Spinach and Sausage Lasagna

This recipe is not your typical lasagna, but it’s a delicious twist on the classic.  Since the whole thing only uses 1/2 lb. of pasta, it’s really easy to make this very healthy by using extra lean sausage and low-fat cheeses

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Pineapple Fried Rice

I finally succeeding in making Asian food at home that tasted like real Asian food – not just soy sauce and veggies.  The secret is sesame oil!  I actually lucked out and happened to find some good gourmet sesame oil at HomeGoods.  This dish is the perfect side to grilled shrimp, Mmm…

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Meatballs

I must admit, I had never made meatballs until I tried this Barefoot Contessa recipe.  My mom usually makes them in bulk and gives me some – so I never had the opportunity to make them myself.  But I’m glad I tested this recipe out because it tastes very different from my mom’s meatballs – the meat is very tender and not overpowered by any particular flavor, it’s just perfectly blended and seasoned.    

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup fresh white bread crumbs (4 slices, crusts removed – pulse in food processor until they’ve become crumbs)
  • 1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 extra-large egg, beaten
  • Vegetable oil
  • Olive oil

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Place the ground meats, both bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, and 1/2 – 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl
  •  Combine very lightly with a fork
  • Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs. (You will have 14 to 16 meatballs, if you make them a bit smaller you can get up to 24)
  • Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) saute pan until the bottom of the pan is liberally coated.  Heat the oil.
  • In batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork
    • This should take about 10 minutes for each batch
    • Don’t crowd the meatballs
    • Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels
    • Alternatively, you could bake the meatballs in the oven at 350°F for 10 minutes
  • Add the meatballs to a pot full of Robust Red Sauce
  • Cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through
    • If you’ve made more meatballs than you need, don’t fret!  These freeze beautifully – I usually freeze them as meals with sauce; perfect for a weeknight dinner!

Oven Baked “Risotto”

This quick and easy “risotto” recipe from Barefoot Contessa was surprisingly good.  It’s a great side dish to any meal or could be a filling meal on its own.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 5 cups chicken stock, simmering
  • 1 cup powdered Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (one you would drink)
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 cup frozen peas

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Place the rice and 4 cups of the simmering stock in a medium dutch oven (i.e. Le Creuset)
  • Cover and bake at 350°F for 45 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked al dente
  • Remove from the oven and add in the last cup of chicken stock, wine, Parmesan cheese, butter, salt and pepper and stir continuously for 2-3 minutes until everything is well combined
  • Lastly, add in the peas and stir until the peas are heated through

Baked Shrimp Scampi

I watched Ina Garten make this dish on her show a few weeks ago and was dying to try it out.  Let’s just say, it did not disappoint.  This dish kind of blows baked stuffed shrimp out of the water – it’s full of so much flavor and is really easy to put together.  I made some small adjustments and it tasted like perfection.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 lb. large shrimp (U8-12), deveined with the tails still on
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp dry white wine
TOPPING
    • 8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
    • 4 tsp minced garlic (4 cloves)
    • 1/4 cup shallots, finely chopped
    • 3 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
    • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
    • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp pepper
    • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
    • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • 1 extra large yolk
    • 1 cup panko

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Butterfly the shrimp but leave the tails on
  • Place the shrimp in a mixing bowl and combine with the olive oil, white wine, 1 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper – let the shrimp sit and marinate at room temperature while you prepare the topping
  • In a small bowl, mash the softened butter together with the garlic, shallots, parsley, rosemary, red pepper flakes, lemon zest and juice, egg yolk, panko and 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper
  • Arrange the shrimp in one layer, cut side down around the edge of a 14 inch oval gratin dish, you want the tails curling up facing in towards the middle of the dish – pour the remaining marinade over the shrimp
  • Spread the topping evenly over the shrimp
  • Bake at 425°F for 12-15 minutes or until its hot and bubbly and the shrimp is totally pink – you can broil it for a minute or so to brown the top if it’s not crunchy enough

Veal Bolognese

My husband’s favorite Italian dish is, hands down, pasta with a bolognese sauce.  He’s ordered it in every Italian restaurant we’ve ever been to and even has them mentally ranked.  It seemed only natural for me to figure out a way for my bolognese to get to the top of his list.  Mission accomplished.  

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large onion (or 2 small ones), chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 large carrots, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 large celery stalks, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • Olive oil to coat the pan
  • 3 lb. lean ground veal (you could also use ground beef or turkey)
  • 2 cups tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups good red wine
  • Water
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme, tied in a bundle
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream (room temp)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup powdered Parmesan or Romano cheese
*This recipe makes enough sauce for 2 lb. of pasta – keep in mind that this sauce freezes really well

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Combine the onion, garlic, carrots and celery in a food processor and process until it forms a course paste
  • Coat the bottom of a large sauce pan with olive oil and then add in the pureed vegetables
  • Season the puree with salt and pepper and cook over medium-high heat for 15-20 minutes or until the water has evaporated
  • Add in the ground veal, season with salt and pepper and cook until the meat is totally browned, about 15-20 minutes
  • Add in the tomato paste, dried herbs, red pepper flakes and nutmeg and mix well – cook for another 5 minutes
  • Add in the red wine and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently
  • Add water to the pot until the meat is covered with an inch of water – add in the bay leaves and bundle of thyme and mix well
  • Bring the contents of the pot to a boil and then reduce the heat so the sauce is simmering
  • Now, is the painful part – allow the sauce to simmer uncovered for AT LEAST 2 hours, ideally you want the sauce to simmer for 3-4 hours, stir it frequently
  • You want the bolognese to be a very meaty consistency – not really “saucy”
    • If you find that your sauce is getting too thick, add some more water and continue to simmer
  • When you think that your sauce looks ready, add in the cream and blend well
  • Add about half of the sauce to 1 lb. of cooked pasta and toss in at least 1/2 cup powdered Parmesan or Romano cheese – stir well and enjoy!
    • You can freeze the other half of the sauce and defrost it when you’re ready to have it again!

Potato Gnocchi

It may sound a little crazy to make your own gnocchi, but it’s really worth it.  It definitely takes a little time, but the good thing is that you can make a bunch and then freeze it into individual meals so that when you want it, it’s already done!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. russet potatoes (approximately 2 large)
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup parmesan cheese, powdered
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg (make sure there are no large clumps)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1 cup flour, plus more for dusting
  • Robust Red Sauce
    • Make it a pink sauce by adding 1/2 cup cream and 1/2 cup powdered parmesan cheese
    • This sauce recipe will make enough for 3 recipes worth of gnocchi

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Scrub the potatoes and then rub them with olive oil and kosher salt
  • Prick a bunch of holes in the potatoes and bake them at 425°F for about 45 minutes or until very tender
  • Let the potatoes cool a bit and then cut them in half, scoop out the flesh and press it through a potato ricer – if you don’t have one of those, grate the potatoes on the large holes of a box grater
  • You should now have about 2 cups of mashed potatoes – on your countertop, make a mound of the potatoes with a well in the middle
  • Add 3 of the egg yolks to the middle of the well and the salt, pepper, nutmeg and parmesan cheese
  • Mix the potatoes into the egg yolks with your hands
  • Pour in half of the flour and continue to mix with your hands, using your knuckles to press in the dough
  • Fold the dough over itself and press down with your hands
  • Slowly sprinkle in the rest of the flour while continuing to press with your hands – add the 4th egg yolk if the mixture seems dry
    • The dough should give under pressure but should feel firm and not sticky
  • To check if the consistency is correct, take a piece and roll it with your hands on a well-floured board into a rope 1/2 inch diameter – if the dough holds together, it’s ready (if not, add more flour and fold and press a few more times and test it again)
  • Cut your ball of dough into 4 pieces – roll each piece out into a rope 1/2 inch diameter on a floured surface
  • Cut the rope into 1/2 inch-long pieces – you can either cook these as is or form them into the classic gnocchi shape, here’s how you do that
  • As you shape the gnocchi, lightly dust them with flour and line them up on a baking sheet
  • Set the gnocchi filled cookie sheet in the fridge for a few minutes so they get a little bit firm
  • When you’re ready to cook them, place a small batch of them into salted boiling water (you don’t want to cook too many at ounce because they will stick together if they’re touching while cooking)
  •  About 2 minutes after the gnocchi has floated to the surface, you can remove them from the water with a slotted spoon
    • I just place the cooked gnocchi into a strainer while the rest is cooking
    • While the gnocchi is cooking, I make sure to get my sauce well heated
  • Once all of your gnocchi is cooked, toss it together with the heated sauce and you’re ready to eat!
    • If you’re planning on making a few recipes (which I recommend) just freeze the extra gnocchi in freezer bags – when you want to eat it, just boil the frozen gnocchi in salted water the same way you cooked the fresh ones