Chicken parmesan meatballs

I look very happy to be making meatballs here. My sister was far less happy I was handling that much raw chicken.
I look very happy to be making meatballs here. My sister was far less happy I was handling that much raw chicken.

Digging some drafts out of the archives for this one – because comfort food knows no season, in life or in weather.

Here are some things about me. 1. I love Italian food. 2. I love cooking like an Italian mama. 3. I love feeding people for a festive reason. 4. I like things that are tasty, relatively easy (I realize ease for some is not the same for others) and sure to please a lot of people. These meatballs are 1. super affordable (no really, have you LOOKED at the price of boneless, skinless chicken breast compared to beef?) and 2. go. on. EVERYTHING. Pasta? Check. Pizza? Absolutely. Sub or sliders? You bet. Spaghetti squash? Veggies never had it so good. Alone as an appetizer? Fugetaboutit.

Also, you’ll use your food processor in a way you’ve probably never thought before. Do you make your own sausage? Yeah, me either. But I’ll be darned if my food processor didn’t do a great job “grinding” this meat, which was far cheaper than buying ground chicken. (Also, far more disgusting. I thought my sister was going to boycott the whole event after she saw that.)

If raw chicken doesn’t bother you, though, this actually comes together pretty quickly. I made a HUGE batch for sliders for NYE a few years ago and reused them in every single way listed above. They freeze well, reheat well (though may dry out a bit, FYI), and are super easy to make gluten free. (Or dairy free – you pull the parmesan out but still get a tasty meatball.) This recipe, inspired and adapted only slightly from Annie’s Eats, is all kinds of good. Serve it with your favorite marinara (even if it comes from a jar) or vodka sauce. Or baked goat cheese in marinara. Cause that’s well…awesome.

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 – 3/4 c panko, breadcrumbs or GF crackers
  • 1/3 c onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 t thyme
  • 1 t oregano
  • 1/2 t Rosemary
  • 1 t basil
  • 3/4 c Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1½ lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts (or already ground chicken)
  • 2 T olive oil

Get cooking:

  1. If you’re grinding your own chicken, chop those chicken breasts into large chunks, then add to your food processor. I start by pulsing, and then maybe running on low, until everything is ground.
  2. Add your chicken to a bowl with the other ingredients. Mix by hand (gross maybe, but so much easier) until the meat sticks together. You may need to add more bread/oil depending on how dry your chicken is. This is where it’s nice to have a helper, s you don’t have to keep washing your hands.
  3. Form into balls and (if you’re really feeling sassy) roll in more cheese. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake at 400 20-25 minutes, or until internal temp is 170 (knowing they’ll rest and come to 180.)
  4. Serve in all the ways I state above and any other you can think of.

 

Brussels Sprout Brown Butter Pasta with Cranberries, Pecans and Goat cheese

Getting married is an interesting exercise in merging tastes. What you each grew up with plays a huge part in how much you love/hate things like lima beans/Brussels Sprouts/broccoli, or even steak/pork chops/pasta. The hubs and I both came from a lot of casseroles – except he hated most vegetables not in casserole form. I developed a love for cooking in college – and with that came a love of crunchy vegetables, al dente pasta and medium rare meat. David, unfortunately, did not share that love. Luckily, they say your tastes change every seven years. I think I may have David on an accelerated rate, but five years ago, the only part of this dish he would have eaten was the butter. Now, he loves Brussels Sprouts so much I actually think I could have served them on cardboard.

Luckily, I didn’t have to. This dish is a great nod to Fall – the cranberries, pecans and brown butter made you feel like the holidays are right around the corner. The roasted Brussels Sprouts give a great crunch and earthy flavor next to the sharpness of the goat cheese, and the pasta just…well, it’s pasta, it makes everything better. David loved this so much he didn’t even ask about meat – which hardly ever happens.

Brussels Sprout Brown Butter Pasta with Cranberries, Pecans and Goat Cheese
All the best flavors of Fall: brown butter, cranberries and pecans – with yummy caramelized sprouts and pasta.

 

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 lb. pasta – short cut is preferable, but really your favorite is fine
  • 1 lb. Brussels Sprouts, sliced in half (or quarters for really large sprouts)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 4 T butter
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Handful of dried cranberries
  • Handful of roasted pecans
  • 4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

Get cooking:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss Brussels Sprouts and onions in oil, season with salt and pepper and roast until crispy, 25-30 minutes. (I like mine with some bite still on them, so this may take up to 45 minutes depending on how you prefer your sprouts.)
  2. Cook pasta to your liking, drain and set aside.
  3. Melt butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Once the butter melts, keep the heat high, cooking the butter until just golden (it will keep cooking even after you turn off the heat.) Turn off heat and add garlic.
  4. Toss pasta in with butter mixture, then add sprouts and onions. Toss to mix, then pour into a serving dish and sprinkle with cranberries, pecan and goat cheese.
  5. Serves 4 as a main course and 6 as a side.

David’s favorite – Fettuccine Alfredo

Everyone grows up having that one “dish” they love. I have a few – my dad’s roast, my mom’s carbonara. My dad’s steak is so good we call it “daddy steak,” and I refused to order restaurant steak until I was well into my 20s (and still only do about once a year.) David’s was his mom’s “beef paprika” – basically a spin on beef stroganoff that uses a tomato-based sauce. I tried to make it at least 3 or 4 times – now understand, I know my way around a kitchen and this is not a complicated recipe – but I could not get it right! It wouldn’t thicken up right, or the flavor would be off – so very odd. So I did what any self-respecting cook does – I stopped cooking it and went to work creating a new favorite dish for him. Not to replace his mom’s, but so that he could at least have one awesome thing he loved that I could actually make him. Not only did I succeed, but this is one of the easiest dishes I make. On the nights I really want to wow him, I make homemade pasta – but the stuff from the box makes this a super fast meal choice.

You’ll need:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 T butter
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, diced (ahem, or more. You know, whatever bakes your cookies.)
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced (optional)
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan
  • 2 heads broccoli (optional)
  • 1 pound pasta
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 T basil
  • 1 t thyme

Get cooking:

  1. Boil pasta according to your tastes (I like a good bite in mine, David prefers a little less al dente.) About two minutes before pasta is done, add broccoli to steam in pasta water. Drain pasta/broccoli and add to sauce.
  2. For the sauce, saute garlic, onion and chicken (if using) in butter/olive oil over medium to medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
  3. Deglaze with wine and let reduce for 1-2 minutes, then add cream.
  4. Once it comes to a boil, add Parmesan cheese and let melt. Add pasta/broccoli to sauce, heat through another minute and add seasoning. Serve it up on a huge plate with extra cheese for the top.

Marvelous Marinara Sauce

Everyone has those nights – you’ve worked a super long day, you want to come home and eat a comforting, warm, home cooked meal….but you have absolutely no patience to actually cook. Spaghetti (or more accurately, any kind of pasta) in a marinara sauce is probably my go to “comfort food meal,” and while I could just buy jarred pasta sauce…I can actually make a homemade marinara in the time it takes the pasta to cook. Which means I get the exact flavor I want, I know what I’m putting into it, and best of all – I get out my daily aggression by chopping.

This sauce is really versatile, depending on what you’re feeling like that night. The recipe below is just the base sauce, but I’ve been known to add diced chicken (for a faster, lighter version of chicken Parmesan), ground beef or turkey, and a variety of vegetables (bell peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes) as it sounded good.

You’ll need:

  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (I just like the texture better, but you can use tomato sauce here if you’d prefer.)
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, chopped (I’ve been known to use a whole head and no, I’m not ashamed.)
  • 1 onion (Small, medium or large depends on how much you – or the people you’re cooking for – like onion.)
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup – ¾ cup red wine
  • 2 T basil
  • 1 T thyme
  • 1 T oregano
  • 1 t rosemary
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 T brown sugar (Optional, if you like a sweeter pasta sauce.)
  • 1 pound of your favorite pasta

Get cooking:

  1. Get water on to boil and boil pasta according to package instructions/to your preference.
  2. Heat large skillet over medium high heat. Add olive oil.
  3. Once oil is warm, add onion (and meat/veggies, if using) and saute about 5 minutes, until onions are softened.
  4. Add garlic and saute 1-2 minutes more, or until meat is done (if using.)
  5. Add wine and scrape bottom of pan with wooden spoon/flat whisk (the fancy name for this is ‘deglaze”) and reduce by about half.
  6. Add tomato sauce and spices. Bring to boil, then let simmer until pasta is done.
  7. I always throw my pasta in the pan with my sauce and let them cook together for a minute or two, but that is totally up to you. Either way, dinner’s served! Don’t forget to top with Parmesan cheese.

Amazing Gnocchi in Acorn Squash

I studied abroad in Rome during the summer of 2006, and while I was there, I had a very…European class schedule. I took Italian from 9-12 and history from 4-6, leaving me a very nice chunk in the middle of the day for wandering, eating and siesta-ing. True story – it took me the rest of the summer to break my afternoon nap habit. Those Europeans, they have the right idea.

Lunch was sometimes pizza from a local pizzeria with my classmates, but on days where I just needed to get in the kitchen, one of my staple dishes was gnocchi in a white wine sauce. Super simple – just sauteed onion and and garlic and white wine with a little butter, gnocchi and a bit of cheese, but filling and refreshing. And fast enough that I had plenty of time for a nap.

I make the gnocchi year round, but during the two weeks of squashness early in our marriage I found a way to add some fall to this summer meal. I kept the same recipe for the gnocchi, but placed the finished dish inside the hollow of a cooked acorn squash. It gets in a vegetable serving, creates a great presentation and is just a fun way to eat the dish.

You’ll need:

  • 1 lb of gnocchi, any variety
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 head garlic, minced (Yes, I use a whole head. No, you don’t have to.)
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 T dried basil or 20 leave fresh, chopped basil
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 acorn squash, split and cleaned
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ t nutmeg
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Get cooking:

  1. Place your acorn squash on a baking sheet – drizzle with 1 T of oil and sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar. Bake at 450 degree for 30-45 minutes, until the squash is fork tender.
  2. When the squash is about 10 minutes from being done, put the water on for the gnocchi.
  3. While the water is coming up to a boil, heat a skillet over medium high heat and add remaining oil. Saute onion 5 minutes, until translucent. Add garlic and saute 1 – 2 minutes more, until softened. Add wine, scraping up bits on the bottom of the pan. Let reduce by half. Add basil and salt/pepper to taste.
  4. Once it boils, add gnocchi. At this point, the gnocchi will only need about 3 minutes to cook – once one floats to the top of the water, they’re done. Scoop them out and add to the sauce.
  5. Cook gnocchi in sauce for another minutes or so, then add butter and allow to melt into sauce.
  6. Scoop gnocchi into cooked squash, top with your favorite cheese (we love this with fresh parmesan, goat cheese and blue cheese) and enjoy!

Caprese Salad Pasta

The summer is one of my favorite times of year because cooking is easy. Take meat, season liberally – throw on grill. Find veggies, whatever’s in the fridge – do the same. Add a slice of bread if there’s no potatoes. (If there were potatoes, you would have also grilled them.) Done.But I have to say, every once and a while I find myself missing carbs – specifically pasta. Because well, I was an Italian mama in another life. Also, I have an addiction. So this recipe takes my love of something completely summer – caprese salad – and marries it with another love – pasta. But, you cook the sauce partially on the grill, so that adds another level of flavor – and summer.I saw someone (and I’ll totally forget who) do this originally, and then I combined about three different recipes and my own creativity for something that was so good, David said “I don’t know WHAT this is, but I LOVE IT!” From his mouth to your face.

You’ll need:

  • 1 pound fresh mozzerella, cubed (Hey, you could use a half a pound if you want – but why? Also, the fresh is key here – the flavor is … mmmm.)
  • 1 pound short-cut pasta, any kind you like
  • 2 pounds fresh tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T olive oil
  • Fresh basil – um, a bunch
  • Any other Italian seasonings you like
  • Salt and pepper

Get cooking:

  1. First you want to start your grill, then put your pasta water on.
  2. Dice your veggies and cheese.
  3. Once that’s done, grab a piece of foil big enough to fit the tomato, onion and garlic, and coat with cooking spray. (Go bigger than you think here – you’ll thank me later.) Lay the veggies down, toss with Italian seasoning and oil, and cover with another foil sheet. Seal it up and throw on the grill for about 10 minutes.
  4. While that’s cooking, add the butter to the pan and heat over medium high until it starts to brown. Once it’s brown, add in the balsamic vinegar. NOW WARNING: This will splash. And sizzle. And holy moly, will it smell. Your eyes will water. Your smoke alarm will go off. And it. Will. Be. Worth. It. Let the vinegar reduce by about the third, and turn on low.
  5. Add your pasta when the water boils – just cook like normal (whatever your normal is) and drain.
  6. Pull the veggies off the grill and add to the vinegar/butter mix. Now, you have two options here – you can leave this chunky, or you can puree with an immersion blender. Up to you. If you want to leave it chunky, I would suggest dicing the garlic and adding it to the butter in the pan. If you puree, you can keep the garlic smashed, since it’ll just get diced up later anyway.
  7. Add pasta once it’s done, and the cheese and stir together. Let it cook on low 1-2 minutes until the cheese melts and the pasta gets a chance to soak up the sauce flavor.
  8. Garnish with fresh basil.
  9. Eat. Then try to STOP eating.

Lemon basil alfredo sauce

So, we were having people over one night and I decided that the Pioneer Woman‘s Lemon Basil chicken pasta was going on the menu, as I had some cream to use up, and PDub’s my go-to girl when that’s the case. Also, she’s my go to crowd-pleaser, because everyone always loves her stuff.

But of course, I took her idea as a starting point and used it as inspiration. First of all, I marinated the chicken in my own vinaigrette overnight and used bone in, skin on, for flavor. Grilled to perfection, it was AMAZING in this dish. Also, as we are already familiar with my passion for garlic (obsession you say? passion, obsession, potato, putahto, black, white) –  I had to add that. And what is garlic without onion? Sad, my friends, garlic is sad without it’s best friend and constant lifetime companion, the onion. Life partners they are, journeying to the depths of culinary dishes everywhere in hopes of bringing them out of darkness and into the light. So yeah, had to add.

Also, did not use as much – nee, ANY – butter, just a titch of oil (lie, 1 T) and whole milk instead of half and half (from a failed pudding pie attempt – let’s not talk about it. I’m still ashamed and ANGRY I spent so much on making two completely useless pies and THEN to add insult to injury, David had to BUY snack! Buy it! Like he’s a bachelor, for crying out loud! Such things are not acceptable in my world, and I feel my reputation is tarnished, with a big red A for absolutely should never try to make pudding again. )

I did use all the lemons and some zest, and would actually back down next time, as I feel the basil (and I even sprung for fresh!) was overpowered by the lemon. It was still amazing, don’t get me wrong – as heavy as alfredo, but the lemon made it feel like summer on a plate. But I LOVE fresh basil and am usually too cheap to buy it, so when I do, I really want it to shine unabashed.

And finally, well, Jon came over, and conned me into doubling the recipe. Are we surprised that the BIL with the hollow man has this kind of pull over me, the perpetual Overmaker? No. It’s like telling a crack addict that her next hit is for the good of her friends. Have Mercy.

Oh, and I almost forgot – replaced half the parm with fontina. Because why wouldn’t you? It’s God’s cheese, fontina, and I’m sure He says that somewhere in the gnostic gospels, right along with commenting on the ludicrousness that is no carb diets.

Ok, long front story aside, this fed…7 people…with a TON leftover, sent home with my BIL and his hollow leg to share.

You’ll need:

Pasta

  • 2 pounds pasta
  • 3 cups cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
  • 1/2 c shredded fontina
  • 2 bunches basil
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 onion, diced fine
  • 1 T oil
  • 8 lemons (like i said, i would back down to 5 or 6 here)
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Chicken

  • 4 chicken breasts (could do more or less here – to taste)
  • Juice and zest of 2 lemons
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 3 T oil
  • 2 T Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper

Get cooking:

Chicken

  1. Combine chicken and marinade ingredients – let sit overnight, or for a few hours.
  2. Once you’re ready to cook, pull out chicken and let come to room temperature, then grill (or pan fry, or bake) until 170 degrees.
  3. Pull it out, cover with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes – it will come to 180 degrees and actually be juicy, and wonderful, and not underdone I swear.

Pasta

  1. Put water on to boil – once rolling, add pasta and cook until it’s done the way you like. I like a little bite (al dente) – David thinks I’m psychotic. I cook, so I win. 🙂
  2. In the mean time, heat oil over medium high, saute onion until soft, about 5 minutes.
  3. Back heat down to medium, add garlic, saute for 30 sec-1 min, until you can smell it.
  4. Deglaze with the lemons and the wine – you can skip this, but I LOVE cooking with wine.
  5. Add milk and cream – bring to a simmer.
  6. Once simmering, add cheese. Stir until it melts.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Add in cooked pasta and stir to combine.
  9. Add basil just before serving.
  10. Slice chicken and put over pasta, or serve alongside.
  11. Eat. Eat some more. Eat leftovers for three days. Enjoy. 🙂