Mmmeatballs

There are two things that I always regret ordering at a restaurant – meatballs and fresh pasta. Not to brag, but I make a damn good meatball, and my fresh pasta is fantastic (ok, I totally just bragged…). So I can’t justify paying someone else to serve me a dry, flavorless meatball or gummy, wrongly cooked fresh pasta – I’m almost always disappointed. And it makes me want to go home and make my own!

Browning Meatballs

Unlike most meatball recipes, mine does not call for bread crumbs. I know the rational behind adding bread crumbs (or even bread) is to prevent the meatballs from drying out – but dry meatballs are not a problem that I encounter. I think it is because of my preferred cooking method – pan seared then braised in tomato sauce. The browning ensures a good texture, flavor, and stability (ie, your meat stays in a ball) and the slow braise keeps the meat tender and juicy.

Meatball Ingredients

Let’s talk about meat! I like a 50/50 mix of lean ground beef and Italian sausage (I used hot chicken today, but sometimes use pork sausage). The fat ratio is good (not too fatty, but enough to hold your balls together and retain juiciness) and you are giving yourself a head start on the seasonings with the sausage. Ground veal is another popular option for meatballs, but it is not my preference. The price is too high, and the positive impact it makes on the meatball is too low to justify paying the price – or killing a baby cow for that matter. Now bring on a tender veal chop, and I’ll overlook the baby butchering…

Meatball Mix

Take off your rings, trim your fingernails, and get ready to be wrist deep in meat – because the best way to mix your meatballs is by hand. Similar to making hamburgers, you want all of your flavors evenly distributed. You also don’t want to over work the meat. Hands are the perfect tool for ensuring both. I start by mixing my seasoning, cheese, cream and egg (do this with a fork or a whisk). Then add in the meat and get to work. Once you are happy with the meat mixture, start to form the balls.

You may be wondering does size really matter? No, not really (not with meatballs anyways…). I like about 1 inch round balls, but feel free to go big (or small, if that’s how you roll). Just keep in mind that with larger meatballs, they will need a longer time braising in the sauce. If you are planning on letting your sauce simmer all day (which isn’t a requirement, but it is a good idea!) then this isn’t a problem.

Browning Meatballs2

Before you start cooking the meatballs, make your sauce. After they are browned, you’ll want to transfer them into the simmering sauce. If you have a go-to tomato sauce recipe, then use it. If you need a new favorite, use mine (recipe below)! But God forbid, do not dump a jar of Ragu in a pot. These meatballs deserve the best, and the best is homemade.

The ideal pan for browning the meatballs is a cast iron skillet. If you don’t have one, go buy one use a nonstick skillet. Heat the pan over medium heat and add about 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Take your time with the browning and don’t crowd the pan. It will take a few minutes per side to get a nice caramelized crust. If you go to check or turn your meatballs and they stick, wait a minute or two longer – once they are good and browned they will come right off. Move the browned meatballs over to the sauce, and give it a stir to make sure they are completely submerged.

Deglaze

Once all of your meatballs are browned and transferred to the sauce, you may notice some little bits of seasoned meat stuck to your pan. We don’t want to lose those – that is some good flavor right there! Turn the heat off and pour a little chicken stock (or water. Or red wine….no judgment here) in the pan to deglaze. With your wooden spoon, scrape up all the stuck on bits. Now pour it into your sauce with the meatballs. Give it a good stir, and leave it to simmer for the next couple of hours.

Meatballs

I like my meatballs served over a nest of fresh pasta and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. Sorry, I don’t have a tutorial on making fresh pasta yet. I’ll need to grow a third arm or entrust The Man with the photography duties before I can feature a post about it. I’ll work on both…. But in the meantime, use the pasta that you prefer.

Meatballs

  • 1 Lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 Lb. Italian sausage (hot chicken)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 T. Parmesan cheese
  • 2 T. Italian parsley, minced
  • 1 T. garlic, minced
  • 1 T. Italian seasoning (dried herbs)
  • 2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cream (can use 2% or whole milk instead)
  • 1/2 tsp. Tabasco sauce
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • Tomato Sauce
  • 1/2 c. chicken stock

Whisk together egg, cheese, parsley, garlic, herbs, cream, pepper, salt and Tabasco. Add in meats and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated. Form into balls (about 1″ round) and refrigerate until ready to cook.

In a cast iron skillet, heat oil over medium. Brown meatballs on all sides. Do not over crowd the pan, work in batches if necessary. Once browned, transfer meatballs to simmering tomato sauce. Stir to cover.

After all meatballs are browned and transferred to sauce, pour chicken stock into skillet. With a wooden spoon, scrape up any meat that is crusted onto the pan. Pour chicken stock into tomato sauce and stir through.

Allow meatballs to simmer in sauce, uncovered on low heat for at least 1 hour. For best results, simmer for 3 to 4 hours.

Tomato Sauce

  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T. thyme, minced
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 box Pomi strained tomatoes (or 28 oz. can pureed tomatoes)
  • 1/2 C. water
  • 2 T. brown sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a dutch oven or stock pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in onion and saute until translucent. Add in garlic, thyme and red pepper flakes. continue to cook until onions are lightly browned. Pour in tomatoes and water. Stir in brown sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.

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Grilled Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp Scampi always seems like a good idea – until you look at recipes that call for mountains of butter or oil. I’m not afraid of butter – but my ass and thighs can be a little vindictive. I recently came across a scampi recipe that replaced all of the fat with chicken stock. Good idea! I thought, but the rest of the recipe had little to offer. So I incorporated the use of chicken stock with a better Scampi recipe, and came out with a pretty good (lower fat) Shrimp Scampi.

Grilled Shrimp Scampi

I marinated and grilled my shrimp. If you don’t feel like grilling (or the weather isn’t so good) you can saute the shrimp in the pan before you start your sauce. Drain the shrimp from the marinade, and quickly cook them in your pot. Set them aside when they are slightly under cooked, they will cook through while they rest on the plate (this goes for grilling the shrimp too).  The sauce goes together quickly, so don’t worry about your shrimp getting cold.

Grilled Shrimp Scampi

  • 1 Lb. pasta (linguine)
  • 1 T. butter
  • 1. T. olive oil
  • 4 -6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 C. white wine (Chardonnay)
  • 1 C. chicken stock
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Grilled shrimp
  • Garlic bread crumbs

Cook pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside. In a large pot, heat butter and oil over medium heat. Add in garlic, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in the wine, and allow to simmer for 2 minutes. Add in stock, lemon juice, salt and pepper; simmer for 5 minutes. Add reserved pasta and handful of parsley to sauce. Reduce heat to low, and cook pasta for about 5 minutes or until pasta is cooked through and soaked up most of the sauce.

To serve, plate pasta into a shallow bowl. Top with 6 or 7 shrimp and 1 to 2 Tablespoons of bread crumbs.

Grilled Garlic & Lemon Shrimp

  • 1 Lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • wooden skewers

Combine lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in olive oil. Add shrimp and marinate for 30 minutes. Put shrimp onto skewers (5 or 6 per stick). Grill over medium heat for 3 minutes per side, or until almost cooked through. Remove from heat and allow to rest while you prepare the sauce. Remove from skewers to serve.

Garlic Bread Crumbs

  • 4 – 6 slices bread
  • 1 small garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • 2 T. olive oil

In a food processor, pulse bread and garlic until finely ground. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add in garlic bread crumbs and cook until golden, stirring frequently.

Puttanesca – It’s What They’re Biting On

So apparently Puttanesca literally translates into “whore’s spaghetti”. And rumor has it, this is the sauce that said whores would make while hard working Italian men were clocking out, and the aromas would lure the unsuspecting/hungry men in for a good meal and some adult time. I don’t know how true that is, and I can’t attest to it’s man-catching abilities. But I can say this – it’s a little salty, a bit briny, a hint of heat and tons of flavor. The Man loves it and it also goes together in under 30 minutes. So here it is, the dish that (allegedly) men are biting on.

Puttanesca2

The sauce starts with a tin of anchovies. Hold on, don’t run off….I know – anchovies are a bad pizza topping, and that’s about the extent of it. But anchovies are a great salty addition, and you don’t get any yicky canned fish flavor. Trust me, I am extremely sensitive (read, grossed out) to anything fishy – and there is nothing fishy about this sauce. Start by heating olive oil in a sauce pan, and breaking the anchovies up with your spoon. Tiny shreds are ideal – this will help get the salty flavor distributed through the sauce, without any big fishy bites. Then you will add in the red pepper flakes, garlic, cherry tomatoes, olives and capers. Let everything get a little time in the oil before adding the canned tomatoes.

Puttanesca Sauce2

After all of the elements of your sauce go into the pot, let it simmer while you boil the pasta. I like angel hair, but I thing spaghetti is more traditional. Use what you like (or what you have on hand). Once the pasta is cooked add it, along with fresh arugula to the sauce. Arugula isn’t traditional at all. But it was in my fridge, and the fresh peppery taste seemed a good accompaniment to the flavors I already had going.

Arugula

Toss the pasta and arugula in the sauce, and let everything cook through for about 5 minutes. When it’s time to serve, give it a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and some fresh cracked pepper. That’s it!

Puttanesca with Arugula

  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 2 Oz. flat anchovies, drained (one small tin)
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 C. kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 2 T. capers
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes
  • 2 C. arugula
  • 1 Lb. angel hair pasta

In a sauce pan, heat olive oil and anchovies. With a wooden spoon or fork, break anchovies into tiny pieces, almost to a paste. Add in garlic and pepper flakes. Allow to cook for a few minutes, or until garlic is fragrant. Add cherry tomatoes, olives and capers and cook another 5 minutes. Pour in diced tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer while preparing pasta.

Cook angel hair pasta according to package. Drain and add to Puttanesca sauce along with arugula. Toss pasta and arugula in sauce, and allow to cook on low for 5 minutes. Serve with parmesan cheese and black pepper.

Pesto Chicken Lasagna

In the world of lasagna, this is a fairly quick lasagna. And by “quick” I mean it won’t take you four hours to prepare – but it might take one. If this were Sunday, I’d start my sauces at 10 am, make pasta from scratch, grate fresh mozzarella, and be wore out by the time dinner was ready (I’d also be fat and happy after I ate, and would be enjoying my labor for most of the next week!). But since this is the middle of the week, we’re going to cut some corners to make this meal in a timely fashion.

Pesto Chicken Lasagna

We’ll start with the sauce. Everything goes in the pot, simmers and is done. That’s it! 20 minutes, and you have yourself a fresh, homemade sauce for the pasta. The flavors are simple and mild, and will be a good accompaniment to the strong flavors of the Pesto Chicken and the creamy texture of the Lemon Ricotta.

Tomato Cream Sauce

Next is the Pesto Chicken. Pesto traditionally contains nuts (typically pine nuts). Although I’m a huge fan of pine nuts, I know that some people (like my step dad) can be deathly allergic – so when I think he might be around for dinner, I leave all the nuts in the freezer (except me, I don’t fit in the freezer…. and yes, the freezer is the best place to store nuts). In a dish like this, that is full of complimenting flavor elements, I don’t really miss the pine nuts in the pesto. But if you are appalled at the thought of leaving them out – then add them in!

Do you ever walk by your grocery store deli when they are pulling out the rotisserie chickens? Well it’s a bad idea – you’ll forget what you came to buy, and end up buying 2 of those chickens instead (one to eat on in the store, and one to take home for later!). The meat is so tender and juicy, and it makes for a great start to a quick weeknight meal. Remove the skin, pull the meat, and toss it in the pesto.

Pesto Chicken

And the last layer that takes a little prep work is the Lemon Ricotta. You’ll want to use both the zest and the juice of the lemon – the zest contains all the oils, and has a punchier flavor. But don’t expect an overpowering lemon flavor with this – we don’t want to bite into the lasagna and think lemon! The amount of juice and zest we are using is just enough to give it a fresh flavor that’s slightly zingy.

Lemon Ricotta2

Onto the no-prep elements to our dish – fresh spinach, grated mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, and no-boil lasagna sheets. Did you know they made those!? Whoever thought of that is a genius… For a weeknight lasagna, no-boil pasta is ideal. But you want to make sure that the top layer is completely covered with sauce – any parts that aren’t touching sauce will end up crispy instead of soft.

lasagna layers

For assembly, I start with a thin layer of sauce. Especially since we are using the no-boil pasta – you want there to be enough moisture around the sheets. So sauce first (about 1/2 cup, spread evenly around) followed by pasta, then sauce again. Next is the spinach. I prefer a little spinach on each level – but I think The Man would prefer a whole bag per level….so go with what you prefer. Keep in mind that it will wilt as it cooks, and there will be much less when it’s done. On top of the spinach goes the ricotta . Drop spoonfuls evenly around, and don’t worry about spreading it out – it will spread as it bakes. Next is the chicken, followed by mozzarella and then more pasta. Press down a little on the pasta, just to get the bottom layers all cozy together. Now repeat – sauce, spinach, ricotta, chicken, cheese, pasta. For the top, you want a light layer of sauce, and alot of cheese.

Pesto Chicken Lasagna2

After you’ve baked your lasagna til it’s bubbly and brown, let it sit for at least 20 minutes. I know, I know….after all this hard work and an hour in the oven, you are starving. But if you cut into it right away, you are going to end up with a sloppy mess. All your sauce will be left in the pan, and there won’t be a single recognizable layer. And it’s too hot to eat now anyways! So trust me….drink you a glass of wine and chill out. Once the lasagna cools, it will cut smoothly and plate in one solid piece. Enjoy ;)

Pesto Chicken Lasagna

  • No-boil lasagna sheets
  • Tomato Cream Sauce
  • Lemon Ricotta
  • Pesto Chicken
  • 8 Oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Fresh spinach
  • 1/4 C. parmesan cheese, grated

In a large baking dish, spoon 1/2 cup of sauce evenly into the bottom. Layer in lasagna sheets, slightly overlapping. Follow with 1/3 of tomato sauce, 1/2 of spinach, 1/2 of ricotta, 1/2 of chicken, and 1/3 of mozzarella. Top with layer of lasagna sheets and repeat, ending with third and final layer of lasagna sheets. Evenly coat lasagna with remaining sauce, mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350F for 50 – 60 minutes, or until heated through and bubbly.  Allow to cool for 20 minutes before serving.

Lasagna can be assembled in advance and kept refrigerated until ready to bake. Remove from the fridge half an hour before baking. Lasagna is always better the next day, so enjoy the leftovers!

Tomato Cream Sauce

  • 1 box Pomi chopped tomatoes (or 1 large can diced tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 C. half & half
  • 2 T. fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 T. olive oil

Combine all ingredients into a pan. Heat over medium until simmering. Reduce heat to low, continue to simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool before assembling lasagna.

Lemon Ricotta

  • 8 Oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T. lemon zest
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 1 T. Italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.

Pesto Chicken

  • 1 bunch basil (about 20 leaves)
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 C. olive oil
  • 1/4 C. grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, shredded

In a food processor, pulse basil and garlic until pulverized. Move to a bowl and add in oil, cheese, salt and pepper. Stir until combined. If too thick, add a little more oil (but do not make it super runny). Add in chicken, and toss to combine.

 

Chicken Ragu

After a quick sear and a long simmer, the chicken in this ragu will melt in your mouth. A little wine adds flavor to the sauce (a glass for the chef doesn’t hurt either!) and the fact that this dish is economical is the icing on the cake (or the cheese on your spaghetti…)

Chicken Ragu

I like to use boneless skinless chicken thighs for this dish. They are butterflied open (making them thin and quicker cooking) and the dark meat is so tender and flavorful. Not to mention that thighs are much cheaper than breasts. Lightly season the meat and pan sear both sides. You aren’t trying to cook the chicken through, you just want a little brown on them. The meat will finish cooking (and fall to shreds) in the sauce.

Browning Chicken

Once you’ve got the meat browned (you may need to cook the pieces in batches) it’s time for the onions. Don’t worry about any chicken or brown bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan – put the onions right on top. Moisture from the onions will help pull some of it up (and a douse of red wine will finish the rest!) Cook the onions for about 10 minutes, or until softened.
Saute OnionsTime to reach for the wine (the bottle, not your glass…) and pour in about 1/4 cup to deglaze the pan. Use your spoon to scrape up all the stuck on bits, and then bring the wine up to a simmer. It’s best to let it cook for a few minutes before adding anything else – this will allow the alcohol to cook out and the wine flavor to concentrate. Now you may be wondering what kind of  “red” wine to use. Personally, I’m not real picky about wine…in fact, we tend to go with cheap or on sale (or my favorite of all cheap and on sale). Avoid a sweet red, or anything labeled “table wine”. But anything you already have on hand (or wouldn’t mind drinking) will work great.

Deglaze with wine

Now everybody in the pot – tomatoes, chicken stock (boxed stock is perfectly fine here), brown sugar, seasonings and chicken. Stir it up (make sure the chicken is covered) and bring it up to a simmer. Put a lid on the sauce and reduce the heat to low. You want the pot to be slowly simmering – not boiling. One to two bubbles surfacing for second is ideal. After the first hour, you’ll want to remove the lid to allow some of the moisture to evaporate.

Chicken back in the pot

For the best results, the chicken needs to simmer for about 3 hours. I know, this is a long time – the long slow cooking helps keep the chicken tender and juicy, while turning it into bite sized shreds. But if you don’t happen to have 3 hours before dinner time, there are a few shortcuts that work great as well. Option 1 – dice up your meat. Obviously smaller pieces cook faster. I would season, sear, them cut into 1 inch pieces. Option 2 – use chicken that’s already cooked. But depending on how the chicken was previously cooked, will yield different results. Leftovers from a Beer Can Chicken, a store bought rotisserie chicken, or meat left from making stock would be best.

Long simmer

Every so often (half hour or so) you will want to give your pot a stir. Your chicken may need a little encouragement – use your spoon to gently break it apart. If you are worried the pieces aren’t shredding in a timely manner, feel free to pull it out and shred with two forks.

Once your chicken has successfully broken down, and your taste buds are drooling, it’s time for the pasta (yay, finally!). I like linguine for this sauce. The flat noodles are more substantial than say an angel hair, and the texture goes well with the sauce. Boil it up, drain it, then add it to the sauce. Let it cook for a few more minutes, to allow the sauce and pasta to become one. To serve, add a little torn basil, parmesan cheese, and fresh black pepper.

Chicken Ragu

Chicken Ragu

  • 1 1/2 Lbs. Boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 T. Cajun seasoning
  • 1 T. Italian seasoning
  • 1 T. Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 C. Red wine
  • 1 C. Chicken stock
  • 1 box Pomi strained tomatoes (or large can of pureed tomatoes)
  • 1 T. Brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. Salt
  • 1 tsp. Black pepper
  • 1 lb. Linguine

Combine cajun and Italian seasonings and lightly coat both sides of chicken. In a dutch oven, brown chicken in olive oil (do not worry about cooking through). Remove chicken from pan.

In same pot, saute onions until soft. Add in garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Deglaze the pot with the wine. Use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pot. Allow wine to simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Add in stock, tomatoes, brown sugar, salt, pepper and chicken. Bring to a simmer, cover, and reduce to low.

After 1 hour, remove lid. With a wooden spoon, gently break apart chicken. Simmer for 3 hours. Stir and break up chicken every half hour.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and add to sauce. Allow to cook in sauce for 5 minutes before serving.

Greek Pasta Salad

 

And for the pasta portion of tonight’s Gyro Burger dinner – Greek Pasta Salad. Colorful and flavorful, this is a zingy dish that goes great as a side. Or have it for a quick filling lunch!
Greek Pasta Salad

Greek Pasta Salad

  • 12 Oz. tri-color rotini pasta
  • 1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 C. red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cucumber; peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 C. Spanish olives, sliced
  • 1 T. capers
  • 2 T. feta cheese, diced or crumbled
  • Greek dressing

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside. Combine all other ingredients except for cheese and dressing. Toss to combine. Then add in pasta and dressing. Thoroughly coat pasta and vegetables. Allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes before adding in feta cheese. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Greek Dressing

  • 1 T. fresh oregano
  • 1 T. Italian parsley
  • 1 T. lemon zest
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 C. red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 C. olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth.

Greek Pasta Salad

It’s a Gyro, It’s a Burger. It’s a Gyro Burger!

To kick off Pasta Week, we’re having a burger. A spiced up lamb and beef – – what? You don’t like lamb? OHHH, why are we having burger’s for Pasta Week? you ask. So that we have a reason to make awesome Greek Pasta Salad, duh! Now back to this burger…

Gyro Burger

Since I need a main course to go with my Greek style pasta salad, it seems appropriate to go with something….Greek-ish. Like the flavors of a gyro in the form of a burger! Combine ground lamb, beef and tons of spices to make a gyro-esque patty, and serve it on a pita with some traditional gyro fixins.

lamb, beef, spice

My favorite gyro topping is tzatziki sauce. Thick tangy yogurt mixed with fresh cucumber and lemon – goes great on a pita or makes for a healthy dip with pita bread (or just give me a spoon…). Mix your sauce first (even hours in advance, if possible) to give the flavors time to marry.

Gyro Burger upclose

Gyro Burger

  • 1 Lb. ground lamb
  • 1 Lb. ground beef (80/20 fat ratio)
  • Gryo seasonings
  • Tzatziki sauce
  • Pita bread or flat bread
  • Arugula
  • Sliced tomato
  • Feta cheese

Combine lamb, beef and seasonings. Form into 6 patties, and refrigerate for at least one hour. Grill burgers to desired temperature.

To assemble : Cut patties in half. Lightly toast pita bread. Spread tzatiki sauce on half of pita. Place burger onto bread and top with arugula, tomato and feta cheese.

Gyro Seasonings

  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp. coriander
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp. chipotle pepper powder

Mix all seasonings in a small bowl.

Tzatziki Sauce

  • 6 Oz. plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and minced
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

What’s on the Plate This Week? 2/10/2013

Pasta, pasta and more pasta! I had a request from a penny pinching college student to post some more pasta recipes. I love all things pasta, and am more than happy to oblige. So here ya go Kevin – it’s Pasta Week!

Sunday Dinner

Gyro Burger with Greek Pasta Salad – A spiced lamb and beef patty, served on warm pita bread with fresh Tzatziki sauce.

Later in the week

Pesto Chicken Lasagna – Rotisserie chicken tossed in a pine nut-free pesto, and layered with tomato-cream sauce, spinach and lemon-basil ricotta.

Chicken Ragu – With a long simmer in a savory tomato sauce, this chicken shreds to pieces.

Spaghetti with Marinara

Pasta Marinara

Nothing highfalutin about making your own pasta sauce – yet most people still want to grab for the jar on spaghetti night. If you are accustomed to getting your pasta sauce pre-made from a jar, you will be pleasantly surprised at how quick and simple making fresh sauce is. And once you taste your own homemade sauce, you might never buy jarred again!

Marinara on the Fork

Spaghetti with Marinara

  • 1 Lb. long pasta (spaghetti, angel hair, etc.)
  • Marinara sauce
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Cracked black pepper
  • minced parsley (optional)

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to pot. Place the pot over medium-low heat. Ladle in sauce about 1/2 a cup at a time until pasta is lightly coated. Do not over sauce the pasta. Stir regularly and allow pasta to cook into sauce for about 5 minutes. Add more sauce if needed.

To serve, place a serving of pasta onto serving bowl. Sprinkle with cheese and parsley, season with pepper.

Marinara Sauce

  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1/2 C. onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 box Pomi strained tomatoes (25 oz.) (similar to canned tomato sauce)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Over medium-high heat, warm up the olive oil. Saute onions and carrots until both are softened and cooked through. Add in garlic and herbs. Cook for 2 minutes. Add in tomatoes, 1/2 cup of water, salt and pepper. Bring to a slow boil then reduce heat to low. Allow to simmer, uncovered, for at least half an hour. Sauce can be simmered for much longer to develop flavors, but it will need to be covered for anytime after the first 30 minutes. Remove herb stems before using.

White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese

White Cheddar Mac n Cheese2

We eat alot of macaroni and cheese around here – Kraft from the box, made from scratch, out at a restaurant….when you have a 3 year old, mac and cheese is a regular. I make a few different versions of homemade macaroni and cheese, but this one is a household favorite (I think it’s the garlic breadcrumb topping….)

mac n cheese ingredients

  • 1/2 Lb. small pasta (macaroni, shells, rigatoni, etc)
  • 1/4 C. sour cream
  • 1/4 C. milk
  • 3 T. butter
  • 4 oz. extra sharp white cheddar, grated
  • 4 oz. pepper jack, grated
  • 2 oz. parmesan, grated
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. mustard powder
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 – 1 C. garlic bread crumbs

Cook pasta to package directions. Drain and pour back into the pan. Add in butter, stir until melted. Stir in sour cream until all pasta is coated. Add in cheese and seasonings. Stir until coated. Pour into greased baking dish. Top with bread crumbs and bake at 350 for 30 minutes (or until top is brown and dish is bubbly).

Garlic Bread Crumbs

In a food processor, pulse leftover garlic bread until fine. Alternatively – use day old, toasted bread, 1 clove garlic, salt and pepper, and 1 tsp. olive oil. Pulse until fine crumbs.

garlic bread garlic bread bread crumbs