Tag Archives: tomato sauce

Smothered Meatballs Marinara

meatball marinara tastefood

When it’s cold and rainy (or snowy!), I crave hearty warming dinners like meaty stews and slow-cooked braises. The other day I purchased  a few kilos of ground beef and pork from a local ranch to throw in the freezer for a rainy day, but not before setting aside a few pounds to cook for dinner. It was only 8:00 in the morning and I already knew what I would be making that afternoon – comforting meatballs smothered in marinara sauce.

Smothered Italian Meatballs in Marinara Sauce

The key ingredient in this recipe is a generous amount of grated Pecorino Romano cheese, which melts into the meat and adds rich, salty flavor. A kick of crushed red chile pepper doesn’t hurt either. (You can reduce the red pepper if you prefer a milder version.)

Makes about 24 (1 1/2-inch) meatballs

1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup breadcrumbs or Panko
1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon marjoram

Marinara Sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) can crushed Italian plum tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil for pan frying
Finely chopped Italian parsley
Grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese

Prepare the meatballs:
Combine the meatball ingredients in a large bowl. Using your hands, gently mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Shape the meat into 1 1/2-inch balls, without over working the meat. (Wet your hands with cold water from time to time to prevent sticking.) Place the meatballs on a platter and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Prepare the sauce:
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs in batches, without over crowding, and brown, turning as needed, about 5 minutes. (The meatballs will not be cooked through at this point. They will continue to cook in the sauce.) Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining meatballs.

Add the sauce to the skillet and cook briefly over medium heat, stirring up any brown bits in the pan. Add the meatballs to the sauce and turn to coat. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until the meatballs are thoroughly cooked through, about 30 minutes. Serve with garnished with chopped parsley and grated cheese.

Weeknight Dinners: Spaghetti Bolognese


Spaghetti Bolognese – Posted by Lynda Balslev

Things are a little busy around here – more on that later. For now, I share with you a favorite recipe that’s perfect for the fall. It’s also perfect for busy schedules, when you can make a big batch of the sauce and keep it on hand for weeknight dinners. If you don’t have a recipe like this in your weeknight repertoire, then you should. We refer to it as Spaghetti Bolognese in our house, and before someone writes to inform me that this is not an authentic bolognese sauce, I’ll save you the time and announce it right here: This is not an authentic bolognese sauce – but it’s our version, and somewhere along the way it was assigned the name “bolognese” (probably my fault) and since then it’s stuck. More importantly, my entire family loves this sauce, and we’ve become quite attached to it’s name, so we’re are standing by it.

Since we are on the topic of authentic vs. unauthentic Bolognese, let me explain:

Bolognese sauce is a meat ragu, often containing 2 to 3 kinds of meat (beef, pork, veal). My sauce calls for ground beef since it’s most readily available in organic, sustainable form in all of the markets I shop. If you wish, feel free to add pork, pancetta or veal to the mix.

Bolognese is typically not a tomato-rich sauce. The meat is the principal component, which is why it’s a ragu. My version is generous with the tomatoes, because, well, we like tomatoes, and we are happy to call our sauce a sauce.

Bolognese spices are minimal: salt, pepper, bay leaf, nutmeg – and no garlic (gasp). You can be sure there will be garlic in my sauce, along with a handful of my garden’s herbs, such as oregano and thyme.

Bolognese includes white wine and milk – yes milk.  Neither are in this sauce  – otherwise, at least one young family member would have rebelled years ago due to a mystifying bias against dairy. Instead, I add red wine, because it deepens flavor and acidity to meaty sauces, and (for some reason) there’s always red wine in our house.

Finally, bolognese is a hearty ragu, often served with thick hearty-type pasta such as pappardelle. We love pappardelle, but, unlike red wine, there’s rarely pappardelle in our house, so spaghetti is the go-to staple of choice.

The point here is this is a flexible sauce that tastes great no matter it’s name or its origin. More importantly, it’s a family staple that’s hugely popular, may be prepared in large quantities, easily frozen, and is unfussy in its use: Ladle it over pasta, between lasagna sheets or even call it a base for chili. It may be prepared within an hour for easy weeknight dining and tastes even better the next day.

Spaghetti Bolognese

This recipe may be doubled. Freeze the extras for later use.
Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 small carrot, finely diced
1/2 celery stalk, finely diced
1/2 sweet red pepper, finely diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup heavy-bodied red wine
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried thyme or 1 tablespoon fresh
1 teaspoon dried oregano or 2 teaspoons fresh
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 teaspoons sugar, to taste

1 pound pasta – cooked al dente
Fresh parsley
Grated Parmigiano or Pecorino (they don’t do that in Bologna either) cheese

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook, stirring, until brown, about 3 minutes. Drain the beef in a colander. Return the pot to the stove and add 1 tablespoon oil. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until beginning to soften, stirring up any brown bits, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the carrot, celery, red pepper, and garlic. Sauté until the vegetables soften and brighten in color, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, stirring up any brown bits. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper. Return the beef to the sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally and breaking up any of the tomatoes with a wooden spoon, about 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add the sugar if necessary. Serve ladled over cooked pasta, such as spaghetti, pappardelle, or rigatoni. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve with grated cheese.

 

 

Pizza Night: Arugula and Prosciutto Pizza

~ Arugula and Prosciutto Pizza ~

As the saying goes, the shoemaker’s children go barefoot. In my case, they eat pizza. I write about food and develop recipes, yet sometimes I am working so hard on a deadline I don’t have a dinner to feed my family. After a day spent in the kitchen developing a dessert, I would be remiss to feed chocolate cake to the kids for supper. I might spend an afternoon tweaking dressings, sauces and marinades, but I can not feed my family a bowl of vinaigrette. Or I may not make it to the kitchen at all, spending an entire day at the computer writing and researching recipes, only to realize that I never went to the store and the refrigerator remains neglected. As irony would have it, on days like these, once it’s dinnertime I can’t muster any excitement to make much of anything. So I make pizza.

Homemade pizza pleases everyone and is easy to make with a minimum of ingredients. When I make dough for the crust, I double the portion to freeze for emergency pizza nights. If you have a favorite store-bought crust, that’s fine too – just be sure to buy extra and pop it into the freezer. That way when Sunday night rolls around and everyone is asking what’s for dinner, the children (and adults) eat pizza.

Arugula and Prosciutto Pizza

The combination of salty prosciutto, creamy mozzarella and fresh arugula makes this pizza very popular in our home. Be sure not to overload the pizza with the toppings. The amounts below are approximations and will vary with the size of the crust. Makes 1 large rectangular pizza or 2 10-inch pizzas.

Pizza crust (recipe below)
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2  cup tomato sauce (recipe below)
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, shredded
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes, or to taste
8 slices (3 ounces) prosciutto
4 cups fresh arugula
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano cheese

Preheat oven to 500 F. Using your hands, stretch crust to desired shape and place on parchment paper. Combine 2 tablespoons olive oil and garlic clove in a small bowl. Lightly brush crust with oil. Smear a thin layer of tomato sauce over the crust, leaving one inch clear around the edges. Scatter a layer of mozzarella over the sauce. Sprinkle with chili flakes. Top with a layer of prosciutto. Sprinkle Parmesan over the pizza. Brush the exposed edges with a little more olive oil.
Slide the parchment and pizzas onto a baking stone on lowest rack in oven. Bake until crust is beginning to color, about 10 minutes. Slide pizza out of the oven and spread arugula over the pizza. It will look like a lot, but will cook down. Return to oven and bake until crust is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately, drizzled with olive oil.

Tomato Sauce
Makes 1 cup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 15-ounce can crushed Italian plum tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in a saucepan. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened, about 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning.

Pizza Dough Recipe
Adapted from a recipe by Alice Waters. Makes 2 – 10 inch pizza crusts.

2 teaspoons dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup semolina flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups cold water
1/4 cup olive oil

Stir yeast and lukewarm water together in a bowl. Add 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and semolina. Mix well. Let sit until bubbly, about 30 minutes. Combine remaining flour and salt in another bowl. Add to yeast with cold water and olive oil. Mix well to form a dough. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead with hands until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Or use a mixer with a dough hook, and knead about 5 minutes. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat all sides with oil. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours. Punch dough down, and let rise another 45 minutes. Divide dough into 2 equal disks. Let rest 30 minutes before shaping. Lightly flour a work surface. Using your fingers or heels of your hands, stretch the disks out to 10-inch shapes.

Sweet Pepper, Salami and Basil Pizza

It’s pizza night tonight – no take out necessary. I’ve got dough defrosting in the refrigerator from my last pizza night. All that’s needed are a few ingredients from the refrigerator, and it’s as simple as that. The next time you make homemade pizza, be sure to make extra dough to freeze. Then when it’s suddenly pizza night, you can whip one up as easy as ….

Sweet Pepper, Salami and Basil Pizza

Pizza dough for one extra-large pizza (recipe below)

1/2 cup  tomato sauce (recipe below)
3 ounces salami or pepperoni
1 cup thinly sliced sweet peppers
1 cup basil leaves, torn in half
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 500 F. Stretch out pizza dough in a large rectangular shape on parchment paper.
Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce over crust, leaving one inch clear around the edge of the crust. Arrange salami over pizza. Scatter peppers and basil over the salami. Sprinkle with cheese. Brush the exposed crust with olive oil.
Slide the parchment and pizza onto a baking stone on lowest rack in oven. Bake until crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly, about 12-15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Tomato Sauce
Makes 1 cup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 15-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, with juice
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in a saucepan. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally and breaking up tomatoes, until sauce is thickened, about 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper.

Pizza Dough Recipe
Adapted from a recipe by Alice Waters. Makes 1 extra large or 2 medium pizza crusts.

2 teaspoons dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup semolina flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups cold water
1/4 cup olive oil

Stir yeast and lukewarm water together in a bowl. Add 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and semolina. Mix well. Let sit until bubbly, about 30 minutes. Combine remaining flour and salt in another bowl. Add to yeast with cold water and olive oil. Mix well to form a dough. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead with hands until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. (Or use a mixer with a dough hook, and knead about 5 minutes.) Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat all sides with oil. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours. Punch dough down, and let rise another 45 minutes. Divide dough into 2 equal disks (or 4 if you would like small pizzas.) Let rest 30 minutes before shaping. Lightly flour a work surface. Using your fingers or heels of your hands, stretch the disks out to desired shape.

Cherry Tomato, Coppa and Arugula Pizza

~ Cherry Tomato, Coppa and Arugula Pizza ~

Try this pizza on for a weeknight dinner. Homemade pizza is fun to make and with a little organization a breeze to pull together on a school night. The best part is fiddling with different ingredients depending on what’s in season and what’s in the refrigerator. We made this pizza the other night, making use of the abundance of cherry tomatoes we have at the moment, some coppa (which may be substituted with prosciutto or a dry salami) and handfuls of fresh arugula.

When I do have time on my hands, I will make a double portion of crust and sauce. The extras are portioned and frozen for easy use. Just pull them out of the freezer early in the morning or the night before you plan to use them to defrost in the refrigerator.

Cherry Tomato, Coppa and Arugula Pizza

Be sure not to overload the pizza with the toppings. The amounts below are approximations and will vary with the size of the crust. Makes 2 10-inch pizzas or 4 small pizzas.

2 uncooked 10-inch pizza crusts (recipe below)
2/3 cup  tomato sauce (recipe below)
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
8 slices (3 ounces) coppa, torn in half
2 cups arugula
1 heaping cup small cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 500 F. Roll out crusts on parchment paper.
Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce over each crust, leaving one inch clear around the edge of the crust. Arrange one layer mozzarella over the sauce. Top with a layer of coppa. Scatter tomatoes and arugula over the coppa. Sprinkle with pecorino. Brush the exposed crust with olive oil.
Slide the parchment and pizzas onto a baking stone on lowest rack in oven. Bake until crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately as is or topped with additional fresh arugula and a drizzle of olive oil.

Tomato Sauce
Makes 1 cup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 15 ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, with juice
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in a saucepan. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally and breaking up tomatoes, until sauce is thickened, about 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper.

Pizza Dough Recipe
Adapted from a recipe by Alice Waters. Makes 2 – 10 inch or 4 mini pizza crusts.

2 teaspoons dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup semolina flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups cold water
1/4 cup olive oil

Stir yeast and lukewarm water together in a bowl. Add 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and semolina. Mix well. Let sit until bubbly, about 30 minutes. Combine remaining flour and salt in another bowl. Add to yeast with cold water and olive oil. Mix well to form a dough. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead with hands until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Or use a mixer with a dough hook, and knead about 5 minutes. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat all sides with oil. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours. Punch dough down, and let rise another 45 minutes. Divide dough into 2 equal disks (or 4 if you would like small pizzas.) Let rest 30 minutes before shaping. Lightly flour a work surface. Using your fingers or heels of your hands, stretch the disks out to 10-inch shapes.