

Overhead view of a wooden spoon scooping baked ziti out of the corner of a white casserole dish

Can I Use a Different Pasta Shape?

If you can’t find ziti (a smooth, tubular shaped pasta), you can substitute penne or rigatoni in this recipe. Rigatoni is the most similar to ziti, the only difference being that it has a ridges and is slightly shorter and wider. 

Can I Add Vegetables to Baked Ziti?

Yes! I almost always add extra vegetables to whatever I’m cooking, but today I decided to go with the classic form of Baked Ziti. If I were to add vegetables, I would probably add some fresh spinach into the sauce and stir until it is wilted. Or, roast some broccoli, zucchini, or eggplant, and then toss that into the sauce. 

Can I Substitute the Sausage?

The Italian sausage adds a lot of flavor to this dish, but there are still a few options for substituting the sausage. You can use ground beef, turkey, or chicken, but you’ll probably want to double the Italian seasoning blend to make up for the herbs that are found in Italian sausage. You can also use a vegetarian Italian sausage alternative, or substitute with a pound of chopped mushrooms.

Front view of a wooden spoon lifting a scoopful of Baked Ziti from the casserole dish

What Should I Serve with Baked Ziti?

Homemade Garlic Bread is awesome with baked ziti, but if you want some vegetables on the side I would go with something like Oven Roasted Frozen Broccoli, or do a simple side salad of mixed greens with Italian dressing, and whatever vegetables you have in your fridge (tomatoes, mushrooms, carrots, etc.). 

How Long Does This Last?

This Baked Ziti will keep in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. I highly suggest dividing the leftovers into single servings so they cool quickly in the refrigerator. This recipe makes 8 large servings, so once the servings are cooled completely in the refrigerator, you can transfer a few to the freezer for longer storage. Then each serving is just a quick microwave away from being a filling last-minute dinner!

 

Classic Baked Ziti

Like a freeform lasagna, this Baked Ziti has layers of pasta, homemade red sauce with Italian sausage, and three types of melty cheese!

  • 1 lb. Italian sausage (sweet, mild, or hot) ($3.49)
  • 1 yellow onion ($0.27)
  • 3 oz. tomato paste ($0.27)
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes ($1.00)
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning blend ($0.30)
  • 1/2 cup water ($0.00)
  • 1 lb. ziti ($1.67)
  • 1/2 Tbsp salt (for pasta water) ($0.05)
  • 15 oz. ricotta ($1.69)
  • 1 cup Italian cheese blend* ($1.15)
  • freshly cracked black pepper ($0.05)
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella ($2.29)
  • 1 handful chopped parsley (optional, for garnish) ($0.20)
  1. Brown the sausage in a large skillet or pot over medium heat, until it's brown and crispy on the edges (pork sausage contains a lot of fat, so I didn't add any extra to the skillet).

  2. While the sausage is browning, finely dice the onion. Add the onion to the skillet once the sausage has browned, and continue to sauté over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent.

  3. Add the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and 1/2 cup water to the skillet with the sausage and stir to combine. Place a lid on the skillet and allow it to come up to a simmer. Once simmering, turn the heat down and allow it to continue to simmer while you cook the ziti. Stir the sauce occasionally as it simmers.

  4. After getting the sauce started, begin the ziti. Bring a large pot of water with 1/2 Tbsp salt to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add the ziti, and let it continue to boil until the ziti is tender (about 7-8 minutes). Drain the ziti in a colander. Shake the colander a bit to shake excess water out of the pasta.

  5. While the pasta and sauce are cooking, prepare the cheese filling. Add the ricotta, Italian cheese blend, and some freshly cracked black pepper (about 10 cranks of a pepper mill) to a bowl and stir to combine. Begin to preheat the oven to 350ºF.

  6. After draining the ziti, return it to the pot and add 1 cup of the red sauce. Stir to coat the cooked pasta in sauce.

  7. Pour half of the ziti to a 9×13" baking dish. Add half of the ricotta mixture on top of the ziti in small dollops. Finally, spoon half of the red sauce and sausage over the pasta and ricotta. It's okay if the ingredients don't cover in a solid layer. Repeat these layers with the second half of the pasta, ricotta mixture, and sauce. Finally, top with 2 cups shredded mozzarella.

  8. Cover the baking dish with foil, making sure it's slightly tented so that it doesn't touch or stick to the melted cheese. Transfer the covered casserole to the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

  9. After baking for 20 minutes, remove the foil, and turn the oven on to broil (keep the casserole on the middle rack, about 10-12 inches from the broiler). Broil for 5 minutes, or just until the cheese is slightly browned. Keep a close eye on the baked ziti as it broils, because broilers can vary in intensity. Top with chopped parsley, if desired, then serve.

*In place of Italian cheese blend you can use a mix of mozzarella and Parmesan.

Scroll down for the step by step photos!

A white plate with baked ziti, garlic bread, and a black fork.

 

How to Make Baked Ziti – Step by Step Photos

Browned Italian sausage in a skillet

Begin by browning 1 pound Italian sausage in a skillet until it is brown and crispy on the edges. Pork sausage has quite a bit of fat in it on its own, so I didn’t add any extra to the skillet.

Diced onion added to the skillet with the sausage

While the sausage is browning, finely dice a yellow onion. Add it to the skillet with the browned sausage and continue to sauté for a few minutes more, or until the onion is soft and translucent.

Crushed tomatoes being poured into the skillet, with sausage, onions, tomato paste, and Italian seasoning

Add 3 oz. tomato paste (half of a 6 oz. can – don’t forget to freeze the rest of the can!), 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning blend, one 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, and 1/2 cup water. Stir to combine, place a lid on the skillet, and let it come up to a simmer. Once simmering, turn the heat down to low and let it continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, while you begin cooking the ziti.

Boiled ziti in a pot of water with a wooden spoon

Once the sauce is simmering away, begin cooking the ziti. Bring a large pot of water with 1/2 Tbsp salt to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add 1 lb. ziti. Continue to boil the ziti until tender, then drain in a colander. Shake the colander a bit to shake out the excess water.

Ricotta, Italian cheese, and black pepper in a bowl

While the ziti is boiling and the sauce is simmering, make the ricotta cheese blend. Add 15 oz. ricotta, 1 cup Italian cheese blend, and some freshly cracked black pepper to a bowl. Stir to combine. Also begin to preheat the oven to 350ºF at the time.

Sauce being added to cooked ziti in the pot.

After draining the ziti, return it to the pot and add 1 cup of the red sauce. Stir to coat the ziti in the sauce.

First layers of pasta, cheese, and sauce in the casserole dish

Pour half of the sauce coated ziti into a 9×13″ casserole dish. Add half of the ricotta mixture on top of the ziti in small dollops, then add half of the red sauce on top. Don’t worry if the layers don’t cover each other in a solid layer. It doesn’t have to be perfect!

Second layers of pasta, ricotta, and sauce, and final layer of mozzarella

Repeat with a second layer of pasta, ricotta mixture, and sauce, then top with 2 cups shredded mozzarella.

Baked ziti with melted cheese and foil peeled back

Cover the casserole with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Make sure the foil is slightly tented so it doesn’t touch the cheese and stick when it melts.

Broiled baked ziti with browned cheese on top

After baking for 20 minutes, remove the foil, turn the oven to broil, and return the casserole to the oven (keep it on the middle rack, about 10-12 inches from the broiler). Broil for about 5 minutes, or just until the cheese is browned on top. Keep a close eye as it broils because broilers can vary in intensity.

Finished baked ziti casserole topped with chopped parsley and a wooden spoon on the side

Garnish with a little chopped parsley, if desired, then serve!

Overhead view of a spoon just beginning to dig into the baked ziti casserole

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Easy Baked Homemade Croutons

I whipped up a quick small batch of these easy baked homemade croutons this past week when I made my Rosemary Garlic White Bean Soup and I thought, “I really need to share how easy these are.” Because not only do their crispy, crunchy texture really take any soup or salad to the next level, […]

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I whipped up a quick small batch of these easy baked homemade croutons this past week when I made my Rosemary Garlic White Bean Soup and I thought, “I really need to share how easy these are.” Because not only do their crispy, crunchy texture really take any soup or salad to the next level, they’re a great way to use up leftover bread. Win-win!

A large salad with romaine, Parmesan, grape tomatoes, and easy baked homemade croutons.

How to Use Homemade Croutons

Croutons are a classic crunchy salad topper, but they’re also fantastic in any sort of thick soup, like Tomato Soup, Split Pea Soup, Rosemary Garlic White Bean Soup, or even my Smoky Potato and Chickpea Stew.

Croutons can also be crumbled and used as a crunchy topping for pasta (as a non-dairy alternative to Parmesan), or even crushed and used as a breading for meat or fish in place of regular or panko bread crumbs.

Flavor Your Homemade Croutons

The recipe below is for basic garlic herb homemade croutons, but I actually think they’re great even when seasoned with just salt! Some other seasoning ideas include: adding grated Parmesan, Cajun seasoning, cracked pepper and sea salt, or rosemary and pepper (fresh rosemary is probably best for this one, chopped finely).

Front view of a large salad in a bowl topped with homemade croutons

What Kind of Bread is Best for Homemade Croutons?

You definitely want to get a really sturdy, crusty, fairly dense bread for homemade croutons. Anything light and airy, like white sandwich bread, will just not have the structure needed to make a good crouton. It will dissolve in your mouth like cotton candy instead of giving you a nice crunch!

Your bread can be either fresh or stale when you make homemade croutons. In fact, it’s a fantastic way to use up the ends of a loaf of bread that is on its way out.

How to Store Homemade Croutons

I made this a small batch recipe, only about 3-4 cups, or about 4 servings, because homemade croutons are definitely best when made fresh. After baking and cooling, you can store leftover croutons in an air-tight container, but they will probably go stale a bit faster than store bought croutons (the actual length of time will vary based on several factors). To extend their shelf life, you can freeze your homemade croutons (again, in an air-tight container).

 

Easy Baked Homemade Croutons

Homemade croutons are a super easy to make, and their crispy, crunchy texture takes any soup or salad to the next level! Only five ingredients!

  • 4 slices sturdy bread ($0.33)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil ($0.32)
  • 1/4 tsp Italian seasoning blend ($0.03)
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder ($0.02)
  • 1/8 tsp salt ($0.01)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Cut the bread into 1/2-inch cubes. You should have about 4 loosely packed cups of bread cubes.

  2. Place the cubed bread in a large bowl and drizzle the olive oil over top. Use a spatula or your hands to gently toss the bread cubes until they are coated in oil.

  3. Combine the Italian seasoning blend, garlic powder, and salt in a small bowl, then sprinkle the mixture over the bread cubes. Gently toss the bread cubes again until they are evenly coated in seasoning.

  4. Spread the seasoned bread out onto a baking sheet. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake for about 10 minutes*, checking the color of the bread every 5 minutes. Stir the croutons and bake for an additional 2-3 minutes, if needed, to get the croutons to a nice deep golden brown color. Let the croutons cool slightly before serving.

*The cook time can vary significantly depending on the density and moisture level of the bread (whether it is stale or fresh), so check the croutons every five minutes.

Step by Step Photos

Four slices of French Bread on a cutting board next to the rest of the loaf.

This is a small batch recipe for homemade croutons because I believe they’re best when made fresh, and this batch size is perfect for when you only have a few slices of bread left! You’ll need about 4 slices of bread or about 4 cups once cubed. Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Cubed bread on a cutting board next to two slices of bread

Cut the bread into 1/2-inch cubes. It’s best to try to get the cubes into a fairly uniform size so they bake evenly. You can also tear the bread into chunks for a more rustic look, but again, try to get them fairly uniform in size.

Oil being drizzled over bread cubes in a bowl

Place the bread cubes in a large bowl and drizzle 2 Tbsp olive oil over top. Gently toss the bread cubes until they are coated in oil.

Herbs being sprinkled over bread cubes.

Combining the seasoning in a small bowl first helps them be more evenly distributed on the croutons. Combine 1/4 tsp Italian seasoning blend, 1/8 tsp garlic powder, and 1/8 tsp salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle the herbs over the bread cubes and gently toss again until they are coated.

Homemade Croutons on the baking sheet ready to bake

Spread the seasoned bread cubes out onto a baking sheet, then transfer them to the oven.

Baked homemade croutons on the baking sheet

The baking time for the croutons can vary quite a bit depending on the density of your bread and its moisture level, so check them every 5 minutes or so. When they’re just starting to turn golden, give them a stir, and bake for a few more minutes until they are deeply golden. My croutons baked for 10 minutes, then I stirred, and baked for 2 minutes more. Let the croutons cool slightly before serving.

Overhead view of a large salad bowl with easy homemade baked croutons, Parmesan, and tomatoes.

Stale bread never tasted so good. 😜

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Baked Pizza Chicken

One of the coolest things about having been blogging for over ten years is seeing how my cooking style and skills have changed through this experience. One of my first recipes to go viral was my Pepperoni Stuffed Chicken. It was a tasty recipe for sure, but way too much work for current day Beth. […]

The post Baked Pizza Chicken appeared first on Budget Bytes.

One of the coolest things about having been blogging for over ten years is seeing how my cooking style and skills have changed through this experience. One of my first recipes to go viral was my Pepperoni Stuffed Chicken. It was a tasty recipe for sure, but way too much work for current day Beth. 😅 This Baked Pepperoni Chicken is an easier, just as delicious interpretation of pizza-style chicken. It’s perfect for weeknight dinners and holds up in the refrigerator for meal preps. Hopefully you’ll appreciate the lack of breading, stuffing, and frying in this newer version as much as I did.

Close up of Baked Pizza Chicken on a plate with salad and garlic bread, the chicken cut into pieces.

How to Serve Baked Pizza Chicken

I plated my Baked Pizza Chicken with some Homemade Garlic Bread and simple salad of spring mix with light coating of Italian dressing. I like to keep my side dishes simple so that dinner doesn’t get over complicated. Bonus: you can bake the garlic bread in the oven during the last 5 minutes or so that the chicken cooks.

You could also serve your pizza chicken over a bed of pasta with red sauce. 

Another fun way to eat this Baked Pizza Chicken would be to make a sort of chicken sandwich out of it. Put it on a roll with a little extra pizza sauce, maybe some sliced red onion, and treat it like a meatball sandwich!

Is Fresh Mozzarella a Must?

Fresh mozzarella (the type packed in water) definitely works best because it melts so beautifully, but it can be pricey. If you’re lucky enough to live near an Aldi, you can get it for a steal, like I did. If you can’t get fresh mozzarella for a good price the next best is full-fat mozzarella (not packed in water). And as a last resort, you can use part-skim mozzarella. Part-skim is dryer and does not melt as smoothly, but it will work in a pinch.

Can I Add Other Toppings?

Sure! If you want to add more than just pepperoni, I suggest chopping the toppings up in to very small pieces so they kind of get stuck in the cheese and don’t fall off. Red onion would be awesome, as would black olives and maybe some finely diced bell pepper.

Front view of a piece of Baked Pizza Chicken on a plate with salad and garlic bread.

 

Baked Pizza Chicken

This easy Baked Pizza Chicken is the perfect fast and easy weeknight dinner. The chicken cooks quickly and always stays tender and juicy!

  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning blend ($0.30)
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder ($0.02)
  • 1/8 tsp salt ($0.01)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil ($0.32)
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2/3 lb. each) ($7.64)
  • 1/4 cup pizza sauce ($0.17)
  • 4 oz. fresh mozzarella ($1.33)
  • 8 slices pepperoni ($0.23)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. In a small bowl, stir together the Italian seasoning blend, garlic powder, salt, and olive oil.

  2. Place the chicken breasts on a cutting board and cover with a piece of plastic wrap to prevent splatter. Use a mallet or rolling pin to pound the chicken to an even thickness, about 3/4-inch thick. Cut each chicken breast in half to make two equal sized pieces.

  3. Place the chicken breasts in a shallow baking dish or on a baking sheet, making sure they have at least an inch of space around them. Spread the oil and herb mixture over the surface of each piece of chicken.

  4. Bake the chicken in the fully preheated 400ºF oven for 15 minutes. While the chicken in baking, slice the mozzarella.

  5. After 15 minutes, remove the chicken from the oven. Spread 1 Tbsp pizza sauce over the surface of each piece. Next top each piece with about 1oz. mozzarella and two slices of pepperoni.

  6. Return the chicken to the oven and bake for 5-7 minutes more, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165ºF. Remove from the oven and serve.

Scroll down to see the step by step photos!

A fork taking a piece of Baked Pizza Chicken from the plate with chicken, garlic bread, and salad.

Step by Step Photos

Italian herb and oil mixture

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. In a small bowl, combine 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning blend, 1/8 tsp garlic powder, 1/8 tsp salt, and 2 Tbsp olive oil.

Chicken breasts on a cutting board covered with plastic with a rolling pin on the side.

Place two boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2/3 lb. each)on a cutting board and cover with a piece of plastic wrap. Use a mallet or rolling pin to pound the chicken to an even thickness, about 3/4-inch thick. This helps the chicken cook quickly and evenly in the oven.

Chicken breasts cut into two pieces

Since 2/3 pound is a LOT of chicken per serving, I always cut my chicken breasts in half. I like to cut on a diagonal to make two pieces that are similar in shape to the original piece.

Chicken coated in herbs and oil in a baking dish.

Place the chicken pieces in a shallow baking dish or baking sheet, making sure there’s about an inch of space all around. Coat the chicken pieces in the Italian herb and oil mixture. Bake the chicken for 15 minutes in the preheated 400ºF oven. While the chicken is baking, slice 4 oz. of fresh mozzarella.

Pizza sauce being spread over the baked chicken pieces.

After 15 minutes, take the chicken out and add about 1 Tbsp pizza sauce to each piece. Spread the sauce over the surface of the chicken.

Mozzarella and pepperoni added to the chicken pieces.

Next, add about 1 oz. fresh mozzarella to each piece of chicken, then finish each with two slices of pepperoni. 

Baked Pizza Chicken with melted mozzarella and an instant read thermometer showing 163 degrees.

Return the chicken to the oven and bake for an additional 5-7 minutes, or until the mozzarella is melted and the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165ºF. Mine was at 163ºF after 5 minutes, so I gave it 1-2 more minutes in the oven. The total cooking time will depend on the size of your chicken pieces and how long the chicken was out of the oven while adding the toppings. 

Two plates with Baked Chicken Pizza, salad, and garlic bread next to a cutting board with more garlic bread.

Then your Baked Pizza Chicken is ready to serve! Dig in and enjoy that juicy chicken, melty mozzarella, flavorful Italian herbs, and spicy pepperoni!

Front view of a piece of Baked Pizza Chicken cut into pieces on a plate.

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