savories

Baked Meatballs with Cheesy Parmesan Polenta

Ah yes, Sunday dinners. I think we can all agree that Sunday nights are the saddest part of the week, knowing what’s to come. To counteract that, Sunday dinners in my house have become the solution- a fancy meal and a glass of wine to lull you into a sense of coziness so that you briefly forget that the work week lies ahead. This week? Fricken meatballs and cheesy polenta because why the heck not. And, because there are better things you can be doing with your Sunday besides individually searing each meatball, these are baked all at once and then finished in a mouthwatering and deceivingly easy tomato sauce that people will think you spent your whole day standing over the pot. Adapted from this recipe by Ina Garten, it’s served with a heaping portion of cheesy polenta in lieu of spaghetti, and as a diehard pasta enthusiast, I can promise you won’t even miss it.

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This weekend I somehow fell down a cooking/ baking hole where every project I’ve been putting off recently all accidentally happened at once. In a span of two days, I made a batch of raspberry macarons (following another batch of toasted marshmallow ones from Tuesday), the FLAKIEST biscuits I have ever made, a lemon meringue pie (coming soon), and this dinner. I think I stood for 8 hours straight on Sunday but wow it was worth it. But honestly, enough about that, let’s get down to what really matters, cooking and eating THIS.

Makes: 10 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: about 1.5 hours

Meatball and Sauce Ingredients

2 cans (32 oz. each) crushed tomatoes
2 onions, peeled and cut in half
½ cup (1 stick) salted butter
2 lbs ground beef (or 1lb ground beef, ½ lb ground veal, ½ lb ground pork)
1¾ cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
½ cup ground pecorino romano cheese
½ cup ground parmesan cheese
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbs fresh chopped parsley
2 eggs, beaten
¾ cup dry red wine
¾ cup water
Olive Oil, for brushing
Salt and Pepper, to season

Meatball and Sauce Steps

1. In a large, deep pot, add the crushed tomatoes, butter (sliced into tablespoons), and the halved onions. And honestly, that’s it for the sauce. Turn the heat to medium low, and stir occasionally, cooking for 45 minutes, or until the onions are soft.

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2. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400ºF and line your baking trays with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the ground meat, breadcrumbs, cheeses, garlic, parsley, beaten eggs, red wine, and water. With your hands (or a spoon/ spatula) mix everything together until all ingredients are evenly dispersed throughout.

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3. Scoop roughly 1½ tablespoon amounts and roll them into neat balls with your hands, and line them up on your trays. Brush each meatball with olive oil and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

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4. At this point, remove the onions from the tomato sauce, and add the roasted meatballs and allow them to cook in the sauce for 10 minutes more. Serve a heaping portion on top of a luscious bowl of polenta (recipe below). YUM!

Cheesy Parmesan Polenta Ingredients

8 cups chicken stock
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cup stone ground cornmeal
1½ tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 cups fresh grated parmesan cheese (this sounds high maintenance but the fresh grated kind makes a difference I promise, it melts way easier and more smooth)
1 cup creme fraiche
½ stick (4 tablespoons) salted butter

Cheesy Parmesan Polenta Steps

1. In a medium sized pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil with the garlic. Reduce the heat to low and slowly whisk in the cornmeal to eliminate lumps.

2. Add the salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the polenta is thick. Don’t forget to scrape the sides of the pot!!

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3. After 10 minutes, remove from heat and stir in the parmesan, creme fraiche, and butter. Serve with meatballs and prepare for a food coma like you’ve never seen before.

xoxoxoxoxD

 

savories

Fettuccine Alfredo with Homemade Pasta

Oh man, it’s been a week. I know it’s only Wednesday, but I am TIRED. For some reason despite being so tired, I made it my top priority to try out the brand new pasta maker I got a few weeks ago and I am so glad I did. I don’t really know what I was expecting, but pasta is actually really easy to make from scratch. It contains only 2 ingredients, flour and egg, and while, yes, it makes a mess and gets flour everywhere, you can literally just use your hands and a rolling pin (although it’s definitely easier with a pasta machine). The recipe that I started with came from my trusty Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, although some parts I had to improvise to get the results that I got.

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Now, because your time will be occupied making the pasta for this meal, I figure you might as well make things easier for yourself on the other side, and make a quick sauce that can slow cook while you mess around with the dough. In this case, it’s Alfredo. Taught to me by my mother, this sauce was probably my number one requested meal as a child, and some things never change. Containing butter, cream, and cheese, this is definitely not a healthy dinner, but when you need some comfort, this is the perfect dish. Let’s hope the rest of this week breezes by, but until then, I’ll be over here eating fresh pasta out of the saucepan. Without further ado, let’s get cooking!

*Disclaimer: I am not Italian (although I wish I was), this was my first venture into pasta making so I am simply writing about what works for me, I hope my methods don’t horrify any seasoned Italian chefs. If you’ve been doing this forever, let me know what your strategies are, I’d love to hear them!!

Serves: 3-4 dinner portions
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: about 1 hour (I know it doesn’t add up I’m just working in some wiggle room)

Pasta Ingredients

2-2½ cups all-purpose flour
4 eggs

Pasta Steps
adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

1. On a large, clean surface (I used a marble board, but you can use the countertop or a silicone mat as well), measure out your flour into a small pile, making a large well in the center. Crack eggs into the well and whisk them gently with a fork until the yolks are broken and slightly mixed.

From humble beginnings

2. Begin to knead with your hands until a dough starts to form, adding flour as necessary until you can press your thumb into the dough and nothing sticks. I ended up adding a lot more flour than the original recipe stated, but it changes based on the size of your eggs and whatnot, so everyone is different.

3. At this point, clear your surface and knead your pasta dough until it becomes smooth and stretchy, at least a full 8 minutes. Once this is done, cut the ball of dough into 4 equal sections to make it easier to work with.

4. Put your pasta roller on the widest setting. Flatten your first ball of dough and run it through the machine once. Fold in thirds the long way, and then run back through the machine, narrow side first.

5. Move pasta roller up from setting 1 to setting 3. Repeat step four on this thinner setting. Move the pasta roller up to setting 5 and repeat one last time. Repeat steps 4 and 5 for the other sections of dough, until you have 4 long, thin sheets.

All the pasta

6. At this point, if you have a fettuccine cutter for your machine, add it. Otherwise, you’ll have to cut strips free-handed, but I just don’t have the coordination for that. Run each sheet of dough through the cutter, flouring and separating the strands once they’re cut so that they don’t stick together. Lay flat on a kitchen towel, making sure that the strands aren’t too tangled. Repeat with the other sheets. While the pasta is drying for a minute, let’s start the sauce!

Alfredo Ingredients

3 tbs salted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
Dash of nutmeg (I really mean a DASH, a little goes a long way)
¾ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Alfredo Steps

1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter and add in heavy cream, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Heat for a minute or two on medium until the cream has been warmed through.

2. Stir in the parmesan cheese and allow the sauce to cook for around 5 minutes until it thickens and the cheese melts.

Pasta Pasta Pasta

3. At this point, cook your pasta in a pot of salted boiling water until al dente. The cook time ranges for fresh pasta, but mine reached al dente at around 7 minutes.

4. When the pasta is finished, transfer it to the saucepan and mix until all the pasta is generously coated in sauce.

5. Serve with a generous dusting of more parmesan cheese.

Have a great week! xoxoxoD

savories

Penne alla Vodka

Whose idea was it to add vodka to tomato sauce? I guess if you’re thinking rationally, they were already adding wine to tomato sauces, so vodka probably isn’t a far throw? But wow I’m so glad someone did though, because there’s something about it that’s just so good. And while up until now I let my favorite restaurants do the work for me, this week’s snow day seemed like the perfect day to test some out myself. I basically followed this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, and added little touches here and there, who needs restaurants when you can do things yourself, am I right??

Once again these weeks seem to be years long, while simultaneously flying by, is that a thing? I feel like I could fit three weeks into one Monday through Friday, but at the same time we’re almost to April already? Time is so odd. Although I will say I am overjoyed at the idea of no more snow for now. Bring on the spring air (and the spring produce, hello rhubarb!!!), I think we all could use a break from the cold. Until then however, serve yourself up a bowl of this classic pasta, with a bit of a spicy kick to clear away the last winter stuffy nose and to give some pep to your step. 

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The view from my Florence apartment; I can’t believe I ever came home!!

I’ve been in a very Italian mood lately, having studied abroad in Florence two years ago, I never really felt like I fully came back, and as silly as it is to say, there’s some part of me that’s definitely still there, and I’ll get hit with a random wave of homesickness for a place that I only lived for four months, but had such an impact on my life. I’m now slowly but surely practicing my Italian and somehow find myself in possession of both a Bialetti Moka Express espresso pot (which I now love more than anything), and a brand new pasta maker that I’m sure you’ll all be seeing a lot of in the near future. Basically what I’m saying is I’m preparing for the day that I can pick up and move back to Italy and never look back, okay? Now that we’re all on the same page here, let’s get to some cooking!

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Makes: 6-8 dinner portions
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45-60 minutes

Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon salted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
½ tsp red pepper flakes (or more if you’re feeling brave)
1 cup vodka
1 cup chicken broth
1 can (32oz.) crushed tomatoes (I like San Marzano tomatoes)
2 16oz. boxes Penne Rigate pasta
½ cup heavy cream
Fresh basil (to garnish), *I didn’t have any on hand so I threw in ½ tsp of dried basil, but found that it didn’t really add much to the dish so I’m not including it here*
Kosher salt + black pepper

Steps

1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pan or skillet over medium heat until the butter is melted and the oil has a slight shimmer to it. Add the garlic, shallots, and red pepper flakes and sautè until the shallots are soft and the garlic is fragrant but not browned, about 5 minutes.

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2. Add the vodka (keep your head away because I foolishly leaned over and got hit in the face with some vodka steam and I will NEVER make that mistake again!), and allow it to reduce by half before proceeding, another 5 minutes or so.

3. Pour in the chicken stock and tomatoes and give the whole thing a good stir. Now, the recipe I was following doesn’t cook this mixture for much longer, but I like a thicker sauce so I let mine bubble at this stage for about 20 minutes, to allow for some liquid to evaporate and leave a heartier tomato sauce. If you prefer a thinner sauce or you’re in a rush, bring your mixture to a boil at this point and then reduce to bubbling while your pasta cooks instead.

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4. At this point, bring a pot of water to a boil, salt it generously, and cook your pasta according to the package directions. Be sure to save some pasta water at the end before draining, as it can help your sauce some together and stick to the pasta if you need it.

5. Stir in the heavy cream and cook just until the sauce is entirely heated through. Season with salt and pepper to your liking here, and toss in the pasta, mixing to ensure everything is incorporated.

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6. Serve a generous portion of pasta with a sprinkling of chiffonade basil and a dusting of parmesan cheese. As with most of my dinner recipes, this is best served with a glass of wine and some good Italian bread. Buon Appetito!

xoxoxoxoD