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I am always looking for the best tomato sauce.  I love tomatoes and I love pasta.  Finding the perfect sauce can be difficult.  There are so many bad sauces out there.  I really do not like tomato sauce in a jar from the supermarket.  There is one brand that I can somewhat tolerate…if I add onion, garlic and wine to it, but most of them are either bland or entirely too salty.  I try new things while making sauce all the time.  Sometimes I add carrots to make the sauce more sweet, sometimes cheese to thicken it up, and sometimes good red wine to give it a lot of flavor.  And of course, I always add onion and garlic.  When I came across this recipe for tomato sauce and saw all the rave reviews and how simple it was too make, I was sold .  The recipe calls for butter, which is what probably makes this sauce so tasty, and although I do not think I can make this my regular tomato sauce, due to all the calories, I really really enjoyed it.  It is the best sauce that I have had in a long time.

Now what to make with this sauce…  My husband likes turkey meatballs.  I load them with garlic, onion, parmesan and parsley, and cook these massive meatballs in a pan with no oil or butter.  Turning to mini-turkey meatballs sounded like more my style. I love how they were bite-sized.  Adding flour to the meatballs provided a nice golden crust when cooked that I really liked too. 

The finished product is a satisfying home-cooked meal.  The tomato sauce tasted just how tomato sauce is supposed to taste (without the added saltiness and fake basil flavors), and finding the mini meatballs hiding among the ziti was delightful.  The melted pecorino was a nice addition, but I do not think it was really needed.  Just adding some grated parmesan on top is good enough.

Baked Ziti with Tomato Sauce and Mini-Turkey Meatballs

(Adapted from Marcela Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking and Smitten Kitchen)

Meatballs:

1 pound ground turkey

1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs

2 garlic cloves chopped
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1/3 cup Parmesan
1 egg
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground Black pepper
1 cup flour, spread on a plate

Tomato Sauce 

34 ounce (approximately) whole or plum peeled tomatoes from a can

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium yellow onion

1 box ziti

1 ½ cups freshly grated pecorino cheese (optional)

Preheat over to 350 degrees.

Tomato sauce

Peel onion and cut in half.  In a large sauce pan, add tomatoes, butter and onion.  Cook for 30 minutes.  Then, crush the tomatoes against the sides of the pot with a wooden or silicon spoon.  Cook another 15 minutes.  Remove onion and set aside.

Meatballs

Heat milk and add to bread crumbs.  Let soak for 5 minutes.  Chop garlic and parsley.  Place in a bowl with egg and parmesan cheese.  Add ground turkey and bread crumbs to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients.  Add salt and pepper.  Mix meat with other ingredients until thoroughly combined.

Spread flour out on a plate, and set aside another plate to collect the meatballs.  Roll meat into cherry-sized balls.   Roll the meatballs in the flour.  Then place as many meatballs as can fit in a colander at a time and shake well so that the excess flour is released.  Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to a skillet, or spray with Pam, and place skillet on medium heat.  (My skillet is non-stick, and I did not use anything to coat the skillet and the meatballs still cooked with a nice golden crust).  Place as many meatballs in the pan as can fit and still cook evenly.  Cook meatballs, turning them on all sides.

Boil pasta while you are cooking the meatballs.

Once the meatballs and pasta are done, place ziti in a large casserole dish, pour tomato sauce on top and add ¾ of the cheese.  Mix through with a large spoon.  Then add ¾ of the meatballs, and mix them through as well.  Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.  Bake in oven for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese on top is melted and slightly golden.  You can use all the meatballs if you would like, but the recipe makes many many meatballs and I thought that adding all of them would be overkill.  So I saved the rest for future meals and snacking.

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The dilemma of what to make for dinner last night had me staring at my open refrigerator, trying to piece together something from the puzzle of leftover ingredients.  No meat was defrosted so I thought pasta.  I found some fun pasta shells to work with, and then found the fresh parmesan, which needed to be used sooner rather than later.  Then found some half and half and the leftover asparagus from Easter that also needed a home.  I usually have garlic on hand, and pasta always tastes better with garlic.  So into the pasta it all went. 

The result was a garlicky, cheesy, creamy sauce with bright green asparagus to dress it up.  Just looking at the bowl of pasta you could tell it was a rich dish, but in reality I only used about 1/3 of a cup of half and half.  However, I used a ton of cheese.  But who doesn’t like cheese?

 

Garlic Parmesan Cream Sauce Shells with Asparagus (my thoughts)

What you need:

4 cups pasta shells

2 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon olive oil

2-3 cups grated fresh parmesan

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

10-12 asparagus stalks

Add pasta to boiling water.  While pasta is cooking, chop garlic finely.  Then chop the heads off the asparagus.  You will be using the heads of the asparagus, and discarding the rest of the stalk, so cut the asparagus about 2 to 2 ½ inches from the head.  Add asparagus to boiling water for 3-5 minutes until tender, but not droopy. 

In a medium sized sauce pan, sautee the garlic in the olive oil for 1 minute, then add the half and half and grated cheese.  Continuously stir the cheese into the half and half until it thickens.  The garlic and some of the cheese may stick to the bottom of your pan, so make sure you scrap the bottom a few times while you are stirring in the cheese.  Add ground black pepper.

Drain pasta.  Add the sauce and asparagus to the pasta shells and combine.

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It is again pretty chilly in Philadelphia, but it is the perfect weather for a warm pasta dish.  Bolognese sauce is simply ground meat and tomato sauce. It  is basically a fancy way to say meat sauce. There are many variations of this dish, and if you search online long enough you will find really complex versions of a relatively simple meal.  Typically made with ground beef, I substituted ground turkey to make it a little healthier, and I added a bunch of garlic and some vegetables.  I also attempted zucchini pasta, which is zucchini shredded in such a way that it resembles pasta.  I thought it would be a neat thing to try, as well as a way to add some more vegetables to a meal that is usually lacking in the area of vegetables.

I notice that a lot of people will not order pasta Bolognese in restaurants.  Maybe it isn’t fancy enough or maybe when people are out to eat they want something more than a traditional pasta dish.  Nevertheless, I do order it at restaurants, and I usually enjoy it.  Sometimes it does lack a little flavor (presumably not enough garlic).  It is a dish that is hard to mess up.

Turkey Bolognese with Angel Hair and Zucchini Pasta

What you need

1 lb ground turkey

4 cloves garlic

1 carrot

1 celery stalk

1 onion

1 large can tomato puree

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

1 cup parmesan cheese

½ package of angel hair pasta

1 zucchini

1 and 1/2 cup dry whtie wine

Finely chop onion, celery and carrot.  Add to a large pan and sauté in olive oil until onion is translucent.  Finely chop garlic.  Add ground turkey, garlic, salt and pepper to the pan.  Cook until turkey is brown.  Add 1 cup white wine. Cook another 10 minutes.  Drain meat, and put back in pan with the tomato puree.  Add ½ cup wine and cook for about 15-20 minutes.

While the meat and sauce are cooking, boil water for pasta and zucchini.  Peel zucchini.  Then grate zucchini on a grater with larger teeth, so that you get strings of zucchini that look like pasta.   Add angel hair pasta to the boiling water.  When pasta is almost done, add the zucchini for about 3 minutes.  Drain pasta and zucchini, and sauce to pasta.  Grate fresh parmesan cheese and serve on top.

My zucchini pasta looked great after I shredded the zucchini.  It looked like light green fettuccini.  However, when it got mixed with the pasta, it folded up and lost its shape.  Perhaps cooking the zucchini and pasta separately, and then serving the pasta with the zucchini on top of it, would provide for a prettier dish.  Either way, it was delightful to taste the zucchini throughout the pasta.  The grated fresh parmesan cheese on top enhanced the flavor of the sauce, which, in my honest opinion, could have used some more garlic.

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