Tales from the Kitchen

Winter break came and went, and despite the flu and pestilence, I managed to stock the freezer.  I made tried-and-true favorites, like pasta sauce with meatballs.  I finally demolished the leftover Thanksgiving turkey carcass and made a giant batch of turkey and rice soup.  We experimented with new sauces and flavors, and I’m sharing my pasta sauce recipe.  It’s awesome.  It starts with butter.  You’re welcome.

First, I have to sing the praises of Wildtree’s Outrageous Orange Sauce.  It makes orange chicken like Panda Express on steroids.  I cubed three chicken breasts and let them hang for a few minutes in 2 eggs, some cracks of pepper, and a pinch of salt.  Then I dredged the chicken in flour and browned in a skillet.  From there the chicken went into a glass dish and bathed in the orange sauce.

IMG_0857The chicken baked in the oven for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.  I gave everything a good stir and threw in some leftover broccolini about 15 minutes through and served it with rice.  This stuff was spicy and great for clearing our stuffy noses.  I would show you a picture of the finished product…but we were hungry, and this is all that was left.

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Two thumbs up.

Okay, now the pasta sauce.  Make sure you pour yourself a glass of red wine before you start.

For the sauce:

  • One stick of butter
  • 2 onions (one chopped, one just cut in half)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 28-oz. cans of crushed or whole tomatoes
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Tool: Immersion blender

When it comes to herbs, I usually use what I have on hand; any mixture of oregano, parsley, basil, dried mirepoix, or Italian seasonings tastes good.  The meatballs finish cooking in the sauce, so that adds more flavor.  You can use less or no crushed red pepper if spicy is not your thing.

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Melt the butter in a large pot or dutch oven.  Add the chopped onion and saute until tender, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute another minute.  Then add tomatoes and dried herbs to the party.  If I use whole tomatoes, I crush them with my hands first.  Bring everything to a simmer and add the fresh basil and half of a whole onion.  Seriously, just put the onion on top and leave it there.  You can save the other half for another dish.  Let the sauce simmer for 30 minutes.

Now drink your wine.  Feel free to pour yourself another glass, too.

While the sauce simmers, form the meatballs.  You need:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork (or lamb, or sausage, or whatever)
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs (I prefer Panko, but use what I have on hand)
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. dried parsley

Combine all ingredients and form meatballs to your desired size.  I keep them small to medium and get 30-32 using two pounds of meat.

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Now wash your hands and finish that wine.

Return to your sauce and remove the half onion that’s done working it’s magic.  I use an immersion blender at this point to make the sauce smoother, but not totally pureed.  Give it a taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed.  Once that’s done, return your attention to the meatballs.

Heat some olive oil in a large skillet and brown the meatballs in batches (2-3 minutes per side), then transfer the browned meatballs to the pot of sauce to finish cooking.  Simmer for an additional 25-30 minutes.

This makes at least two dinners for my family, and is my boys’ favorite thing to eat besides Nutella sandwiches.

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