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

Classic Baked Rigatoni

This Italian comfort food always hits the spot… hot, or cold the next morning (is that so wrong?).   There are so many things you can do with this dish to personalize it to your taste, consider it a blank canvas.

INGREDIENTS

The Basics…

  • 1 lb. Rigatoni
  • 1 small (15 oz.) container Ricotta cheese – approximately 2 cups
  • 2 cups Mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 1 cup Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan) cheese, grated
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 1/2 cups Robust Red Sauce (approximately 5 ladles full – or as much as you desire)
Consider Adding…
  • Fresh veggies (broccoli, zucchini, artichoke hearts, red peppers, black olives)
  • Ground beef or turkey; sausage (brown the meat separately and add it to your sauce)

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Cook your pasta a minute less than ‘al dente’ – you want it to be too hard to eat, but somewhat cooked
  • Strain the cooked pasta and return to the same pot – stir in the ricotta cheese while the pasta is still hot
  • Add in the beaten egg and mix well
  • Pour in at least 1 cup of mozzarella cheese (you can either save the rest for topping, or cut it off there)
  • Add in 1/2 cup of the pecorino romano (or parmesan) and save the rest for topping
  • Pour in the sauce and mix well – you want the mixture to be pretty wet because it will absorb in the pasta when it cooks in the oven
  • Pour the cheesy pasta into a large baking dish and top off with desired cheese(s)
  • Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes (covered with aluminum foil for 20 minutes and uncovered for the last 10)

Bacon Mac ‘n Cheese

This “grown-up” mac ‘n cheese recipe takes this dish to the next level.  The seemingly odd combination of cheeses combines to create something unbelievably good with just the right amount of zing.   

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. pasta (elbows work well)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 cups milk
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 6 tbsp flour
  • 1/4 cup crumbled mild blue cheese
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 2 cups sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
  • 4 strips of bacon, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt, or more to taste
  • 1 tsp white pepper, or more to taste
  • Ritz crackers, crumbled

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Melt the butter in a large sauce pan and sprinkle the flour over butter; cook 2-3 minutes over medium heat, whisking until a roux or paste forms
  • Add warm milk and whisk vigorously until dissolved in the roux
  • Cook sauce, stirring frequently, over medium-low heat until thick and bubbly
  • Add cream and all of the cheeses as well as the salt and pepper
  • Cook until cheese are fully melted
  • In a separate pot, cook the pasta
  • In a separate pan, cook the bacon until it’s crispy – transfer to a plate and blot with a paper towel
  • Add the cooked pasta and bacon to the cheese sauce and mix well
  • Pour the cheesy pasta into a large baking dish and top with the crumbled Ritz crackers
  • Bake in the oven at 325°F for 15 minutes or until golden brown


Vodka Sauce

This sauce tastes amazing over any pasta… after making my own, I have a hard time enjoying it in restaurants.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 – 28 oz. can Pastene ‘Kitchen Ready’ tomatoes
  • 1 – 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 small onion chopped finely
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 4-6 fresh basil leaves for the sauce + more for garnishing
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 1 cup heavy cream (room temp)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Saute the onion, garlic and 1 tbsp olive oil until the onions are translucent
  • Add in both cans of tomatoes along with the rest of the olive oil, chopped basil leaves (save a bit for garnishing later), bay leaves, sugar, salt and pepper
  • Simmer the sauce for at least 1 hour or until it’s thick (leave the pot uncovered and stir often – I also like to break down the tomatoes with the back of the spoon while it’s simmering)
  • Add in vodka on low heat until mixture reduces by 1/4, stirring often – about 20 minutes
  • Stir the cream into the tomato and vodka sauce (I’ve used light cream instead of heavy cream and it still tasted good, just not as rich)
  • Simmer over low heat until sauce is heated through
  • Stir in the Parmesan cheese until melted and well blended
  • Combine sauce with your desired pasta, top with fresh basil and enjoy!

Sausage and Peppers Balsamico

What you need to know to create this sweet and tangy pasta dish…

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. 1/2 of your favorite sausage (I typically buy 90% lean, 3/4 lb. sweet and 3/4 lb. spicy)
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 1 orange pepper
  • 1 large vidalia onion
  • 1 lb pasta (any shape you desire – campanelle and penne work well)
  • 3 cups balsamic vinegar
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • Cornstarch (or flour)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • 1 tbsp Sugar

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Fill a pot with salted water and bring the water to a boil
  • Spray a large saute or non-stick frying pan with cooking spray or coat it with 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • Remove the sausage from its casing and add it to the hot frying pan – make sure you break it up into small pieces with a spatula (or else you’ll end up with large chunks of sausage)
  • Add the chopped onions to the browned sausage and add an additional tbsp of olive oil
  • Cook the sausage and onions until the onions become translucent, then add in all of the chopped peppers and 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • Add in the last tbsp of olive oil and enough balsamic vinegar to cover all of the ingredients in the pan (approximately 3 cups) – this will become your sauce, so you want a lot of it
  • Add 1 tsp of salt (or more to taste) and 1 tbsp of sugar
  • Bring the balsamic sauce with all of the ingredients in it to a boil  – you’re going to cook this for about 10 minutes or until the peppers are tender – be careful not to overcook the peppers, you want to keep them a bit firm (if you want to speed up the process, cover the pan with a lid)
  • While these ingredients are cooking, pour your pasta into the boiling water – it should be done right around the time your peppers are cooked.  Once the pasta is cooked, strain it and put it aside to combine with the sauce later
  • When the peppers are cooked, sprinkle the cornstarch or flour 1 tbsp at a time over your sausage and pepper mixture – be sure to add it slowly because the sauce will thicken quickly (I typically add around 3 tbsp of cornstarch, which is the equivalent to 6 tbsp of flour)
  • Once you’ve reached your desired sauce consistency add it to your cooked pasta and stir together
  • Enjoy!