Linguine with Meatballs – A Pre-race Feast

Linguine with Meatballs – A Pre-race Feast

Have you ever carbo-loaded the night before a long run? It’s a common tradition with a few of my friends. They recently took advantage of my enjoyment of cooking and requested pasta the night before their half marathon. The simple feast did not disappoint! The menu included linguine with meatballs and my first-ever attempt at focaccia.

First Was Batch Not a Total Success

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Okay, so the focaccia was a little on the crispy side, but practice makes perfect! Since I had never made it before, I found a recipe online that looked simple and tasty. Though it was flavorful, the too crispy outcome came, I believe, from my spreading the dough out too thin on the 9×13 baking sheet. Next time I will only use half the sheet. The only other alternation to the attached recipe is that rather than knead by hand, I used the dough hook on my stand mixer. I should have tried it by hand for a more tender result. Lessons learned and I will correct in the future.

Perfect Pasta and Meatballs

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Truth be told, I prefer my pasta dishes to most others. I’m a bit picky about the doneness of pasta. It’s a culinary skill to get it to the perfect bite. Most restaurants in my experience overcook it in the kitchen so that by the time it is plated and served, it’s overdone. But enough soap-boxing! Here is how I made my big tender meatballs and accompanying sauce! The meatballs are adopted from The Meatball Shop Cookbook and they are delicious. The ricotta cheese is a much better choice than Parmesan or Romano I think.

Ingredients
Meatballs:
olive oil
3 pounds mixture of ground beef, veal, pork (meatloaf mixture)
1 container (14-16 oz) ricotta cheese
2 eggs
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1-1/2 teaspoons dried
2-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4-1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1/2-3/4 teaspoons ground fennel

Sauce:
3 boxes Pomi or 3 large cans tomatoes
2-3 cloves chopped garlic
1 large diced onion
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup or so red wine
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

I mix meatballs in a stand mixer using the paddle attachment. Form into golf ball size or preferred size balls. Drizzle olive oil and spread out over 9×13 cookie sheet. Place meatballs on sheet and bake at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes. (Turn over at 10 minutes.) They will finish cooking in the sauce.

In the meantime, saute the onion and garlic in a small amount of olive oil in a deep pot. Add the remaining ingredients and slowly cook for 20-30 minutes. Taste for flavor and adjust as needed.

Gently place meatballs in the pot of sauce and continue to simmer slowly until you are ready to serve.

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Cook pasta of your choice al dente. Drain pasta water (retaining a cup which you may want to add to your sauce to improve its flavor and consistency.) Return the drained pasta to the pot and ladle a few spoons of sauce to mix in with the pasta. Serve from a large shallow bowl or platter with meatballs on top.

My runner friends were content and energized for their run the next morning! I was worn out just thinking about all that early morning exercise!

If you want a pasta dish that’s a bit lighter and easier to throw together, try my bacon and roasted tomato recipe!

Buon appetito!

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Tomato Soup – A Meal for All Seasons

Tomato Soup – A Meal for All Seasons

I cannot say how many times I’ve turned to tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich when comfort food was just what the doctor ordered! Nothing beats this combo on a cold afternoon. And toward late summer when tomatoes are ripening faster than you can use them, fresh tomato soup is the perfect way to use up the bruised sweet fruits of the vine!

There are countless recipes for tomato soup to be sure. I hope after reading through my variation that you will share your secret additions. All you need is a couple of cans of good quality tomatoes and some heavy cream!

For my toasted cheese sandwiches, I use a small panini grill which gives the perfect amount of crunch to hold up to dipping it in the soup!

Ingredients

2 large cans tomatoes (I use San Marzano)
3-4 garlic cloves, mashed and chopped
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 cup chicken stock (or water or vegetable stock)
1 cup heavy cream
Salt
Crushed red pepper
Black pepper
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp celery seed, thyme, oregano (or whatever seasoning you like)

Directions

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Sauté the onion and garlic about 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer for 20 minutes or so.

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Puree in batches in your blender or use an immersion blender to break down the tomatoes and onions. Return the soup to the pot and bring back up to a low simmer and taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper to your taste.

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Serve with a grilled cheese sandwich. I love a mix of cheeses such as cheddar and Swiss, or provolone and mozzarella, Gruyere and American. Choose whatever you like best!

Would you care to share your favorite tomato soup recipe? I hope so!

Cookbook Recommendations by Brad Nierenberg

Cookbook Recommendations by Brad Nierenberg

Every so often I like to curl up with a good book and a glass of single malt. This weekend, the books were from my overloaded stack of beloved cookbooks. I know I typically share a favorite recipe each week, but today I’m sharing a few old friends! I hope you will be inspired to share a bit about your favorite sources for recipes as well!

Mr. Food Cooks Pasta
Art Ginsburg
Copyright 1993 by Cogin, Inc.

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I picked up my copy of “Mr. Food Cooks Pasta” back before Borders went out of business. It was tucked away on one of those bargain shelves. It’s been one of my go-to sources ever since. The writing style is easy to read and conversational. And though this little black and white book lacks any pretty photos, I still find myself using it on a regular basis.

Mr. Food, Art Ginsburg, provides a guide for pasta shapes, includes a simple chart for sauces and uses for each shape, and the opening chapter on pasta “particulars” includes a brief history and cooking instructions. Next, one of the best sections, is a quick pasta recipe chart for “meals in minutes.” The follow-on segments include pasta appetizers and side dishes, pasta soups and stews, pasta salads, pasta main courses, family favorites, and pasta sauces.

Since I love to cook and eat pasta, it’s great to have this guide to an easy and delicious meal! I think I’ve made almost every recipe in the book at least once. Many of the dog-eared corners are turned down to save the ones I like best.

Ginsburg is not Italian to my knowledge, but no matter, whether lemon linguine or chicorina soup, this cookbook is a winner in my book.

Barefoot Contessa at Home
Ina Garten
Copyright 2006 by Ina Garten

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Quentin Bacon’s photography in Ina Garten’s fifth cookbook is true food porn! After the cook’s lengthy introduction (and to be honest, I’ve never read it) she leads right into chapters entitled soup and sandwich, salads, dinner, vegetables, dessert, and breakfast.

She includes a nice section of small places to visit in the Hamptons for food. These are places she mentions on her cooking show and would be fun to add to your traveling itinerary if vacationing in the area. The last section called menus takes all the recipes from the cookbook and puts them together into menus you can try at home. I think this is brilliant!

I have not come close to recreating all the yummy recipes in this extensive cookbook, but the ones I’ve made do not disappoint. Her Sunday Morning Oatmeal is a regular in my rotation and I have zero desire to ever try another recipe for coconut cake after falling in love with hers. Where I think she really shines though is in the dinner section. From cornish hens to Asian salmon, there are several delicious and doable recipes in this section.

Holiday Cookies
Martha Stewart
2006 Issue

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Okay, so Martha Stewart’s annual holiday cookie magazine is not exactly a traditional cookbook, but if you could see the tattered pages you would know I use it often. It’s really the perfect cookie guide!

This 2006 version includes more than 100 cookie recipes and the breakdown is spot-on (as my British friends would say). The table of contents features a photo of each cookie and they are categorized as soft and chewy, crisp and crunchy, light and delicate, crumbly and sandy, cakey and tender, rich and dense, and finally, chunky and nutty. Likewise, the recipe index in the very back is alphabetized by cookie with a picture of each one for easy reference.

I wish I had the time (and calorie allowance) to make and test each and every cookie, but rest assure I have given it the old college try! It’s great to have one consolidated source to find a recipes for chocolate chip cookies identified as crisp, chewy, or cakey. After all, some days you prefer one type to another!

If you don’t own your own copy to savor, keep an eye out for this magazine next fall. A complete cookie guide is a must-have for every home baker!

What are your favorite cookbooks? I hope you’ll share the titles below!