“The Family Recipe” Meaty Pasta Sauce

When I met my wife’s family over twelve years ago and tried their sauce recipe, I knew that I was marrying into the right family. It’s the best tomato based pasta sauce that I have ever eaten. It’s thick, rich and meaty. The ingredients are basic, its seasoned to perfection and cooked slowly. I fell in love with this dish years ago, its contributed to my joy of cooking and my appetite for pasta dishes.

This is one of those dishes that you start on a Saturday morning and the sweet aroma permeates the house all day long while it simmers on the stove. You can make large batches and freeze it or turn it into other meals like… Well I’m not going to tell you since that would be giving away next weeks post. To me and my family this sauce is comfort food, it brings back great memories of family meals of the past. I hope you will find that this recipe transforms your family as it has mine.

“The Family Recipe” 
What you will need

3 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Large Yellow Onion Chopped
6 Cloves of Garlic Chopped
1.25 Lbs Ground Beef (90/10)
1 6oz Can of Tomato Paste
1 28oz Can of Tomato Sauce
1 28oz Can of Whole Tomatoes
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1 1/2 Tbs Oregano
3 or 4 Leaves Fresh Basil Julienned (Sliced in strips)
2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper
1 Lb Dried Pasta (I like Spaghetti or Rotini)

In a thick bottomed pot add your olive oil and heat over medium. Once the oil is hot add your chopped onion and cook for 3 minutes. Move the onions to one side of the pot and add your garlic. Let the garlic cook for 1 – 2 minutes, but don’t let it brown (or it will become biter). Mix the onions and garlic togethers. Add a few pinches of salt and pepper, add the oregano and mix together. Move your onions to one side and add the ground beef to the pot. Season the ground beef with salt and pepper. Break the ground beef apart with a wooden spoon and cook until browned. It is okay to mix the onions and garlic in with the ground beef. Once the ground beef is browned, add the tomatoes, sauce and paste. Mix and let the sauce simmer for 2o minutes over low heat. With a potato masher crush the whole tomatoes. Mash them until the sauce becomes smooth. Add the fresh basil. Simmer over low heat for 3 to 4 hours, mixing with a wooden spoon every 30 minutes to make sure the sauce doesn’t burn at the bottom of the pan. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve over pasta and enjoy what my family has enjoyed for half a century.


Perfect Summer Pasta

I could eat pasta anytime, any day. I’m a pasta junkie. The good news for me and other pasta junkies is that pasta, and their accompanying sauces are really versatile. There is a combination for every season. A rich meaty bolognese (see here) is great on a cold winters night. With the summer upon us, I’ve got the perfect pasta recipe to share with you. I’ve been making this dish for years, to the joy of family and friends. Made with ripe cherry tomatoes, sweet basil, garlic and olive oil, this dish bursts with flavor. The tomatoes and garlic marinate in the olive oil, making a deliciously light summer sauce.

Inspired by Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa -

Perfect Summer Pasta
1lbs Angle Hair Pasta
2 Pints Cherry Tomatoes
5 – 6 Cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp Red Chili Flakes
15 – 20 Basil Leaves, Julienned
1/4 Cup of Good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 tsp Kosher Salt

Rinse, then slice all of the cherry tomatoes in half. I used a variety of both red and yellow cherry tomatoes. In a bowl top the sliced tomatoes with 1 tsp of kosher salt. This is really important, because the salt pulls the water and flavor out of the tomatoes. This helps to make the sauce extra flavorful.

Add to the bowl, the sweet basil, red chili flakes, and garlic. Pour the olive oil into the bowl and mix all of the ingredients together. Cover the bowl and let the mixture sit for 2 – 4 hours. This allows time for all of the flavors to come together.

The rest is easy. Boil your water and cook the pasta according to directions on the package. Angel Hair pasta usually cooks really fast, in just 3 – 4 minutes. Once the pasta is cooked and strained pour the tomato and olive oil sauce over the top along with the parmesan cheese, toss together. Plate, and top with a little extra parmesan cheese. If you friends and family are like mine, they will be clamoring for seconds, so make plenty.


Stuffed Cabbage… It’s Good!

Saturday mornings in our house usually include, a cup of fresh brewed coffee, maybe some music for background noise and a stack of cookbooks to peruse for meal ideas for the upcoming week. My son will usually be tugging on my PJ’s looking to sit in my lap, which always makes me smile.

After evaluating the weeks activities we usually pick a few of our GO TO meals, which we conveniently keep listed in Evernote (I highly recommend it). Evernote is perfect for storing recipes or even just pictures of recipes, and both are searchable.

I like to try at least one new recipe each week. Those new recipes may just turn into GO TO recipes in the future. I also like to keep things new and fresh. Food boredom is for the birds. I will either choose a specific recipe that excites me or search for inspiration. I might look at 2 or 3 recipes for the same dish and pull out what I believe are the best aspects of each, creating a hybrid of sorts.

This weeks “lets try something new dish” turned out to be stuffed cabbage. We have a new Slow Cooker Essentials cookbook by Williams-Sonoma and have found several great recipes in it. I was a little skeptical at first, but  the recipe called for bacon! What’s not to like? It was outstanding! Cabbage isn’t always a family favorite, but the way you slow cook this dish you almost don’t taste the cabbage. Sometimes cabbage dishes can be bitter, not this one! Get out of your comfort zone, take a risk, you won’t regret it!

Stuffed Cabbage – Adapted fromEssentials of Slow Cooking, Williams-Sonoma

Serves 4 to 6
1 Green Cabbage about 2 lbs
1 lb Lean Ground Pork
1/2 cup Cooked Rice (I used brown rice)
1 Egg
3 Green Onions, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
Salt & Pepper
4 Slices Bacon
1 Yellow Onion, Chopped
1 Rib of Celery, Chopped
1 Carrot, Chopped
1 tsp Caraway Seeds
1  28oz  Can Crushed Tomatoes
1 Cup Chicken Broth
1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar

Fill a pot with water large enough to boil the cabbage. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees if you are crunched for time and only have an hour and a half for cooking. 200 degrees if you are going to slow cook the stuffed cabbage for several hours. (I slow cooked mine for 4 hours). Chop your vegetables and set aside. Once the water comes to a boil, place the cabbage in the water and boil for 5 minutes. Once cooked, drain and set the cabbage aside to cool. In a Dutch oven (I use a Le Cruset) cook the bacon over medium heat (don’t let it burn). Once the bacon is crispy, remove it from the pan and place it on a plate covered with paper towels. Add your chopped vegetables, the onions, carrots and celery to the Dutch oven and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.

Remove one or two of the outer leaves from the cooked cabbage and chop, about 1/4 cup. In a bowl add your pork, green onions, rice, nutmeg, 1/2 tsp Salt, 1/4 tsp  Pepper, the 1/4 cup of  chopped cabbage and a beaten egg. Mix all of the ingredients together with your clean hands. As the Barefoot Contessa would say “the two best tools in the kitchen.”

Once the vegetables are soft, add to the Dutch oven the caraway seeds, crushed tomatoes, red wine vinegar and the bacon crumbled. Simmer over low heat.

The cabbage should be cool enough to begin peeling the  leaves from the cabbage. Carefully peel off about 12 leaves. depending on how much of the pork mixture you put in each cabbage leaf, you may only yield 8 total. Take a small handful of the pork mixture and gently roll it into a large meatball. Once pealed the cabbage leaf will take the natural form of a bowl, place the pork meatball into the thicker end of the cabbage. Fold in the sides and roll forward. Place the stuffed cabbage into the Dutch oven with the tomato sauce seam down. Repeat until all of the pork is used. Spoon some of the sauce over all of the stuffed cabbage. Cover and place in the oven.

As mentioned above – I cooked mine for about 4 hours at 200 degress, but if you are in more of a hurry you can cook it at 325 for about an hour and a half. If you decide to slow cook the stuffed cabbage for 4 hours, cover the Dutch oven with a sheet of tin foil before placing the lid on it. This will ensure that the liquid does not evaporate. Once the stuffed cabbage has cooked, plate and enjoy!


Spaghetti all’Amatriciana – Not America

It appears my first few recipe posts all have pasta and tomatoes in common. I’m not going to lie, I love pasta and tomatoes. Pizza is also a favorite, but doesn’t everyone love pizza? I’m pretty passionate about Italian food in general. Regardless if it’s a pasta recipe and includes tomatoes, this dish is really good and warrants sharing. For Christmas I was lucky enough to receive 7 new shiny cookbooks to add to my growing collection. I recently asked a friend if you could ever have to many cookbooks?  Their response – “you know you have to many cookbooks if you accidentally start buying duplicates.” I’m not there yet, but getting close. One of the 7 was Mario Batali’s, Molto Gusto. This is my first Mario cookbook and it’s a perfect fit for me. It has a pasta section and a pizza section, score!

At first glance I thought we were making Spaghetti America, but no it’s – Spaghetti all’Amatriciana. While it is a tomato based pasta dish it’s very different than all of the others I normally cook. It has big chunks of red onion, tasty pancetta (Italian bacon) and red pepper flakes for some kick! The tomato sauce is really thick and rich – Yum. In the time it takes to boil water, dinner will be done, 15 – 20 minutes tops.

Spaghetti all’Amatriciana – Not America
From Mario Batali’s Cookbook Molto Gusto

Serves 4

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 oz pancetta cut into bite sized pieces
1 red onion, halved and sliced ½-inch thick
1 ½ – 2 teaspoons hot red pepper flakes
¼ cup tomato past (I used a whole 6oz can)
¾ Cup Pomi strained tomatoes reduced (I just used the whole 28oz box)
1lbs spaghetti
1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves only (I omitted, parsley is way overrated)
½ cup Pecorino Romano
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Get your water boiling for your spaghetti. Cook your pasta according to the directions on the package. In a pot pour the 28oz can of tomatoes and cook over medium heat. You want to cook or reduce the tomatoes until there is no more juice left. (I used the whole 28oz container of Pomi diced tomatoes, I couldn’t find Pomi whole tomatoes and had nothing else to do with the leftovers).

In a frying pan add your olive oil, pancetta and sliced red onion. (if you are looking for a lower fat alternative to the pancetta you may try some thick sliced Canadian bacon cut into cubes). Let your onions and pancetta cook for 7 to 8 minutes until the pancetta is browned and the onions are soft. Add the red pepper flakes to the onions and pancetta, and then stir in the tomatoe paste. (again I used the entire 6oz can).

Now add the reduced Pomi tomatoes to the onion pancetta mixture and combine into one sauce. If its to thick you can add ¼ cup of the pasta water to help thin it out. I like mine really thick, so I didn’t (Actualy I poured all of my pasta water down the drain before I remembered to save some). Mix in some Pecorino Ramano cheese, about a palm full. Strain your pasta and pour it into the pan with your scrumptious tomato sauce. Toss it all together and serve with a dusing of Pecorino Romano on top. It’s a winner! You might serve this with a Caesar salad as a starter. You could also serve a nice red wine with it to fancy it up.


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