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A Chilly Day Calls for Spaghetti and Meatballs for a Crowd

I know it’s not the ideal start to a long weekend when two days ago it was 85° out and I was looking to turn the air conditioner on and then we wake up this morning and it’s 42° outside and windy and rainy. Since the weekend doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better until Monday, today is a good day to do a recipe for a classic spaghetti and meatballs. This recipe, from Cook’s Illustrated, is designed if you’re cooking for a large crowd so you want to keep that in mind if you are going to use this recipe. When I do it for just the three of us I generally have to adjust it down a little bit and we still end up with enough sauce and meatballs left over where we can freeze some for another several meals.

Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs for a Crowd

Meatballs

2 1/4 cups panko bread crumbs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
3 tablespoons water
2 pounds 85% lean ground beef
1 pound ground pork
3 large eggs
3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
6 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Sauce

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, grated
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
6 cups tomato juice
6 tablespoons dry white wine
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup minced fresh basil
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
Sugar

3 pound spaghetti
2 tablespoons salt
Grated Parmesan cheese

For the meatballs: adjust oven racks to the lower-middle and upper-middle positions and heat the oven to 450°. Set wire racks into aluminum foil-lined rimmed baking sheets and spray the racks with vegetable oil spray.

Combine the bread crumbs and the buttermilk in a large bowl and let sit, mashing occasionally with a fork, until a smooth paste forms, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small bowl and allow it to soften for 5 minutes.

Mix the ground beef, ground pork, eggs, Parmesan, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, and gelatin mixture into the bread crumb mixture using your hands. Pinch off and roll the mixture into 2-inch meatballs (about 40 meatballs total) and arrange on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the meatballs are well browned, about 30 minutes, switching and rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking process.

For the sauce: while the meatballs bake, heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic, oregano and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato juice, wine, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, bring to a simmer, and cook until the sauce thickens slightly, about 15 minutes.

Remove the meatballs from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 300°. Gently nestled the meatballs into the sauce. Cover, transfer to the oven, and cook until the meatballs are firm and the sauce has thickened, about one hour. The sauce in the meatballs can be cooled and refrigerated for up to 2 days. To re-heat, drizzle 1/2 cup of water over the sauce, without stirring, and re-heat on the lower-middle rack of a 325° oven for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, bring 10 quarts of water to a boil in a large 12-quart pot. Add the pasta and salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

Gently stir the basil and parsley into the sauce and season with sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. Add 2 cups of sauce (without meatballs) to the pasta and toss to combine. Add the reserved cooking water as needed to adjust the consistency. Serve, topping the individual portions with more tomato sauce and several meatballs and passing the Parmesan cheese

As I said, this recipe makes a lot of food. They outline it as having enough to serve 12 people, but if you make the full recipe I think it could even serve more than that. I have always gotten more than 40 meatballs out of the recipe so we always have plenty left over for uses down the road. Their recipe also calls for some prosciutto to be used in the meatball mixture, which I leave out. I do like the way that the meatballs come out when they are baked in the oven and then the entire concoction with the sauce is placed in the oven again. The thickness of the sauce and the taste of the meatballs seems to be a lot better to me. You could easily served this with any type of pasta that you wish and I love to make some garlic bread to go along with it.

That’s the recipe for today. We did some shopping this morning so I did get a few things and to make over the next few days or so. Tonight I’ll be making a pork tenderloin dinner so you can check back for the recipe on that one. I also picked up some baby back ribs and the makings for some meatloaf so will be having those this week as well. I do plan to head up to Adams and see if they have anything else interesting that we might use for dinner this week. Check back and see what we come up with. Until then, enjoy the rest of your rainy day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on May 25, 2013 in Beef, Cooking, Dinner, Pasta, Sauce

 

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It’s Friday, it Must be Pizza!

Today is Friday, and I think for a lot of family, Friday is often a pizza night. It’s the end of the week, you don’t really feel much like cooking, and just getting a pizza and relaxing is very easy. We get pizza about once a month. We all love the pizza from Kinchley’s Tavern in Ramsey, NJ. It’s great thin crust pizza that you could eat a whole pie of yourself> Here is there Facebook page if you want to check them out: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kinchleys-Pizza/148265588527562?sk=info. If we are getting pizza locally, we do often get it now from Marina’s Pizza here in Harriman, NY. I like their pizza; it’s not greasy, tastes fresh and they have good toppings available for a decent price. if you want to check out their Facebook page, it’s here:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Marinas-PIzza-Restaurant/111556995541047?sk=wall. Of course, there is always the alternative of making your own pizza. We do this about once a month as well. I have to admit, I don’t make my own pizza crust. I probably should, but I just don’t have the counter space for rolling and kneading dough. I do buy pre-made dough and make it that way and we also have used Boboli crust to make large pizzas and mini-pizzas (they sell the small, individual crusts for Boboli). I personally don’t have a problem using either one of those as a good option to make your own pizza. Once you have the dough or the crust, the rest is, well as easy as pie :). I do have a recipe for a basic pizza dough, and if anyone wants it I will be happy to post it here, or if anyone has one of their own and would like to share, please let me know or share a comment so we can all have it.

Classic Cheese Pizza

1 recipe of basic pizza dough (or store-bought dough, which is what I am using)

1 recipe Quick Pizza Sauce (recipe to follow, but hey, remember the spaghetti and meatballs we made on Monday? I am using the sauce from that for the pizza)

1 cup shredded mozzarella

1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Olive Oil

2 tablespoons torn fresh basil

Flour for the counter (if you need it for your own dough)

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position, place a  pizza stone or baking stone on the rack, and heat to 500 degrees F. Let the stone heat for at least 30 minutes. (Don’t have a pizza stone or baking stone? No problem. You can bake the pizza on a rimless or upside-down baking sheet that has been preheated like a stone.)

If you’re using store-bought dough, like I am, stretch and shape the dough into a 12-inch round on a piece of parchment paper. I do this by flattening the dough ball into a disk. Using my fingertips, I press the disk until it is about a 1/2 inch thick. Then, holding the center in place, I stretch the dough outward. Rotate the dough a quarter turn and stretch again. i repeat this until the dough reaches a diameter of about 12 inches (of course I eyeball this, I don’t sit there with a ruler!). I then use my palms to flatten the thick edge of the dough.

Spread 1 cup of sauce over the dough. leaving a 1/2-inch edge of dough uncovered. Sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese and the Parmesan cheese. Lightly brush the edge of the dough with oil. Slide the parchment paper and pizza onto a rimless baking sheet, then slide it onto the hot baking stone. Bake until the crust edges brown and the cheese is golden in spots, 8 to 13 minutes. (If you’re making more than 1 pizza, now is a good time to start the next one).

Transfer the pizza to a cutting board, discarding the parchment paper. Sprinkle with the fresh basil and cut the pizza into 6 wedges. Let the stone re-heat for 5 minutes before you start the next pizza.

Quick Pizza Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

Salt and pepper

Heat the oil and garlic in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the garlic is sizzling, about 90 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and simmer until the sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

You can literally put just about anything on pizza. We are using this meal as our meatless one this week, so it’s just plain cheese for us, but remember those leftover meatballs from Monday (we just used the sauce)? Slice them up and put them right on the pizza before you heat it.  Some of my favorite toppings are Italian sausage (I take it out of the casing, crumble it and saute it before using it on the pie), sautéed onions, sliced black olives, mushrooms and even some buffalo chicken (I plan on using this one as one of my meals later on down the road). Let me know what your favorite toppings are or what you think would be great on a pie.

Now, every meal we have has to have a vegetable in it, and much to Sean’s chagrin, tonight is salad. He doesn’t like salad, so I still have some leftover broccoli and carrots that he will have instead. I am using simple greens tonight; just a spring mix of greens I bought that has spinach in it as well. We’ll add some cucumber ( I prefer the English cucumber) and some shaved carrots, and maybe a hard-boiled egg white, and that’s it. Feel free to add whatever you like to the salad. I sometimes use red onion, artichoke hearts, scallions, black olives, peppers, toasted nuts, cherry tomatoes, and some crumbled bacon. I’ll be making a warm chicken salad for a meal next week, so we’ll see more things in the salad then. As for dressing, i find that it’s a personal thing. Everyone has their own tastes of what they like and don’t, which store-bought brands taste better, etc. We always have a couple of store-bought dressings on hand, usually ranch and thousand island, but tonight I am making a simple balsamic vinaigrette.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

3/4 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons minced shallot or red onion

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (optional)

1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon, dill, basil or oregano (whatever you feel like, I am using oregano, it goes better with balsamic)

1/2  garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Shake all the ingredients together in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. The dressing can be refrigerated for up to 7 days; bring to room temperature, then shake vigorously to re-combine before using. if you don’t want to use balsamic, you can substitute red or white wine vinegar.

A very easy dressing to make with ingredients you almost always have around the house. That’s the meal for today. Nothing fancy, and you can use some of the leftovers from earlier in the week if you want. Tomorrow is Michelle’s choice, and we are having Chicken Parmesan with Pasta and cauliflower for a vegetable. I’ll also be letting you know what the meal plan is for next week if you want to shop along, and I think we are going to make some soup tomorrow as well since the impending snow here will have us housebound. Enjoy the Friday night!

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2012 in Salad, Sauce

 

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Enter The Meal Plan…

It’s Monday and it’s time to start off the week with a meal plan. My family meal plan started a while ago, and it worked well while we stuck to it, but then we kind of drifted away from it and things got a little out of hand again. By out of hand I mean we didn’t plan ahead on any meals. which led to a lot of meals thrown together at the last-minute or just getting take-out or eating out. In the long run, it wasn’t benefiting us as far as our health and being together as a family, so I decided we needed to get back to the meal plan.

Here is how our meal plan works. We, as a family, decide on the meals each week. While it sounds like a challenge right away by letting kids choose meals (who wants chicken nuggets or pizza every day?) I have tried to make it so that, since there are 3 of us, we each pick 2 meals for the week and the extra day we eat leftovers. Once a month we take the extra day and either go out or get take out. The stipulations on the meals are this: the week’s meals have to be one night of red meat, two nights of poultry, one night of seafood, one night of pasta/grain/vegetarian, and two nights using whatever we have as leftovers to make a meal. I also had to add in that we couldn’t pick the same meal on consecutive weeks, otherwise Sean would have us eating burgers and pizza every week. Each meal has to have some type of vegetable and some type of protein. The protein doesn’t have to be meat, but there has to be one there somewhere. Once the meals have been picked out, we go through and which one fits best on which day of the week for that week. Like any family, some weeks for us can get a little hectic and some nights are better suited to leftovers than others, so we try to work with that. Once that is done, I do the shopping list of the supplies we need for the week to make the meals, we outline the everyone’s duties for the week as far as the meals go and then we move ahead with the week. Here is the print out I use for our meal planning. I have found it a big help for planning and for shopping because I tend to stick closely to it and shop only for the things that we really need for the meals that week so we can stay on budget a little better:  family_meal_planner.

Now that the basics are laid out, we can talk about today’s dinner plan. Today is pretty simple. Sean picked today’s meal and since he is off from school today, he gets to help cook it too. It’s straightforward, spaghetti and meatballs. He chose broccoli as his vegetable for the day and we’re going to make some garlic bread as well. I don’t make my own bread, so we’ll cheat a little there and buy a loaf and make it garlic bread, but if you make your own, it will probably be very tasty.

The spaghetti itself is pretty easy and painless. I don’t eat pasta, I never have. I just don’t like the texture of the store-bought pasta. I think if I had the counter space to make my own pasta, I would probably eat it because I think the taste of fresh pasta would be much better. But hey, just because I don’t eat doesn’t mean I won’t cook it (and if you cook it and I am invited over, you can be sure I’ll eat it, no questions asked. My momma raised me right :)).Tonight, it’s just plain spaghetti (I am eating white rice) and I think most people can handle cooking it, so I am not going to spend time on it. Instead, I’ll focus on the sauce, meatballs and garlic bread.

There are lots of sauces available right out of the jar or can, and some of them taste good. They are quick and easy to use and make our lives simple, but personally, if I have the time to make sauce, I am going to make it. It doesn’t have to be labor intensive and take all day. As a matter of fact, I find that sauce cooked too long tends to lose some of its flavor (this is for a sauce with no meat in it). In a perfect world, I would use fresh tomatoes, but, as I discussed previously, the tomatoes available here in the stores are generally pretty flavorless and not ripe. I have found that using diced and crushed tomatoes for sauce works just fine for me. This is a simple sauce recipe. It’s quick, it’s easy, has few ingredients, and tastes good:

Simple Tomato Sauce

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes

3 tablespoons minced fresh basil (if you’re using dried basil, cut this in at least half)

1/4 teaspoon sugar

Salt

Cook the oil and garlic in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring often until fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes (don’t scorch the garlic, it tastes pretty bad when you do. As soon as you can smell it, you’re ready for the next step). Stir in the crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the basil and sugar. Season with salt to taste.

You can easily double this recipe to make more sauce, just add about another 10 minutes of cooking time. Freeze extra so you have it on hand at a moment’s notice for a quick meal.

On to the meatballs. There are several brands of frozen meatballs that are good, and we usually have some in the freezer to use for quick meals or as appetizers when people are over. Like the sauce, if I have the time, i want to make my own. Sean likes the frozen ones better, and since it’s his choice tonight, we’ll probably use them, but I am going to give my recipe for meatballs anyway. You don’t have to use the beef, pork, veal mix that I do (I use the same mix for meatloaf and you can find it in most supermarkets). Chicken or turkey works just as well if that’s what you prefer. You also don’t have to use your own bread, but I find it tastes and binds better with fresh bread instead of dried breadcrumbs. Just my personal choice.

Meatballs

2 slices of white sandwich bread (I prefer Pepperidge Farm, it works well for me)

1/3 cup milk (whatever type you have will work here)

1 pound beef, pork, veal mixture

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1 egg yolk

1 garlic clove, minced

Salt and pepper

Vegetable oil

Remove and discard the crusts from the bread then tear the bread into small pieces. Use a fork to mash the bread pieces and milk to a smooth paste in a large bowl. Add the beef, pork and veal mixture, Parmesan, parsley, egg yolk, garlic, 3/4 teaspoon salt, a dash of pepper (or more if you like) to the mashed bread. Stir the mixture gently until combined and uniform (I always use my hands – it gets messy but it mixes better. Take your rings off before you do this). Form the mixture into 1 1/2 inch round meatballs (about 12 meatballs if make them this big, if you want smaller, go for it and you’ll get more).

Pour the oil into a 12 inch skillet and heat over medium high heat until shimmering. Add the meatballs in a single layer and cook until nicely browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer the meatballs to a paper towel-lined plate and discard any oil left in the skillet.

Place the skillet back over medium heat and add the tomato sauce, Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and add the meatballs. Continue to simmer, turning the meatballs occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Okay, now you have your pasta, your sauce, and your meatballs. Our vegetable of choice today is broccoli, although we’ll be having salad along with it too (which Sean won’t eat, hence the broccoli). There are lots of ways to cook broccoli (steaming, roasting, braising, sauteing) and Sean prefers simple steaming, so that’s how we’re going with it today. Later on in the week I’ll be roasting some and I have the recipe for that for you. I do use a steaming basket in my dutch oven to do this, Placing the basket in with water just to the bottom of it, bringing the water to a boil and then adding the vegetables. Steam the broccoli for about 4 to 6 minutes until bright green and tender. Add some more water if you find that the water is boiling away before the broccoli is done.

Garlic bread itself is a pretty simple endeavor:

1 loaf Italian bread

4 tablespoons butter, softened (use less if you like, I often do)

2 teaspoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (or other cheese of your liking, or no cheese at all, it’s optional)

Preheat the broiler. Cut the loaf of bread in half lengthwise. In a small bowl, mix the butter, oil, garlic and oregano. Spread the mixture evenly on the bread. On a baking sheet, place the bread under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, or until slightly browned. Check frequently to make sure it doesn’t burn. Remove from the broiler and serve, or, if using the cheese, sprinkle cheese over the bread and place under the broiler for another 2 minutes, or until cheese is melted and slightly brown.

That’s it, you have our first meal plan. We usually only do dessert about once a week, and usually on the weekends so you’ve done it! Clean up for this one should be relatively easy, and I try to clean up as I go along to make things easier. If you have any suggestions or variations for this meal, please feel free to add them. I am always looking to try something new. Have fun cooking tonight and I’ll see you tomorrow. Tomorrow night Sean and Michelle are out for the night at a fundraiser, so I’ll be cooking for one (which makes tomorrow a leftovers night this week), so I’ll have to come up for a topic for tomorrow. Any suggestions?

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2012 in Beef, Cooking, Dinner, Pasta, Produce, Sauce, Vegetables

 

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Jennifer Probst

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