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The Monte Bene Blog

Gluten-Free, the Natural Way

Gluten-Free, the Natural Way

What does it mean to have a gluten-free diet?

November is all about Gluten-Free Diet Awareness. There’s a lot of information out there about gluten-free diets. Sometimes it’s hard to know what is fact and what is just part of a fad. We’ve drawn up a quick list of facts about eating gluten-free. This month we’ll also be featuring gluten free recipes using our Monte Bene pasta sauces, all of which are gluten free.

What is gluten? Gluten is the name given to specific types of proteins found in wheat. It’s the stuff that helps nourish the wheat during germination and the stuff that helps make the dough elastic. In turn, it makes the bread more chewy. Gluten is like the “glue” that helps hold food together. Gluten can also be found in rye, barley and other cross-bred grains. Here are some of the more common foods that contain gluten:

  • Bread
  • Cereal
  • Beer
  • Soup
  • Pasta
  • Some sauces 

Why have a gluten-free diet? There are different reasons why someone might choose to have a gluten free diet. The most serious one is celiac disease.

  • Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the consumption of gluten results in damage to the small intestine. According to, when people with celiac disease eat gluten, their body launches an immune response that attacks their small intestine. The damage done to the small intestine hinders proper nutrient absorption in the body. Long term effects of celiac disease can include other autoimmune disorders like Type I Diabetes and cancer. About 1 in 100 people suffer from celiac disease. 
  • Gluten sensitivity is a condition that has many of the same symptoms as celiac disease but cannot be fully diagnosed as celiac disease. The symptoms go away when gluten is removed from the diet. 

The only known way to treat celiac disease or gluten sensitivity is to remove gluten from your diet. 

How do you know if you have a gluten sensitivity? Be aware that you should never diagnose yourself with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. Always check with a doctor before making drastic changes to your diet. Symptoms of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity include fatigue, bone or joint pain, anemia, weight loss or weight gain, headaches and much more.

Removing gluten from your diet seems like a lot of work. Doesn’t everything have gluten in it? You’d be surprised to learn how many things are naturally gluten-free. In fact, a lot of the major food groups don’t contain any gluten. Here are many of the foods that are safe to consume on a gluten free diet (according to 

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Red Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish and seafood
  • Beans and legumes
  • Dairy
  • Rice
  • Corn
  • Potatoes
  • Nuts and soy
  • Flax and chia
  • Quinoa 

You can also find lots of items that are specially made to be gluten free. Our pasta sauces are naturally gluten free, meaning we don’t add anything or take anything from our natural ingredients to make them gluten free.

Even if you don’t need to eat gluten-free, it's important never to eat too much of one food group. Eating a balanced diet of fresh, clean ingredients is the best way to stay healthy and feel great. 




Sources and Resources:

"What is Gluten?"

"Gluten-Free Diet Awareness Month."

"What is Gluten?"

"Food Options."

"What is Celiac Disease?" 

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What You Didn't Know About Halloween (The Italian Perspective)

What You Didn't Know About Halloween (The Italian Perspective)

It’s the big question on everyone’s mind at this time of year. The weather is
beginning to get crisp (or already is), and nothing sounds like more fun than traipsing from door to door, tripping over jack-o-lanterns, and asking for candy. But first we all have to ask ourselves one thing: what will I be for Halloween this year?

The familiar question is actually a pretty new one in Italy. The first “real” Halloween
celebration in Italy was in 1993, when a bunch of young people got together to have an “American” Halloween. They chose a famous, spooky bridge in Tuscany to play games, hold costume contests, and watch scary movies. According to legend, the “Ponto della Maddelena,” – an elaborate bridge with impressive arches – was built with the help of an evil spirit, making it the perfect place to celebrate the spooky holiday.

But while Halloween is becoming a more popular holiday in Italy – with haunted amusement parks and Halloween candy popping up all over the country – the real celebration takes place on the days following the last night of October.

The Ponto della Maddelena 

The first of November is known as All Saints Day, a day in which Italians celebrate the deceased whose souls are believed to be in heaven. All Souls Day is on the second of November, meant to commemorate the souls of departed loved ones who haven’t quite made it to heaven yet. “Halloween” is actually derived from “All-Hallows-Eve,” the Eve of the Holy Ones, or Eve of All Saints Day.

The trio of celebrations are actually all part of the Roman Catholic tradition (the major religion in Italy), but the tradition of remembering the departed with special festivities grew out of pagan traditions of celebrating the dead.  

The pagan Irish, Scottish, and Romans (just to name a few) all believed that the late fall – when the harvest was in and the earth was barren and gray – was when the dead spirits wandered the earth. The spirits would often visit their earthly homes before journeying on to the next life. The jack-o-lantern comes out of the Celtic tradition of “Samhein,” an end-of-harvest celebration of lights. The light glowing in the gourds was meant to scare off evil spirits (who also wandered with the good spirits). Parentalia was a Roman festival during which the Romans quietly remembered and honored their deceased parents. They brought offerings to tombs and celebrated with their families in the late fall. As time went on – and the Roman Catholic religion had its effect on Europe – the celebrations gradually evolved into what we have now. Dressing up and trick-or-treating, therefore, aren’t exclusively American, but came out of the traditions of the English, Irish, and even Romans. European immigrants brought their traditions over to America where the celebration took on the lively character we all know and love.

Italian Halloween at the Ponto della Maddelena, while Americanized, still keeps with the more Italian celebrations of All Saints and All Souls Days.  “Ponto della Maddelena” means “The Bridge of St. Mary Magdalene.” While the old bridge may have a spooky legend, it is in fact dedicated to a saint, making it the perfect place to celebrate Halloween one night and the more traditional Italian holiday the next morning.

Wherever Halloween and its surrounding holidays are celebrated, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. People want to believe that their departed loved ones still walk among us, or – if not quite – are never too far away.


"A Brief History of Halloween in America."

"The Devil's Bridge at Borgo A Mazzano."

"A Most Unholy Architecture: Six Devil's Bridges."

"Ponte della Maddalena."

"Pumpkins in Italy."

"Halloween in Italy."

"Garfagnana: The Devil's Bridge." 

"All Saints." 

"All Hallows Eve." 

"Halloween Italian Style." 


"All Saints Day."




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Why "Al Dente?" : 6 Tips for Making Amazing (and Perfect) Pasta


If you take a look at most of our recipes, you’ll see that we say to cook your pasta “al dente.” It sounds like just a fancy term for making sure your noodles are done. “Al dente” literally means “to the tooth” in Italian. That means that well-cooked pasta must have a soft bite, a “snap” that you can feel when you chew. Why?

Go back about six hundred years and you won’t find these instructions in Italian cookbooks. In their history book, "Italian Cuisine,” authors Alberto Capatti and Massimo Montanari explain that in the 1500s, the proper cooking time for macaroni was about 2 hours. Apparently Italians of the renaissance preferred their pasta to be mush. It’s not clear when exactly firmer pasta became the thing, but we’re glad it did. The taste of the pasta comes out so much better in al dente pasta, which we think offers the reason for the change in cooking time.

But lucky for all of us, there’s actually more to the cooking technique than the texture and the flavor. Eating your noodles al dente is actually healthier for you.

Hot water breaks down the molecule bonds in starches – that’s how it turns dry pasta into cooked pasta. The longer the noodles are cooked, the more the molecules are broken down, and the faster your body can convert those carbs into fuel. That fast breakdown causes blood sugar levels to rise suddenly and then crash only a few hours later, leaving you tired and hungry again. When pasta is cooked al dente, it takes longer for your body to break down those carbs, which keeps your blood sugar levels more stable and your body more sufficiently fueled and filled. The result? You’re less likely to overeat or to eat unhealthy snacks after your meal. Keeping those blood sugar levels stable can prevent weight gain and type two diabetes.

So here are 6 tips for cooking your pasta to (al dente) perfection:

  1. Use the right pot: The bigger the better, but make sure it’s light enough so you can easily lift it to drain your pasta. Marcella Hazan (famous chef) suggests using enameled aluminum that heats quickly and is easy to handle.
  2. Use enough water: You should never use less than 3 quarts of water for your pasta, regardless of how much you’re making. Good Italian cooking says you should use 4 to 6 quarts of water per pound of pasta.
  3. Use just enough salt: Add salt once the water begins to boil but before you add the pasta. Let the water come to a boil again before adding your noodles. Use about 1 ½ tbsp. salt per 4 quarts of water.
  4. Test your pasta: Follow the directions on your dried pasta package for al dente pasta, but never trust that the suggested time is completely accurate. There’s nothing wrong with tasting a noodle or two intermittently to check the texture and to keep from overcooking the pasta. 
  5. Drain right on time: Once your pasta reaches that perfect al dente texture, drain it immediately. Even a minute too long can throw off the consistency of your pasta.
  6. Toss with sauce: You’ll notice that most of our recipes say to toss your cooked pasta in a cup of sauce. There are two reasons for this. For one, it prevents the noodles from sticking together. Just as importantly, it coats each noodle with sauce so that you get the perfect combination of noodle and sauce in each and every bite. Pasta, after all, was made for sauce. 



Hazan, Marcella. Essential of Classic Italian Cooking. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997: 126-128.

Capatti, Alberto & Massimo Monanaar. Italian Cuisine: A Cultural History. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003: 54.

"10 Ways to Slim Down Your Pasta Dinner." 

"Can Noodles Ever be Healthy?" 

"Taste and Health: Two Big Reasons to Cook All Your Pata Al Dente." 

"How Much Water Does Pasta Really Need?" 

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Happy National Pasta Month!

Happy National Pasta Month!

To celebrate October--which is so much more than just a great time for costumes, candy, and colorful autumn foliage--we are going to be raining down fun facts and tasty recipes all to do with some of our favorite things: pasta and Italy. 

We're going to start off this month with some Italian tastes and tales that can help you and your family get as excited about this month as we are! 

And now for a little Italian charm...

One Italian folktale narrates the story of a barren queen who envies a blossoming rosemary bush. Shortly after seeing the plant, the queen is blessed with a baby—a little rosemary bush of her own! Not until her nephew, the King of Spain, steals the bush and places it in his garden does a beautiful girl appear from the leaves. He visits her daily, playing her songs on his flute, but one day, war breaks out, and he must go to protect his country. When the king leaves, his jealous sisters find the rosemary girl in the garden and decide to hurt her so that their brother won't keep visiting her. The gardener, who failed to protect the rosemary girl, flees in fear of the king's coming wrath. But while escaping, he overhears two dragons discussing the only means of salvation for the rosemary girl: If she is to live, someone must defeat the dragons and take ingredients from them for a special medicine! Having found a way to save his own neck, as well as that of the rosemary girl, the gardener (the unexpected hero of the tale) triumphs over the dragons and cooks up the medicine, enabling the smitten King to marry his beloved rosemary girl.

In honor of the rosemary girl, try this pasta dish! (We promise, no dragons were harmed in the making of this recipe). 

Rosemary and Pancetta Pasta


Serves 5-6

  • 1 1/2-2 jars Monte Bene Tomato Basil pasta sauce 
  • 1 lb. pasta (elbow or fusilli pasta recommended)
  • 2/3 cup chopped carrot
  • 2/3 cup chopped white onion
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced pancetta
  • 2 tsp dried rosemary leaves, finely chopped
  • 3 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste


Cook 1 lb pasta al dente, drain, and set aside. Simmer (medium heat) carrots and onion in 2 tsp olive oil until tender. In another skillet, add remaining tsp olive oil and turn heat to medium high. When your oil is hot, add the rosemary and and pancetta. Cook about one minute, stirring constantly. Add Monte Bene Tomato Basil pasta sauce to onion and carrot mixture, then add rosemary and pancetta. Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt to taste.  Mix 1/2 cup of sauce mixture into pasta to coat it and prevent it from sticking. Plate pasta and add remaining sauce. Top with Pecorino Romano cheese and serve. 



Calvino, Italo, comp. Italian Folktales. Translated by George Martin. San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1980. 583-585.

Hazan, M. (1997). Pasta. In Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking(pp. 153-154). New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

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How to: Homemade Gnocchi

How to: Homemade Gnocchi

There are a variety of ways to make these delicious little morsels, or Italian style dumplings as they are sometimes called. Here's our recipe:

Servings: 10 -12

  • 3 lbs baking potatoes ( 3 to 4 potatoes)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour 
  • 1 large or 2 medium sized eggs
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 7.5 quarts water
  • 6 cups ice 


Boil potatoes whole for about 45 minutes, until soft. While they are still warm, peel them completely. Mash potatoes thoroughly and place on a clean, flat surface. In a large boiling pot, set 6 quarts of water to boil. Using the remaining water (6 cups), create an ice bath in a bowl beside the bowling water. Create a well in the center of the mashed potatoes and cover completely with flour. Crack egg(s) into the center of well and add salt. Using a fork, fold potato and flour into the egg and stir until egg is mixed in. Bring dough together and knead gently to form a ball. Continue to knead gently until dough is dry. Roll ball of dough into a 3/4 to 1 inch rolls and slice rolls into 1 inch long pieces. Drop these pieces into bowling water and bowl for about 1 minute, until they begin to float. Place cooked gnocchi into ice bath. Allow to sit in ice bath for several minutes, until completely cooled, then drain. Coat gnocchi in vegetable oil, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. 


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5 Tips for Cooking in College

5 Tips for Cooking in College

College is the time of freedom and exploration, of new and exciting experiences and relationships.

It’s also the time when you realize that mom’s cooking is just so much better than the dining hall. Too bad you didn’t take her up on that offer to live in your dorm room with you.

But heading home every weekend isn’t your only choice for delicious, home cooked meals. Whether you’re in a dorm room or a tiny apartment, you can still make yourself fresh, healthy meals that can actually take less time than heading to the cafeteria. It will also save you a lot of money. Here are our tips for cooking in college.

  1. The microwave can make more than Hotpockets. Or Ramen: Step away from the frozen food aisle. Those meals may seem like the easy way out, but they are typically loaded with unhealthy preservatives and fattening ingredients. They also don’t necessarily save you any time or money. Buying fresh produce and ingredients is typically cheaper and so much healthier. You can use the microwave to make steamed veggies, oatmeal, potatoes, even eggs and salmon. Find a few recipes on Greatist.
  2. Pasta sauce can be used for more than pasta - Get innovative with your ingredients: Add a little cream to your pasta sauce to make soup. Try eating pasta topped with salad dressing and fresh veggies. Use canned tuna and corn tortillas to make enchiladas. You’re a creative college student – you can make anything work (within reason, obviously). Try one of our recipes.
  3. Invest in an “adult” kitchen appliance: One or two well-made appliances can go a long way, so it’s worth it to spend a little extra cash for them. Make smoothies or protein shakes with a blender and have a fast breakfast every morning. Toss all of your ingredients into a crock pot and have a delicious meal when you come back home in the evening. Use your toaster oven to make Paninis. Plus, these fancy appliances will makes you seem more like an adult, which you’ve been trying to prove to your parents since high school.
  4. Reuse, recycle: We’re talking about leftovers. If you’re getting recipes from home, it can be difficult to scale those down for a one person meal. Use the leftovers for lunch the next day, or freeze them to use at a later date when you don’t feel like cooking. If you’re really having a hard time getting rid of the leftovers, you’ll find that your fellow college students can rarely say no to free food.
  5. Make a few friends: Find a friend or a roommate who is willing to share the duties of cleaning and cooking with you, and take turns cooking for each other. Plan out the meals ahead of time to split the grocery bill. Just be sure you can count on that friend to deliver – if you’re making a four course Italian meal every other night and they're making frozen pizza, you may want to refer them to steps 1 through 4.

More resources: 

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The Story Behind the Staple: Chicken Parmigiana

The Story Behind the Staple: Chicken Parmigiana


It’s another Italian staple…or is it?


As a sauce company that blends Italian with American grown tomatoes, we love recipes that have been born out of a blending of cultures. We also love recipes that use a few, simple ingredients to create authentic, hearty flavors. Chicken Parmigiana is one of those recipes.

While the delicious medley of breaded chicken, warm tomato sauce, and gooey cheese seems like an Italian staple, it actually isn’t. Not exactly anyways. Chicken Parmigiana has its origins in the United States, where it was popularized among Italian-American communities. Italian immigrants created the meal, which quickly became conceived as an authentically Italian dish. Of course, it does take its inspiration from Italy. Eggplant Parmigiana, or Mellenzana alla Parmigiana, is the original Italian recipe. Eggplants are lightly breaded, fried, topped with fresh tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese, and then baked. The switch to chicken in the United States might have been due to several reasons – Italian restaurant owners saw the American preference for meat over eggplant, Italian immigrant workers were able to afford meat now that they had higher paying jobs, or eggplants just weren’t as common a produce in the United States.

The origin of the Mellenzana all Parmigiana is also debatable. According to some, it originated in the northern Italian city of Parma – hence the name, which means “In the style of Parma.” Others say the dish came out of southern Italy where eggplant is grown widely. Most early Italian immigrants also came from southern Italy, so it would make sense that they brought the recipe over with them. Today, Chicken Parmigiana often has its name simplified to Chicken Parmesan – referring to the delicate cheese made in and around the province of Parma. Interestingly, “Parmesan” is actually the French simplification of Parmigiana. The cheese became popular among the French nobility in the 1500s. It’s uncertain if the French had an influence on the eventual American classic, but it is clear that Chicken Parmigiana is truly a global dish.

Try some of our recipes for delicious Parmigianas.


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The Story Behind the Staple: Spaghetti and Meatballs

The Story Behind the Staple: Spaghetti and Meatballs

 Spaghetti and meatballs, perhaps the staple of Italian food in America, actually has a more interesting history than you might expect. The next time you serve this easy meal, share this story with the family.

According to legend, Marco Polo discovered the noodle on his travels through China and brought it back for Italians to enjoy. Needless to say, Italians are not very content with this legend and would prefer not to give Asia the credit for their signature food choice.

According to a National Geographic article published in 2005, the oldest noodle does have its origin in Asia. Scientists unearthed an over 4,000 year old bowl of long, yellow noodles in the Lajia archeological site in northwestern China.  But, according to numerous sources, when Marco Polo wrote about discovering pasta, he was really just talking about a different kind of pasta than that of Italians. Marco Polo traveled in China between 1271 and 1291 (give or take), but according to John Dickie and his Epic History of Italians and Their Food, there was hard grain durum wheat pasta in Italy at least a century before. Clearly, Marco Polo didn’t “discover” pasta any more than we discovered tomato sauce. 

But there are so many kinds of pasta out there…how did spaghetti become the staple? Italians can’t take credit for this one – well, not exactly. It was Italian-Americans who made spaghetti famous in America. Before over 4 million Italians immigrated to America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, pasta was rarely served as a main dish. But in America, pasta turned into the center piece for dishes because of its low cost and high carb content. Spaghetti was most likely the pasta that was most readily available.  Red sauce has a similar story. While the legend of its origin is very Italian, its prevalence in America has to do with the easy availability of crushed tomatoes.

What about meatballs? Those too take their origin in Italy but were reshaped (literally) in America. "Polpettes" were a popular, simple food in Italy in the late 19th century. They were small meatballs with an equal ratio of meat to bread crumbs. When Italians came to America and began earning more money than they did in Italy, meat became a staple rather than a delicacy. Ground beef, of course, was the cheapest option. Once shaped into large, flavorful balls they added the perfect finishing touch to a bowl of pasta.

The long story behind spaghetti and meatballs is just one example of how Italian food has been shaped and changed through culture and circumstance. One thing has remained the same – it’s sometimes the simplest foods that taste the best.


John Dickie: Delzia: the Epic HIstory of the Italians and Their Food. pp 45-47

National Geographic: 4,000-Year-Old Noodles Found in China 

Culinary Lore: Marco Polo and His Chinese Noodles Pasta: Legend or Fact? 

National Pasta Association: Fun Facts  

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Start the Day Right - Italian Style

Start the Day Right - Italian Style

Getting kids up in the morning for school can be hard enough. Getting them to eat a substantial breakfast can be even harder. But studies show that children who eat a well-balanced breakfast every day typically do better in the classroom, perform better on the field, and exhibit better concentration and hand-eye coordination. Studies also show that skipping breakfast can lead to higher cholesterol, weight gain, and even diabetes later in life. The reasons?

First off, a well-balanced breakfast gives you the energy and nutrients you need to start your day right. Math class becomes that much easier when your brain has the right kind of proteins and carbs to fuel it. When you skip breakfast, you’re also more likely to snack on unhealthy foods during the day or to overeat at the next meal. Not only can that cause weight gain, but it can also create unhealthy highs and lows of glucose (or blood sugar). To compensate, your body produces more insulin. Overtime, the high insulin levels can lead to Type 2 Diabetes.

So serving kids breakfast may be one of the best things you can do for them right now and in the years to come. But while you may know all the facts about feeding them properly, sometimes the real struggle is finding healthy foods they will actually eat. Enough with the sugary cereal. Try one of these fun, balanced recipes that turn boring old breakfast into delicious Italian adventures. They won’t even know they’re eating breakfast with these savory bites. Serve with fresh fruit or yogurt.


Mini Frittatas

Kids love “dip-able” foods. This fast recipe makes a lot. Cut the recipe in half or save some in the fridge or freezer for tomorrow’s breakfast or an after school snack.


  • 1 jar Monte Bene Tomato Basil pasta sauce
  • 6 large eggs
  • ½ cup whole milk (or 2% for lower fat content)
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • 5 oz. honey ham, thinly sliced and chopped
  • ¼ cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
  • Fresh basil, chopped
  • Salt to taste


Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease two mini muffin tins. In a large bowl, mix eggs, milk, pepper and salt until well blended. Add ham, basil, and cheese and stir until well combined. Pour egg mixture into muffin tins, filling to just below the rim. Bake frittatas for about 8 to 10 minutes, until the tops begin to puff. Heat Monte Bene Tomato Basil pasta sauce. Carefully remove frittatas, plate, and serve with a side of pasta sauce for dipping.


Breakfast Pizza

What kid doesn’t want to eat pizza for breakfast? To make this one faster, use pre-prepared pizza crust (if you want to make the dough yourself, though, follow this recipe).


  • 2 cups Monte Bene Tomato Basil pasta sauce
  • 1 pre-prepared roll of pizza dough
  • 3-4 eggs
  • 1/3 cup whole milk (or 2% for lower fat content)
  • 5 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 7 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 4 oz. ham, thinly sliced into strips
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional)
  • 4 breakfast sausage links, sliced (optional)
  • Fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 400. Grease a pizza pan and lay out pizza crust. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and salt and pepper. Gently pour over the center of the crust and spread it to the edges. Add one cup of Monte Bene Tomato Basil pasta sauce on top of egg layer, using a spoon to spread evenly. Add cheese and meat as desired. Bake on center rack for 12 to 15 minutes or until crust is golden brown and egg is cooked. Remove and top with basil. Allow to cool five minutes before slicing and serve with heated Monte Bene Tomato Basil pasta sauce for extra dipping.


Breakfast Calzone

 This is the perfect meal for kids on the go. Wrap it up in a napkin and give it to them as they board the bus. Once again, use pre-prepared crust for an easy, quick meal.


  • 1 jar Monte Bene Tomato Basil pasta sauce
  • 1 pre-prepared roll of pizza dough
  • 4-5 eggs
  • ½ cup whole milk (or 2% for lower fat content)
  • ½ to 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Sliced pepperoni (as much as desired)
  • 4 tsp. Pecorino Romano cheese or Parmesan, grated
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a pizza pan and lay out crust, creating a 14X10 rectangle. In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, milk, and salt and pepper until well combined. Add olive oil. In a medium skillet, cook egg mixture until eggs are set but moist (about 3 to 4 minutes). Slice dough into 4 evenly shaped rectangles. Add mozzarella to one side of each rectangle, leaving ½ inch of space on the edge. Add pepperoni, Pecorino Romano, and eggs. Fold empty side of dough over toppings and press the edges closed firmly. Bake for 12 to 13 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Heat Monte Bene Tomato Basil pasta sauce. Remove calzones from oven and serve with pasta sauce for dipping. For an on the go meal, add 1 to 2 cups of pasta sauce inside the calzone and bake a few minutes longer.

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Making Meal Prep Worthwhile for the Whole Family

Making Meal Prep Worthwhile for the Whole Family

As the summer comes to a close and we get ready to turn off vacation mode and prepare for back to school, it can be hard to set aside special time for family bonding. When things get busy, sometimes the most we can do is get dinner on the table before running out to the next appointment or practice. 

But before everything gets too rushed (and even if it already is) take advantage of one of these tips for turning meal preparation into the bonding time your kids (or spouse) really need. Get them talking about their day, or simply spend time close to them. Believe it or not, these simple tips can actually save you time too!


  • Let them pick out a side: Letting your kids pick the whole meal might leave you with ice cream for dinner, but allowing them to choose a healthy side allows them to spend time with you while feeling involved in their food choices. To avoid too much chaos, give them a variety to choose from. Think bread, finger vegetables like carrots and sliced cucumber, or fun starches like macaroni and mashed potatoes.
  • Give them a fun task: Most kids put up a fight when you ask them to set the table, even if it’s just paper plates and forks. Instead, have them do something that feels a little more involved. Ask them to wash the vegetables or stir the noodles. If they’re older, have them slice bread or prepare the salad. Mixing up the responsibilities keeps them interested, and keeps you from having to do all the work alone.
  • Create a food schedule: Kids feel comfortable with routine, and if you have a picky eater in the family this strategy prevents surprises. Set aside a little time once a week or once a month to plan out a meal schedule and let everyone join in. Have a set day for each person’s favorite meal, that way no one feels left out. This method helps you plan out your grocery list and saves time at meal preparation.
  • Make grocery shopping a game: Sometimes leaving the kids at home while you shop just isn’t an option, but bringing them through the aisles doesn’t have to be a painful chore. Include them on what you need to buy and in each aisle or section tell them what you are searching for. Whoever finds it first wins. You can include rules about not moving too far away from you and the cart. Grocery shopping will go by much faster with this method, plus it keeps the kids distracted from all the sugary items they usually grab.
  • Have them make dinner: This is obviously not the choice for parents with toddlers, but if your kids are in their early to mid-teens, having them make dinner (with your supervision) can be a great experience. Make it a monthly or weekly routine and have all the ingredients and the recipes at hand. Pasta is easy, and so is homemade pizza.

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