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Spicy Chicken Sausage, Kale, Pesto Freeform Gluten Free Lasagna

Spicy Chicken Sausage, Kale, Pesto Freeform Gluten Free Lasagna

One of my all time favorite pastas is orechiette with sausage and bitter greens. It’s garlicky, meaty and so comforting. Since I try to steer clear of as much pork and beef as possible, chicken sausage has become my new favorite go to substitute. I decided to spin this classic rustic Italian dish and make it into lasagna. I added pesto to offer a bit of extra flavor and brightness to the earthy flavors and it works perfectly.

Since going gluten free I have seen the gluten free pasta market change drastically over the last few years. There are a ton of great options out there it’s just a matter of experimenting with ones you like best.


I have found with most gluten free noodles they can be very temperamental, especially when it comes to cooking whole lasagna. Sometimes the noodles over cook and get mushy, or sticky. Stacking this lasagna individually using already cooked noodles to create almost like a “freeform” dish is the way to have the best, most consistent results.


Another option for my grain free peeps is to use zucchini ribbons as your noodles. The results are just as delicious and you are saving yourself all the carbs. Zucchinis have a ton of water in them, so the trick here is to blanch the ribbons of zucchini in some boiling salted water for 30 seconds. Strain them in a colander and then lay them out on paper towels to dry. I found that this method helps purge the zucchini of it’s water content, keeps your lasagna nice and firm, and prevents your sauce from being watered down.


The best way to make the zucchini ribbons is to use a mandolin. This will ensure nice, thin, even slices. You want each slice to be about 1/4″ thick. If you don’t have a mandolin, it’s okay you can do this by hand and practice your awesome knife skills.

I went with the regular pasta this time. It’s still winter and I am still in hibernation mode.

Spicy Chicken Sausage, Kale, Pesto Freeform Gluten Free Lasagna

(serves 4)
  • 1 lb gluten free lasagna noodles, cooked according to package. (make sure if they are brown rice based to rinse them well under cold water after they are done cooking, it helps get rid of excess starch which makes it gummy)

    2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 spicy Italian chicken sausages, casing removed
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 4 cups shredded dino kale
  • pinch of chili flakes
  • 1 (16 ounce) container ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper


  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 1 cup Italian parsely
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  • Pulse basil, parsley and garlic in a food processor. Once the herbs are broken down, turn the machine on and stream in the olive oil, turn the machine off as soon as the paste starts to come together. Season with salt, and set aside.
  1. Preheat the broiler on your oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grease with a tablespoon of olive oil.
  2. In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the chicken sausage and break up the meat into tiny pieces with the back of a spoon. Cook the sausage until almost golden brown, about 5 minutes. Next add the smashed garlic and stir around for 30 seconds or so. Next add your kale in and a small pinch of salt. Cook for 2 minutes, or just until the kale is wilted but doesn’t lose it’s vibrancy. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
  3. In a medium sized bowl add the ricotta, salt, pepper and a 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese. Mix to combine. Set aside.
  4. Take your cooked lasagna noodles and cut each one into two pieces. Starting with the first layer, place the cut noodle on the parchment paper. Layer with a good spread of ricotta, sprinkle an even layer of sausage and kale, spoon a bit of pesto on top and then sprinkle with cheese, top with another noodle and press down gently to even it out. Repeat this method two more times. Ricotta, sausage and kale, pesto and cheese. When you have finished all 4 lasagnas, top with one more layer of noodle and top that layer with just pesto and parmesan cheese.
  5. Place the baking sheet in the oven, on the bottom shelf. The broiler will start to crispy the top while heating the rest of the ingredients through. Bake for 3-4 minutes, watching the oven carefully. If you want the top even crispier move to the top shelf for 30-40 seconds at the end.

Dinner Party for under $30 and A Night of 1000 Dinners

“140 million children have lost one or both parents. For every three months spent in an orphanage, a child loses one month of developmental skills. Worldwide Orphans brings play, education, health and psychosocial development to orphans and vulnerable children through our programs focused on attachment, early intervention, healthcare and the arts. We work closely with communities to build capacity and raise awareness of the critical importance of play to help address the effects of trauma in children.”

– Worldwide Orphans


Recently, I have been fortunate enough to get involved with an incredible charity called Worldwide Orphans and this week I am participating in their “Night of 1000 dinners” to help raise awareness and funds for orphans and at risk children. Worldwide Orphans is an incredible organization that was introduced to me by my friend Connie Britton, who’s giant heart for others and dedication to making the world a better place inspires me everyday. When she mentioned the idea of Night of a 1000 dinners, I jumped at the opportunity.

The idea is simple. Throw a party, start the conversation, and raise awareness. I believe nothing brings people together like breaking bread at a table, and it’s even better when it’s for a good cause. Food is the powerful language of the world and can be used to gather people in a way that allows us all to feel a part of a community and more importantly, loved. It’s important to share that love with others and that’s why the Night of a 1000 dinners is so important to me.

Too often we take for granted the love that we receive everyday, especially the love that we get from a parent. I can’t imagine going through life not knowing the sweet loving touch of my mother’s hand when I was sad, or my dad’s giant bear hugs whenever I won a basketball game. These kids don’t have that. I believe it’s everyone’s right to know that they are loved by someone, anyone, and why can’t that someone be us? We live in a time where it’s easy to get lost in our own worlds, we are too busy for our own good, and we often don’t make the time for others. This event is a great reminder to all of us that it doesn’t take much to make a huge difference in someone’s life.

Ethiopia (2)

When I sent out my invites I had asked everyone to bring a small donation, an open heart and an empty stomach. Being on a tight budget myself I wanted to create a menu that was delicious, impressive but didn’t cost an arm and a leg. I also wanted to have enough left over to be able to donate some money to the charity as well. Below are two great, inexpensive, healthy, fresh, and delicious recipes that will wow your guests. These recipes are enough to serve 6-8 people for under $30, which is pretty darn good if you ask me! Some of the ingredients you might have in your pantry already, so you can be super resourceful:)
For my menu I decided to serve a Shaved Fennel, Caramelized Corn, and Summer Peach Salad and Shell Pasta with Broccoli Raab and Spicy Chicken Sausage.

peach salad
pasta broccoli raab

Both of these dishes can feed a crowd and hold really well, so if guests come and go you don’t have to worry about being in the kitchen the whole time.

If you can’t throw a party on Saturday, that’s totally okay! People are throwing their own Night of 1000 dinners all month long.

If you have any questions on how to throw your own party and for more information about Worldwide Orphans CLICK HERE. I encourage you to check it out. I promise the reward will be greater than you know!


(serves 6)
  • 2 large bulbs fennel, shaved or sliced thin
  • 2 large ripe peaches, sliced thin
  • 1 1/2 cups arugula
  • 4 ears of corn
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 lemons, juiced and zested
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shaved
  • kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
  1. Heat a medium skillet on high heat. Cut kernels from corn cob. Add 2 tablespoons oil into the skillet and toss in corn kernels. Cook on high heat for about 3-4 minutes allowing the corn to get some color. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and fresh cracked pepper. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  2. In a large bowl add the shaved fennel, sliced peached, arugula, shaved parmesan, the cooled corn, olive oil, lemon, 1 teaspoon of lemon zest a good pinch of salt and lots of cracked pepper. Toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Gluten Free Shell Pasta with Broccoli Raab and Spicy Chicken Sausage

(serves 6)
  • 1 pound gluten free pasta shells (I used Tinkyada’s) you can also use regular orchiette pasta or shells
  • 1 1/2 pounds spicy chicken sausage, casing removed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for garnish
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 bunch broccoli raab, rinsed and chopped
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper chili flakes
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a good amount of salt so the water tastes like the ocean. Cook pasta 2 minutes under what the package says for the cook time. Drain, but make sure to reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. If you are using a gluten free brown rice pasta, make sure to rinse the pasta well under cold water to remove all the starch. This will prevent the pasta from getting gummy. While the pasta is cooking:
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add 2 cloves of garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes, just until the edges start to slightly brown. Remove the garlic and discard. Add sausage into the skillet and using a wooden spoon break up the meat and cook for 8 minutes, or until the meat is brown and crispy.
  3. Add in the broccoli raab, and red chili flakes and cook for another 2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the 1 cup of pasta water, scraping up all the brown bits off the bottom of pan. Add pasta into the skillet and toss to coat. Add in 1 cup of parmesan, the juice and zest of a lemon and mix until creamy.
  4. To serve, place pasta in a large bowl and top with a few good glugs of olive oil, more cheese, cracked black pepper, and red chili flakes.

Gluten Free Calamari Pasta

Happy New Year Y’all! Back in December I went on my mom’s show on the Hallmark Channel called “Home and Family”. On my cooking segment I shared with the audience the recipe to my Nona’s calamari pasta recipe. Every Christmas Eve, all of the cousins charge into the house anxiously awaiting the bowls and bowls of calamari pasta we are about to consume. My Nona’s recipe is legendary, even the seafood haters who come to our Christmas Eve feast, end up leaving, calamari addicts. My Nona’s sauce has depth, it’s not fishy by any means, its earthy, hearty, briny and sweet all at the same time. I put a few twists of my own in there, and managed to perfect her recipe. Sometimes I will even double the sauce and skip the pasta all together and just eat the sauce, it’s that good.

Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage & Maple Brown Butter Sauce

My Nona and I fought long and hard about this recipe, as she is about as traditional as “the wheel”. Her handmade pasta and gnocchi recipes have been passed down from generation to generation and they are fantastic! But trying to explain to her WHY I can’t use flour is like trying to explain Quantum Physics to Paris Hilton….actually I think that might be an easier task…my Nona is quite the stubborn one.
“What you mean Alessandra, no eh flour?! That’s eh like making a Bolognese with no meat!” my Nona screamed at me.
“Nona, I am allergic.”
“Allergic to who?”
“To flour!”
“What do you mean why? I don’t know why I just am. But I came up with a gnocchi recipe…”
“HOW YOU GUNNA EH MAKE GNOCCHI WITH NO FLOUR?!” she quickly interrupted (With the way she screamed you would of thought someone had just died) My Nona is small but OH MY GOD her voice can break a sound barrier.

Kitchen Aid and Cook for the Cure

I am SO honored that KitchenAid asked me to do a blog posting about Mother’s day in hopes to raise awareness about their Cook for the Cure program. This cause has touched my heart in a way that I couldn’t possibly not be a part of it. By purchasing Cook for the Cure products it allows people like us in the food community to help make a difference in the advancement of finding a cure for breast cancer. To get a full list of KitchenAid’s Cook for the Cure products, click here. These products are a perfect gift for mother’s day, not only do they look FABULOUS but they are a reminder of all the positive advancements we are making in order to finally find a cure for breast cancer.

I wrote a blog below about my mother and what my sister and I will be making for her and our grandmother Nona on Mother’s day this year. In each recipe my sister and I used at least one of the KitchenAid products featured below and trust me they made all the difference. I am so excited I get to give away 3 pieces from the KitchenAid Cook for the Cure line on my blog this week! Details on how to enter are below this blog! (yes, that means you have to read it) Here is what YOU could win! (cue the cheesy game show music…daaahhh dummmmdeeee dummm)

Inspiration From My Nona’s Kitchen

Woh. It’s about to get real serious up in here. Very rarely do I get emotional, or sappy in anyway, unless of course I am talking about my family; my Nona especially. My Nona is someone who is very very special to me. My fondest memories growing up were in the kitchen with all of my cousins at my Nona and Popi’s house. My Popi would sit in his chair in the living room and drink glass after glass of cheap red wine (which he would call his “Medicina”), while my Nona stood over a hot stove preparing lunch for all of us kids. The smells of sweet garlic would perfume the air as my Nona prepared the marinara sauce. All of us kids were like giant balls of energy. Running around, knocking things over, screaming, laughing and playing.
“OHHH MAH GAHD, Alessandra stop eh running everywhere you are going to kill eh someone! Tavio! (My Popi’s name) Do something about dees kids!”
Popi would call us over to where he was sitting,”Hey little Stronzos, come over here and sit with Popi.”

Porcini Mushroom Risotto with Truffle Oil

If you can’t get your hands on truffle oil DON’T WORRY.
This risotto is nothing short of gorgeous with or without the truffle oil.
The woodsy, rich flavor of the Porcini mushroom gives this risotto a savory, comforting quality that warms your insides and makes this dish the ultimate comfort food.
I use dry Porcini mushrooms and re-constitute them in veggie stock. After removing the mushrooms from the stock I use the mushroom infused stock to make the risotto, that way the flavor of the Porcini slaps you in the mouth every time you take a bite.
I made this exact recipe with brown rice as well and it turned out great! If you want to bump up your fiber and protein, sub out brown rice for the Arborio. (I can already hear my Nona screaming at me…) Now, it’s true you will not get the same creamy texture with the brown rice as you do with Arborio, but it still tastes great. Options people, options.