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Category Archives: Pasta

Homemade Marinara Sauce

I’ve been playing around with a versatile red sauce for a while now. I wanted a sauce that could work well both with a quick spaghetti dish and also as a pizza sauce in a pinch. I was simply tired of paying four dollars a jar for any decent tasting marinara at the store.  This recipe is for a nice, easy, flexible sauce that can suit many needs, and won’t send you to the poor house either. I found this recipe over at The Two Bites Club – and it’s exactly what I was looking for.

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Ingredients:
28 oz of canned tomatoes, drained
3 TBSP Olive Oil
1 TBSP Dried Basil
1 1/2 tsp Dried Oregano
1/4 tsp Salt
4 cloves Garlic, minced

Directions:
1. Pour all of your ingredients into a large sauce pan and bring to a boil.
2. Reduce your heat to medium and simmer for roughly 30 minutes.
3. If you like your sauce chunky, then you’re done – if you like it a bit thinner, you can use an immersion blender (or even a regular blender) to puree up the large chunks of tomato into either smaller pieces or into a smooth sauce. Whichever you and your family prefers!
4. Enjoy! Serve with pasta or on top of your pizza!

 

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Meatballs

This recipe was a life saver for me tonight. My day starting taking a sharp nosedive around lunchtime and just kept plummeting. The house was a wreck, things were breaking, kids were crabby and difficult and soo NOT interested in letting Mommy go in the kitchen to cook dinner (even though they assured me they were soo desperately hungry for snacks *sigh*). Just as I thought things had just about reached the peak of chaos, I get an email from the hubby that he’s working really late and won’t be home until after the kids are in bed, dinner’s over, and I’m so far past stressed out that I’m already halfway back to sanity again.

Luckily I made my Mega Meatloaf last night. No, that’s not a total non sequitur and random plug for another one of my recipes, it is why I had meatballs already made and rolled and ready to go today!

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Both my recipe for meatballs and my recipe for my Mega Meatloaf call for a 50/50 mixture of ground beef and ground pork. Because both are sold in 1lb packages – I would have to either make a two pound meatloaf or two pounds of meatballs. Either way, it would be way too much for my family to eat and as it is we have quite a bit of leftovers from each dish when we split them! I buy my ground meats, mix them together with the ingredients listed below, and then divide the mixture in half and make half of it into a meatloaf and the other half becomes my meatballs! AND I was lucky enough yesterday to have made the meatloaf half so all I had to do today was retrieve my plate of mixed, rolled, and prepared meatballs out of the fridge, toss it in the oven, and then serve it to my ever-so-charming children!

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Ingredients:
1/2 lb Ground Beef
1/2 lb Ground Pork1 Egg
1/2 cup Romano Cheese
3 cloves Garlic, minced
3/4 TBSP Parsley
salt/pepper to taste
1 cup Bread Crumbs
3/4 cup lukewarm Water
Optional: Marinara Sauce, grated Mozzarella Cheese, Bread for meatball sandwiches or spaghetti for pasta

Directions:
1. Combine the meat, eggs, cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add about half of the breadcrumbs and mix it in, then half of the water and mix it in fully. Repeat with the remainder of the bread crumbs and water – though you have to make a judgement call on the water. You might need a little more or a little less, depending on how moist your ground meats were. You want the meat mixture to be firm enough to hold its shape. Too dry and it will break apart, too wet and it will just be a sloppy mess.
2. Once your meat is mixed together, you get to start rolling your balls. I like mine to be roughly a TBSP each as a general rule of thumb for sizing. Any size works though, just remember that you want them to be as uniform as possible and that bigger meatballs will take longer to cook, smaller ones will cook quicker.

(Up to this point, the meat mixture is the exact same as the mixture for my Mega Meatloaf mix. This is where the recipes start to split apart so if you want to use half your meat for the meatloaf, divide it now and save some for later. Check the tabs above in the meat/pork drop down for my Mega Meatloaf recipe!)

3. At this point in the recipe you can make a choice. You can fry up your meatballs in some olive oil and then toss them in a pot of marinara to finish cooking and absorb the saucey flavor – OR – you can put them on a greased cookie sheet in the oven at 350 for about half an hour. Either way they come out delicious and ready-to-eat!
4. Enjoy!

 

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Lemon Pasta

This dish was actually created because I was trying to figure out a decent entree to serve as a vegetarian dish, without it being the typical meatless marinara pasta that is often offered up at family functions. I had a veggie friend, and it just seemed sad that she always had to eat second rate choices of food because nobody wanted to put any effort into a meatless dish.

Lemon Pasta!

This is a pasta dish that is ultra easy to make, cheap to cook, and also travels really well. I have even frozen it and used it as a freezer meal before with good success, but the best compliment I can give to this dish is that it’s hearty enough that even my meat loving husband will request it for dinner and declare it filling enough to serve as a main entree.

Ingredients:
1 lb Thin Pasta (angel hair works too – I recommend using a standard spaghetti if you want to freeze it though)
4 TBSP Butter
2 TBSP EVOO
2 cloves Minced Garlic
2 cups Sour Cream
2 whole Lemons
1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
roughly 2 cups Grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375
2. Prep your lemons. Roll them on the countertop under your palm while pressing firmly to loosen them up for juicing. Once fully tender, zest both lemons and save the zest for the sauce later. Slice lemons in half so you’re ready to juice them when needed.
3. Get pasta started cooking to al dente. When cooked – move to an oven safe casserole dish and wait for the sauce.
4. In a skillet, melt butter with EVOO over LOW HEAT. When butter is melted, add minced garlic. Squeeze one whole lemon and half of the other. Save the remaining half for later. Turn the heat off of the pan.
5. Add sour cream and stir mixture together. Add lemon zest from both lemons and the salt. Pour the mixture over the drained pasta and mix together well. (If you’re tasting as you – like you should! – don’t worry if you think the sauce is ultra sour at this point. I promise you it mellows out quite a lot while baking in the oven.)
6. Bake, covered, for 15 minutes. Then remove the cover and bake for another 7-10 minutes.
7. Once out of the oven, juice the last half of lemon over the pasta and top the dish generously with Parmesan cheese. Don’t skimp on the Parm here, it really makes the dish work!
8. Enjoy!!

 

Creamy Garlic Pasta

Ever get to late afternoon, take a look around your kitchen, and realize you have no clue what to make for dinner? I tend to grocery shop on Tuesday mornings, and Monday nights can be the hardest nights to feed the family since there’s usually little to no food left in the house to work with (the Market is near a weekly errand I run on Tues).

So, as I’m pursuing the fridge, the pantry, the freezer, the fridge again (in case something good miraculously appeared since I checked it two minutes before…) I’m starting to see I have pretty much just a few basic ingredients that I can use to create something not only filling, but kid friendly.

Ingredients for Creamy Garlic Pasta

We always keep a small selection of pastas on hand. You can turn almost anything into a pasta or a casserole and it’s a great way to ‘clean out’ the random leftover foods. “Kitchen Sink Casseroles” are pretty common around here – ‘kitchen sink’ meaning we tossed everything but the kitchen sink in! I actually added in some leftover rotisserie chicken and some sauteed mushrooms to my batch last night. Feel free to experiment!

Creamy Garlic Pasta

For the base of this dish, I used:

2 tsp EVOO
4 cloves minced garlic
2 TBSP butter
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups chicken stock (homemade if you can!)
1/2 lb of spaghetti noodles (half a box)
slightly less than 1 cup of grated parmesean cheese
slightly more than 3/4 cup of heavy cream

Directions:
1. In a pot, warm EVOO and add the garlic. Allow to cook for 1-2 minutes then mix in the butter until melted. Add salt, pepper, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil.
2. Add pasta and cook to al dente. Reduce heat to medium and mix in parmesean until completely melted. Turn off the heat and add in the cream.
3. Add in any additional ingredients you want – cooked chicken, mushrooms, whatever you like. Serve immediately.

 

Spinach Lasagna Roll Ups

So here’s the thing about this recipe. It started off as one thing, and got changed and twisted and altered soo many different times and soo many different ways that it became something else entirely! This dish initially started out as a “cheeseburger stuffed pasta shell” that my husband is ultra fond of, but that I never really got into. I took out the beef, added some spinach, changed the cheese, altered the sauce…..and it all morphed into this delicious spinach and ricotta stuffed shell.

AND THEN! As if this dish wasn’t morphing enough, I stumbled across a recipe by another blogger at skinnygirl.com that had something extremely similar to my recipe, only instead of a pasta shell, she rolled it up in a lasagna noodle. Tah-daaahhh!! That was the missing component! I can now happily say that this dish is exactly the way I like it. It’s deceptively simple, there’s not alot of spice or anything, but it’s the easiness and the simplicity that really appeals to me. You can taste every ingredient for exactly what it is. No more, no less.

Spinach lasagna rolls

Spinach Lasagna Roll Ups

Half a box of lasagna noodles (the recipe will need 9 noodles, but I usually cook 10 or 11 as I always manage to tear a few…)
Chopped spinach. One large bunch of washed, stemmed, fresh spinach – or if you’re in a pinch you can thaw and drain a frozen package.
15oz Ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 large can tomato sauce (28-32 oz)  I’ve tried to use all sorts of marinara here, and feel free to experiment, but I really think the acidic taste of the straight tomato sauce compliments this dish.
shredded mozzarella cheese
salt/pepper to taste

1. Cook up the lasagna noodles to just-done. After cooking, separate them out so they don’t all stick together and make a mess for you later. Careful, they will be hot. You will singe your fingertips. No real way around it, you gotta do it, so man-up and get them pulled apart and layed out nicely on either a sheet of wax paper or a laid out dish towel or even a cutting board.
2. Preheat the oven to 350
3. In a medium sized bowl, combine the spinach, Ricotta, Parmesan, and egg. Add salt and pepper to your liking. For this, I like just a little pepper and an extra grind or two of salt.
4. Pour about a cup of tomato sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish. You can use a full sized 9×13 for this, but I prefer to use the half sized 9×9. It fits just fine and seems to hold the sauce better. Either way, spread that sauce around the bottom, it will keep the noodles from sticking to the dish.
5. Here’s the fun part. Go to where you have your lasagna noodles laying out and spread approx. 1/3 cup of the spinach mix throughout the entire noodle. Leave about 1 inch of the very end dry so it seals up nicely for you. Roll it slowly up and seal it with the dry inch and put it seem side down in the sauced casserole dish. Keep doing this until you’re out of sauce and/or noodles.
6. Pour some more tomato sauce over the tops of the nicely rolled noodles. Sprinkle each sauced roll up with a finger’s pinch of mozzarella cheese.
7. Bake, covered, for 40 minutes.
8. When cooked, top each roll with a little of the sauce and a fresh pinch of mozzarella and you’re all set.
9. Enjoy!!

 
 

Milky Mac and Cheese

Everybody loves Mac and Cheese. I have kids, so of course this is a main staple type meal for us around here. I’m not a fan of that very well known Blue Box version of Mac. It’s salty. The cheese is powdered. It’s full of cheap, low grade ingredients so the very large brand name can maximize it’s profit margin. All in all, I avoid keeping it on hand.

Now, there are two types of homemade Mac and Cheese – you have your creamy, ooey gooey oven baked type mac, and you have your milkier noodles in a light cheese type sauce (sort of like the Blue Box) type mac and cheese.  I myself am a HUGE fan of the ooey gooey…but my kids of course have to be difficult and prefer the milky :-)   This is my recipe for a Milky Mac that you can feel better about serving up instead of using the Blue Box stuff! It’s fresher, has alot more Real Foods in it, and is a ton lower in sodium and all that unnecessary garbage that simply doesn’t need to be in our food!

Milky Mac and Cheese

Milky Mac and Cheese

2 cups dry pasta
2.5 cups milk (any kind – we use 2% around here)
1 cup FRESHLY GRATED cheese. I like to use a combo of Cheddar and Monterrey Jack, but whatever you like best will work fine)
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp salt

1. In a small sauce pan, add posta and milk. Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to low and cook for 20-25 minutes until pasta is soft and most of the milk is absorbed. Stir frequently and make sure the milk doesn’t boil during the simmer.
2. Turn off the heat and add cheese and salt and stir to combine. When the cheese is fully melted, add in the mustard powder. Cover the pot and let it stand for a few minutes – if it’s not creamy enough, feel free to add a little more milk.
3. Enjoy!!

If you’re wondering why I stressed the FRESHLY GRATED cheese for this particular recipe, see my post on why it’s important to grate your own cheese when possible!!

 
 
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