One bottle of dressing…endless possibilities

Italian dressing is your best kitchen hack

I love using salad dressings to help me produce big flavor with little time and a budget. My current favorite is a certain chain restaurant creamy Italian dressing. I can usually find it on almost any grocery store shelf but I buy the large bottles from a bulk store since my family goes through so much of it. Any bottle of your favorite Italian dressing from creamy to zesty will work for these recipes though. You can also make your own, and I have included my favorite homemade recipe as well.

Zesty homemade Italian Dressing

When your family has dietary restrictions or you just have run out of your favorite Italian dressing reach for some basic pantry ingredients to make your own delicious dressing. Since this homemade version does not contain emulsifiers or chemical stabilizers it will separate and firm up. Simply set it out on the counter for 15 minutes and then give it a good shake.

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

3 Tbsp white wine vinegar

1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, finely grated

1 Tbsp mayonnaise

1 tsp granulated sugar

1 garlic clove, finely grated or pressed

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp dried parsley

1/2 tsp dried basil

3/4 tsp fine sea salt, or added to taste

1/2 tsp black pepper, or to taste

Combine all ingredients in a mason jar, cover tightly with lid and shake until well combined and emulsified.* Add more salt to taste if desired. Use right away or refrigerate up to 2 weeks.

Antipasto Pasta Salad

This is a family favorite. A heart pasta/meat/cheese combination with all the flavors of an antipasto platter it can be either a main dish or a side dish.

8 oz hard salami (pre sliced or link)

8 oz pepperoni (link or pre sliced)

8 oz sharp cheddar (yellow)

8 oz monterey jack

8 oz roasted red pepper strips

1/3 cup hot banana pepper rings chopped (or cowboy candy chopped)

1 pound rotini, shells or favorite pasta for salad cooked according to package

1/2-3/4 cups italian dressing

1/2 cup fresh parsley

Dice or slice all meats. Cube cheese. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve. This is fine right away but really tastes great after sitting for a few hours with a quick shot of grated parmesan and fresh ground pepper.

Sausage and white bean pasta

This is one of my kids’ favorite quick lunches or supper dishes. Served with a side of broccoli and a salad it makes an easy meal that I can have done in thirty minutes.

1 pound italian sausage or andouille

1 15 oz can cannelloni beans (white beans)

1 pound rigatoni or other large pasta

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 cup of halved grape tomatoes (if you like these)

1/2 cup-2/3 cup italian dressing

Cook pasta according to box directions. While pasta cooks brown sausage in a large deep non-stick or cast iron skillet. After sausage is browned (do not drain grease) turn heat to low and add in garlic, beans, dressing and grape tomatoes. Cook just until everything is heated through. When pasta is done drain but do not rinse. Add pasta into sausage mix and stir to thoroughly combine and coat the pasta. Serve with fresh parsley and parmesan cheese.

Quick chicken mozzarella

The base for this recipe came from an experiment one night with some chicken to keep it from drying out when it needed to be cooked but sit for a while without drying out. This is great for dinner parties or when the food needs to be available for a bit for a group of people.

3 pounds chicken thighs or cut of choice (adjust cooking time accordingly)

1 cup italian dressing

1 cup chicken broth

12 oz package frozen broccoli florets

4 oz shredded mozzarella

Pat chicken dry and season liberally with salt, pepper and garlic powder. In a deep, large skillet or dutch oven cook chicken in oil of choice until nice and brown. Don’t worry about cooking through as it will finish in the oven. Remove chicken to a plate and add in dressing and broth, warming up and scraping up all the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Add broccoli and chicken back into liquid. Cover and place in oven (does not need preheated). Set oven to 350 and cook for at least 30 minutes or until instant read thermometer in chicken reads 165 and broccoli is done. Remove the lid and sprinkle cheese over the chicken and return to the oven until mozzarella is melted. You can recover and keep in the oven on low until ready to serve or serve immediately.

Spoon any cooking liquid over sliced and served chicken. We like this served with a green salad and roasted potatoes.