Polpette al sugo (Italian meatballs)

Adapted from Lidia and Recipe Tin Eats Yield: 6 servings, plus about 3 quarts extra (total of about 4 dozen meatballs and 3 quarts sauce)

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoon dried oregano (omitted)
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped (basil sub!)
  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano (or parmesan), freshly grated

Sauce ingredients:

  • 2.5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • black pepper
  • 1 fresh bay leaves, or 2 small dried bay leaves
  • 3 tsp dried Italian herb mix (parsley, basil, thyme, oregano)
  • 1/2 teaspoon peperoncino flakes
  • 24 oz / 700 g tomato passata, preferably San Marzano
  • 1 cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, optional to serve

Directions:

  1. Grate the onion using a standard box grater in a large bowl until you have about 1/2 cup of grated onion and juices. 
  2. Add bread, mix to combine so the onion juice soaks the bread and disintegrates. Set aside while you prep the other ingredients (5 min or so).
  3. Add all the remaining Meatball ingredients. Use hands to mix well.
  4. Measure out a heaped tablespoon and roll lightly to form a ball. Repeat with remaining mixture. (Note 5)
  5. Heat 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil in a large non stick fry pan over medium high heat. Add the meatballs and brown all over – about 3 – 4 minutes. 
  6. When they are browned but NOT cooked through, carefully transfer them onto a plate.

Sauce Directions:

  1. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil into the fry pan. 
  2. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until translucent. Add the remaining Sauce ingredients. Bring to a simmer, then turn down to medium low so it bubbles gently rather than splattering everywhere. Let simmer for 2 hours.
  3. Carefully transfer the meatballs and any juices that have pooled on the plate into the Sauce.
  4. Cook the meatballs for 8 – 10 minutes, turning and stirring occasionally. Adjust Sauce salt and pepper to taste.
  5. While the meatballs are cooking, cook your pasta of choice.
  6. Serve the meatballs on pasta, garnished with extra parmesan and parsley if using.

I wanted to cook Lidia’s recipe authentically, but it was so much quantity! And I’m not a fan of beef, much less veal, so… I incorporated another website (she has delicious chicken stew!) that fried the meatballs instead of baking them. These were wildly delicious and approved by all. We didn’t incorporate the carrot and celery (considering the 2 lbs. or meat vs. 3 lbs from Lidia), but we did use the red onion, eggs, and basil instead of parsley (Jesse’s family doesn’t like oregano for some reason). I would throw in a bay leaf into the sauce next time (we forgot). We used gluten-free bread crumbs, and crumbled Grana Padano into the meatball and on top to serve. Grana Padano was not incorporated into the sauce. Ground meat came from the Ossining Farmer’s Market, Sunset View Farm. I also made some garlic bread with EVOO and rubbed garlic to clean up the sauce after, demi baguette from Farmer’s Market too.

~Jessica

Chicken broccoli Alfredo casserole

Adapted from Freezer Meals 101 and The Kitchn

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound dry fusilli pasta
  • 1 (14- to 16-oz) package frozen broccoli florets / 1 cup broccoli, steamed and coarsely chopped
  • 6-8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups finely grated young Parmesan cheese (about 6 ounces)

Directions:

  1. Bring a large Dutch oven or heavy-duty pot of heavily salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the pasta and cook until almost tender (you want some bite left in the pasta, check it one minute before the time called for on the package).
  2. Turn off the heat, add the broccoli to the pot, stir to combine, and let sit for one minute (the broccoli will not be cooked all the way through). Drain well and set aside.
  3. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in the same pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken in an even layer, season generously with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring every few minutes, until the chicken is browned and just cooked through, about 5 minutes total. Remove to a plate or bowl. Do not wash out the pot.
  4. Return the pot to medium heat and add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. When the butter is melted, add the flour, scrape up the brown bits at the bottom of the pan, and stir constantly until the flour starts to smell toasty and darkens slightly in color, about 1 minute. While constantly whisking, add the milk until it is all incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Bring just to a boil, whisking constantly. Add the cheese and whisk until smooth. Turn off the heat.
  5. Add the chicken and any accumulated juices, pasta, and broccoli, and stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
  6. Divide the mixture between 2 (8- to 9-inch) baking dishes or disposable foil trays (try to get ones that are around 2 inches deep), or transfer all of the mixture into a 9×13-inch baking dish or disposable foil tray. Let cool completely, then wrap tightly in aluminum foil and freeze for up to 2 months.
  7. Bake frozen, still covered in the foil, on the middle rack of a preheated 350°F oven until heated through, about 1 1/2 hours. Alternatively, thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then bake for only 1 hour.

“Fettuccine Alfredo or fettuccine al burro is an Italian pasta dish of fresh fettuccine tossed with butter and Parmesan cheese (pasta al burro e parmigiano)… The dish is named after Alfredo di Lelio, who featured the dish at his restaurant in Rome in the early- to mid-20th century; the “ceremony” of preparing it table-side was an integral part of the dish.” Wiki I prefer this fresher, lighter version to the heavy cream American one. I also wished there were cut chicken pieces at the deli, because chicken thighs take way longer to cook, especially if you only brown them the first time. I have to say this was only “ok” as far as freezer meals go — I think I would have liked this far more freshly made. And it was a substantial amount of work, even for two people!

~Jessica

British macaroni cheese

Adapted from Great British Chefs and British Food History

Ingredients:

  • 30 g plain flour 
  • 30 g butter 
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 400 ml hot full-fat milk 
  • 6g of thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 200-250 g macaroni 
  • 1 slice stale bread 
  • ½ tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves, or ¼ tsp fried rosemary (optional) 
  • 225 g Stilton cheese, grated 
  • 200 g Gruyere or Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 30g of Parmesan
  • Pinch of Cayenne pepper or 20g of Dijon mustard
  • Salt and freshly-milled black pepper
  • 15 basil leaves

Directions:

  1. Start by cooking some pasta of your choice in a pan of boiling water. Once cooked, strain the pasta and set aside
  2. Place 50 mL milk into a pan over a low-medium heat and add the thyme and bay. Bring up to a warm heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, place a separate pan over a low heat and add the 4 tbsp. butter and 4 cloves of garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes then add the flour. Heat for for 2-3 minutes and stir constantly so the mixture comes together. –> Béchamel sauce
  4. Strain the milk, thyme and bay mixture so that you are just left with the infused milk. Gradually (over 5 minutes) add the infused milk to the other pan and stir with a wooden spoon. Bring to a simmer
  5. Take the pan off the heat and season with salt and pepper. Add the cheese, mustard, basil and pasta to the pan and then pour the contents of the pan into a casserole dish. Cover with some extra cheese and place in the oven at 180°C for 20 minutes (I prefer stovetop because I haven’t a baking dish currently).
  6. Remove the dish from the oven, divide the macaroni cheese into 4 portions and serve immediately.

My grandmother gave me a box of instant mac and cheese from her senior citizen community center (before the pandemic lockdown). Of course I didn’t want to eat that stuff straight, so I thought I would try to dress it up with some caramelized onions, garlic, herbs, and whatever else I might find in the pantry.

~Jessica

Eggs with mushrooms and spinach

Adapted from Damn Delicious and Food & Wine

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced (I had white button)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • a handful of chopped parsley
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes, optional
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry, but I used some rice wine

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons of butter until shimmering. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper flakes. Cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring a few times, until softened, 4 minutes.
  2. Add the onion then garlic, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and the mushrooms are browned, 3 minutes longer. Add the sherry and spinach, and cook until almost evaporated, 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat, cover and set aside.
  3. In a large, nonstick skillet, melt the butter over moderate heat. Crack the eggs one at a time into a ramekin and then slip into the skillet. Cook the eggs, sunny-side up, until the whites are firm and the yolks runny, about 5 minutes.
  4. Spoon the mushroom mixture onto the toasts and top with the fried eggs. Garnish with the parsley and serve.

I was craving a change of pace for dinner, and what could be better than breakfast dinner? If you like breads, Four 1/2-inch-thick slices of rustic white bread are another way to go.

~Jessica

Frittata di pasta

Adapted from Leite’s Culinaria and Gennaro Contaldo

Ingredients:

  • Pasta leftovers
  • 4 eggs
  • 40 g Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

Directions:

  1. Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk very well, until streaks no longer appear. Mix in the cheese, oil, salt, and a grind of pepper.
  2. If you have sauced spaghetti, dump it in a large nonstick or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat along with a couple tablespoons water and heat until it’s warm but before it starts to sizzle.
  3. Drain off any water that hasn’t evaporated and turn the spaghetti into the egg mixture.
  4. Wipe out the skillet, return it to medium-low heat, and add enough oil or butter to slick the bottom and sides of the skillet.
  5. Add the egg mixture, distributing the spaghetti evenly if it clumps.
  6. Turn the heat to low and occasionally rotate the skillet a quarter turn if the egg seems to be cooking unevenly around the edges. When the perimeter of the frittata looks set and the center is still somewhat liquid, which should be after about 8 minutes, run a table knife around the skillet to loosen the sides of the frittata and carefully slip a thin metal spatula under it to loosen the underside.
  7. Invert a plate over the skillet and place one hand over the plate and the other hand on the skillet handle. Here comes the exciting part—you’re going to flip the frittata onto the plate. (We admit that it can end in disaster, but you have to stay confident and strong.) You don’t want the frittata to slide onto the plate or fold over, so the motion should be up and over, not just over, and it has to happen kind of quickly. Alley-oop, and it’s on the plate and the skillet is clean.
  8. Set the plate down and quickly slick the skillet with a little more oil or butter. Then, with the help of the spatula, encourage the frittata to slide back in. Don’t worry if things are looking a little Humpty Dumpty—just fit it all back together again and keep it over low heat until it’s cooked through, about 7 more minutes.
  9. When the frittata seems to be cooked through, make a crack in the middle with the tip of the spatula and sneak a peek to see that the egg is all set. Then slide or flip the frittata onto a plate.
  10. Let cool a little or a lot, slice in wedges or squares or long skinny strips, and serve. (A frittata tastes good hot, better after it has cooled a half hour or so, and possibly best after it has had a chance to regroup on the countertop for an afternoon.)

I had the leftovers from this other pasta dish, so… I love Gennaro’s suggestion: “If it’s springtime, make the basic recipe extra special by adding peas and pancetta.” Shelling fresh peas in Germany was such a dream. I wish we had in season produce like in Radolfzell. Next time I will use more eggs, so that it holds together better!

~Jessica

Pasta con zucchine e ricotta

Adapted from Memorie di Angelina and Galbani

Ingredients:

  • 400g (14 oz) short pasta of your choice (I had De Cecco Rotelle)
  • 4 medium zucchini, cut into thin slices
  • 2-3 shallots, finely minced (used a small brown onion)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, whole
  • 250g (9 oz) ricotta cheese
  • 50g (2 oz) grated Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • A few fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet or sauté pan, sauté the shallots in abundant olive oil and a knob of butter for a minute or so, until wilted. Add the garlic and zucchini and raise the heat. Toss them as they cook until the zucchini is just tender, about 5 minutes or so. Turn off the heat when the zucchini are done.
  2. Mix the ricotta and the grated Parmesan cheese, together with the basil leaves if using.
  3. Meanwhile, boil the pasta in well salted water until al dente.
  4. Drain the pasta, but not too well and add it to the skillet and toss it with the zucchini over gentle heat. Add the ricotta mixture and mix well.
  5. Serve while still warm.

Shallots and onions are not the same, I know. No fresh basil, although a student last week told me, in all seriousness, that I should just buy a basil plant. You’re absolutely right, M. I only had one zucchini, so I would get at least two or three next time. Not my best picture, but I didn’t balance the cheese to zucchini proportion right (only 1 zucchini, correct cheese + mozzarella). Will do better next time ^_^

~Jessica

Cacio e pepe, take 2

Adapted from Cook Around and Bon Appetit (updated link)

Ingredients:

  • 500 g bavette or linguini fine (I used Rotelle no. 54, not a long pasta at all)
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • 110 g butter
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • freshly grated Cacio di Roma (did not have)
  • freshly grated Pecorino Romano (used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 2 pinches of Kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan on low.
  2. Cook the pasta al dente. Drain but reserve the pasta water.
  3. Add the pasta to the pan. Add the butter and toss. Add cheeses and pepper. Serve immediately.

This time I stuck with the traditional (although I only possessed one kind of cheese). It was savory.

~Jessica

Leek farro soup (Minestra di farro e porri)

Adapted from La Tavola Marche and Madonna del Piatto

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 leeks, white parts only, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups pearled farro
  • 6 1/4 cups stock ***Avoid using bullion (or stock) cubes for this! There are only a few ingredients & they should be of the highest quality possible ^_^
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • freshly grated salt & pepper
  • 1 large onion, sliced thin 2 tablespoons
  • sprig of rosemary
  • extra virgin olive oil (to taste)
  • parsley, finely chopped (to taste)
  • 1 large garlic clove, halved lengthwise

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a pan, add the leeks and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until golden brown.
  2. Add the farro, pour in the stock (I cooked carrot, celery, parsnip, turnip from a soup greens package), season with salt and simmer over low heat for 1 1/2 hours or until the farro is tender. Season with pepper.
  3. Ladle the soup into bowls or a soup tureen and sprinkle with Parmesan & drizzle with good quality extra virgin olive oil.
  4. Provide toasted Italian crusty bread, rubbed with cut garlic, to mop it up. Also good to have plenty of freshly grated Parmesan on hand, per person.

A former roommate left this bag of Italian farro, so of course I needed to find the perfect soup recipe for the long winter nights.

Cheers,
Jessica

Penne alla vodka

Adapted from hapa nom nom

Ingredients:

  • 5 large tomatoes
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup vodka
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut a shallow ‘X’ in the bottom of each tomato. Prepare a bowl of ice water. Plunge the tomatoes into the boiling water for 30 seconds, then transfer the tomatoes to the ice water. Peel the skins off and slice the cooled tomatoes in half. Dice the tomatoes small, and let drain over a colander. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about a minute. Add the vodka, and return the pan to medium heat. Cook until reduced by half. Add the tomatoes, a pinch of crushed red peppers, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
  2. Generously salt a large pot of boiling water. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 10-12 minutes. Drain well and immediately add the pasta to the sauce. Add the cream and stir until well incorporated, about 2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Divide among bowls, sprinkle with parsley and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Serve immediately and enjoy!

My sister and I first made this back when I was in graduate school, and she had started working in the city. It was a blast, we got tipsy, and it tasted wonderful. I tried recreating it again on my own, and it tasted nothing like I remembered, and not very good at that. Ten years later, I suggested we try to recreate it again. If only I had had the presence of mind to snap a shot of when the my sister, ever so carefully, set the pan en flambé. ^_^ The guests loved it.

~Jessica

Garlic parmesan roasted sweet potatoes

Adapted from The Cooking Jar and Together as Family

Ingredients:

  • 2 sweet potatoes peeled and sliced
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter melted
  • 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
  • Fresh thyme

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400ºF (200ºC). Peel and cut sweet potatoes into thin slices.
  2. Place garlic, oil, butter, salt, Parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning in a bowl and mix well. Throw in sweet potatoes and toss until well coated.
  3. Lightly butter a baking dish and arrange coated sweet potatoes into a spiral. Sprinkle with a little parmesan if you like.
  4. Bake for 18-22 minutes. Serve the garlic parmesan roasted sweet potatoes warm and sprinkle with thyme if desired.

Jennifer picked out a recipe she wanted to use 3 sweet potatoes she had on hand, for a dinner we were invited to. These definitely needed to be cooked longer, or cut thinner. My bad! Next time I’ll do slices, which bake deliciously and look fancy as heck. Also, plastic is evil — avoid at all costs.

~Jessie