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Let's Dish With Linda Lou

Sharing My Recipes, My Life, And The Food Tale Of Two Cities

Homemade SpaghettiO’s With Meatballs

Homemade SpaghettiO's (1)

What’s better than reliving one of your favorite childhood meals. You know the one I’m talking about, SpaghettiO’s with meatballs! Well, I’ve recreated this dish for you and its super easy to make.

Making homemade sauce and meatballs takes this to dish to a grown-up level that will definitely surprise you, guests. I have a couple of great ingredients tips for the meatballs that are going to blow your mind.

Let’s start by making the meatballs and getting them into the oven before working on the sauce.

Normally I wouldn’t use a store-bought basil pesto, however; in this instance, I’m using it as an ingredient in the meatballs. If you’re going to go this route, buy the basil pesto you get from the refrigerated section, of the grocery store, rather than the jarred version. In some of my earlier posts I’ve mentioned using basil pesto in meatballs really elevates the flavor, and when you think about it, they’re really ingredients you would most likely add to the meatball mixture anyway.

When making the mixture for the ground meat, you want to start with the flavorings in a bowl first. That mixture needs to have the consistency of wet sand. Next, you’ll add your choice of ground meat and combine. I use a fork to slowly combine the wet flavoring mixture to the ground meat. Keep the ground meat as loose as possible, do not over mix. This will ensure you’ll have super tender meatballs. Below are 3 ice cream scoops. The middle one is about an ounce or a 2 tablespoons scoop. For my mini meatballs, I’m using a scoop which is about half the size of a golf ball, for this recipe.

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Yields: 48 meatballs
Equipment: 2 baking sheets, lined with parchment paper
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Yields: 6 servings

Ingredients For Meatballs:
2 pounds (your choice of ) ground meat, chicken, turkey, pork, beef, or veal.
2 extra large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup half and half, room temperature
1/4 cup water, room temperature
1/4 cup Ricotta cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup of a fresh store-bought basil pesto
5 dashes Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano_ Reggiano cheese. (grated Parmesan cheese is fine too)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 heaping tablespoons dried parsley flakes (finely chop and use double this amount of fresh)
1 to 1 1/2 cups of  Italian bread crumbs (you want the consistency of wet sand)
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Ingredients For Sauce:
1-28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1-15 ounce can of fire roasted diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 large onion diced
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup unsalted chicken stock
3 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, basil sprigs for garnish
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese, for cooked pasta
2 packages of la Molisana pasta

Directions For Meatballs:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and spray them both with non- stick cooking spray.
Start by placing all the flavorings for the meatballs into a large mixing bowl. When blending in the bread crumbs, start with 1 cup, add an additional 1/2 cup if needed. The finished consistency should look like (and have the texture of) wet sand.

Add in the (your choice of) ground meat. Using a fork to combine the flavorings and meat together, do not over mix.

NOTE: If the ground meat starts to stick to the ice cream scoop, spray with a little non- stick cooking spray so the meat releases easier.

Scoop the meat mixture into your hands, roll into balls, then place the meatballs on the greased parchment paper lined baking sheets. Each baking sheet should hold 24 meatballs. For nice golden brown meatballs, spray the tops of the meatballs with a little non-stick cooking spray. Bake for 45 minutes.

Directions For Sauce:
While the meatballs are in the oven, start the sauce. On med-high heat add the olive oil to a heavy bottom pot. Add in the onions, cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until translucent. Add the minced garlic, Kosher salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, oregano, basil, brown sugar, and tomato paste. Cook for 2 minutes. Next, add the chicken stock. Let the stock come up to a bubble and reduce by half. Once the stock has reduced, add in the tomato products. Turn the heat down to med-low and let simmer until the meatballs come out of the oven.

After the meatballs come out of the oven, add them to the sauce. Simmer sauce for another 45 minutes.

Cook 2 packages of the pasta according to the directions. In a large serving bowl, add the well-drained cooked pasta. Add 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese and toss through. Ladle the sauce with meatballs to the pasta and toss through. Add fresh basil leaves. Serve up table side into individual bowls. Garnish each bowl with sprigs of fresh basil. Have extra cheese on hand for your guests.

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Cabbage Soup

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Cabbage soup has to be one of my very favorites when it comes to food for the soul. I find, if your a fan of stuffed cabbage than you will love this soup. For this soup, I’m using an 8 quart stock pot. This size pot will hold enough liquid and cabbage needed for this recipe. I’m also using Savoy cabbage (green cabbage is fine as well) and a 90% lean ground sirloin which will make for a healthier and better tasting soup.

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Yields, 6 servings
Equipment: 8 quart stock pot
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40-45 minutes

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2-1/2 pounds ground sirloin
5 cups of chopped Savoy cabbage ( or green cabbage)
1 cup of diced onions
1 cup of diced carrots
2 bay leaves
2 cloves of minced garlic
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 tablespoons of Kosher salt
1 tablespoon of black pepper
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup of quick cooking rice  (quick cooking rice in a bag)
2 quarts of unsalted chicken stock
2 cups of good tomato juice
Home-made croutons for garnish
Grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese for garnish

Directions:
The very first thing I do is to prep all the veggies that will be going into the soup so they will be ready for me when I need them. This includes the onions ,garlic, carrots, and cabbage.

So I just start out with a little olive oil in the bottom of the pot. You need that because the meat is very lean. On med high heat, I add the ground sirloin, breaking the meat up with a wooden spoon, and start the browning process.  To the ground sirloin, I add in the Kosher salt, black pepper, tomato paste, and some crushed red pepper flakes. Once the meat has browned completely, about 5-7 minutes,

I add in the diced onions and minced garlic. I cook those together letting the onions start to soften, another couple of minutes. Next, the diced carrots, stirring those through. I let all this cook together for another 5 minutes.

With the stove still on med- high heat, I add in the unsalted chicken stock. Once the stock is added, carefully, with my wooden spoon, scrape up any bits that may be stock to the bottom of the pot.  Lowering the heat to medium,  I slowly add in the chopped Savoy cabbage. Using the wooden spoon to push the cabbage down into the liquid.

As the Savoy cabbage softens and has all been submerged into the chicken stock, I add in a cup of quick cooking rice. All that is, is the rice you can buy and cook in the pouch. I just remove it from the pouch and add it right into the pot. I let all this simmer (adjust the heat, if needed, to a slow simmer) for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.

Finally, the very last ingredient I add is tomato juice. I add that right at the end, stirring it completely through. I then turn the heat off and cover the soup. Letting all those flavors mingle together for about 10 minutes or so before serving. Remove the bay leaves before serving.  I garnish with some home-made Ciabatta croutons and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. You can find my recipe for my homemade croutons very easily. Type, Ciabatta croutons into the “search bar” at the top of my home page.

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Zucchini And Cremini Mushroom Gratin. Gluten Free

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Zucchini And Cremini Mushroom Gratins are the easiest yet the most elegant looking appetizers to serve to your guests. Everyone gets their own individual dish. That always seems to make friends and family feel extra special. Whenever I make a tomato sauce, I always seem to have plenty left over. There’s just two of us so I’m always trying to think up different ways to use any leftover sauce. That’s how this dish came to be. This recipe can be made easy enough if you don’t have leftover sauce. All you would have to do is to buy your favorite jarred marinara sauce.

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In a large sautépan over medium-high heat, carefully melt the unsalted butter with the olive oil. Add the sliced mushrooms and fresh thyme leaves. Sautè the mushrooms, about 5-7 minutes, or until they’ve browned nicely. One the mushrooms have browned season with Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste and stir. Note: Wait to salt the mushrooms until they’ve browned completely. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel.

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Slice 2 zucchinis and 1 yellow squash about 1/2 an inch thick. Place them into a bowl and sprinkle with Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Using the same sautèpan, on medium heat, add the olive oil. Give the oil a chance to get nice and hot but not where its smoking.

Carefully place the sliced zucchini and squash into the pan, do not to overcrowd the veggies. This needs to be done in two separate batches. They will shallow fry for about 2 minutes per side. Do this just long enough for the veggies to soften and get some nice color on them before they go into the gratin dishes. Again, have a large plate lined with a paper towel so once the veggies are done sautèing, they go right onto the plate to remove any extra oil.

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In a bowl is my leftover tomato sauce. If you don’t have any homemade tomato sauce, substitute your favorite jarred sauce In another bowl add the ingredients for cheese filling. I have Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese that I’ve ground up in a mini food processor. Add half of the grated cheese into the bowl with Ricotta, egg, freshly chopped flat leaf Italian parsley,  and a sprinkling of Kosher salt, black pepper. Finally, add the half and half, just enough to thin the cheese mixture. Now the cheesy component of gratin is done. It’s time to assemble.

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Start with the zucchini and squash slices first. One even layer at the bottom of the dishes. Next, a thin layer of homemade marinara sauce. I like using homemade marinara because it already has the onions, garlic, and basil. On top of that, the sliced cremini mushrooms. Sprinkle just a little of the grated cheese, that I reserved, on top of the mushroom. Then I spoon on the cheese mixture. Lastly, the rest of the reserved Parmigiano-Reggiano, I sprinkle evenly on top of each one.

Preheat the oven to 400-degrees F. Place the 3 gratin dishes on two baking sheets to prevent any spillover. Bake for 30 minutes. Once they’re out of the oven, I garnished with a sprinkle of chopped flat leaf Italian parsley.

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Yields: 3 servings
Prep Time: 25 minutes, (the slicing and sautèing of the vegetables)
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Equipment: 3 gratin dishes, 1 rimmed sheet pan

Ingredients:
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil for sautèing mushrooms
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
2 zucchini, sliced
1 yellow squash, sliced
3/4 cup homemade marinara sauce ( bottled is fine)
2 tablespoons of thyme leaves (or1 tablespoon dried thyme)
1 tablespoon Kosher salt (for seasoning zucchini and squash)
1 teaspoon black pepper (for seasoning zucchini and squash
1/4 cup Ricotta cheese
1/4 cup half and half
1 large egg
3/4 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese  plus 3 tablespoons for the top of each gratin
1/4 cup of freshly chopped flat leaf Italian parsley ( reserve 2 tablespoons for garnish

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a large sautépan over medium-high heat, carefully melt the unsalted butter with the olive oil. Add the sliced mushrooms and fresh thyme leaves. Sautè the mushrooms, about 5-7 minutes, or until they’ve browned nicely. One the mushrooms have browned season with Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste and stir. Note: Wait to salt the mushrooms until they’ve browned completely. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel.

Slice 2 zucchinis and 1 yellow squash about 1/2 an inch thick. Place them into a bowl and sprinkle with Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Using the same sautèpan, on medium heat, add the olive oil. Give the oil a chance to get hot but not where its smoking.

Carefully place the sliced zucchini and squash into the pan, do not to overcrowd the veggies. This needs to be done in two separate batches. They will shallow fry for about 2 minutes per side. Do this just long enough for the veggies to soften and get some nice color on them before they go into the gratin dishes. Again, have a large plate lined with a paper towel so once the veggies are done sautèing, they go right onto the plate to remove any extra oil.

While that’s working, go ahead and process the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in a food processor.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl add the ricotta, egg, half and half, chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley,  3/4 cup of the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a pinch each of Kosher salt and black pepper, mix to combine.  If you are using leftover marinara or are using jarred, have it ready.

In each of 3 gratin dishes, place a layer of the zucchini and squash. Next, and a thin layer of the marinara sauce. To that, add the sautèed mushrooms. Sprinkle a little of the reserved grated cheese on top of the mushrooms. Next spoon on a third of the ricotta cheese mixture.

Finally, top each gratin with a tablespoon of the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Place the dishes on a rimmed sheet pan. Bake for 30 minutes. When the Zucchini And Cremini Mushroom Gratins come out of the oven, garnish with the parsley.

Serve hot.

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Pestos and Tapenades

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It’s a meat-free day today at my house. Anything you can spread on grilled bread or toasted bread is delicious.

Pesto doesn’t have to be made with just basil anymore. You can substitute arugula or spinach, you can add walnuts or pistachios. The possibilities are endless.

The difference between a Pesto and a Tapenade is generally Tapenades are olive-based… yes there are olives in certain Pestos.

In the pictures above I’ve made a Roasted Piquillo Pepper Pesto, a Pea With Fresh Mint Pesto, an Artichoke Pesto, and a Kalamata Olive With Cannellini Bean Tapenade.

I like to change it up, by using all types of different ingredients. For example; roasted red peppers, artichokes, peas, Cannellini beans, Kalamata olives, or Ricotta cheese, mix in nuts and fresh herbs.

Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese, fresh lemon juice, and a great Extra Virgin Olive Oil are key in making a great pesto or Tapenade. Let’s not forget about the nuts. Traditionally pine nuts are what’s used, not today, it’s pistachios. I even used a variety of herbs like basil, chives, mint, and Italian flat-leaf parsley. I say let your imagination go wild!  Then spread it on grilled bread.

In the next section, is my recipe for the Roasted Piquillo Pepper Pesto. Recipes may vary from one pesto to another, some tend to be thicker than others. A secret I use to thicken certain Pesto recipes is by adding a small amount of Cannellini Beans. They add a creaminess and give great texture to the Pesto or Tapenade.

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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 12-15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Equipment: Food Processor, rimmed baking sheet with a rack

Ingredients For RoastedPiquilloPepper Pesto:
7-ounce jar of drained roasted Piquillo peppers, (If you can’t find Piquillo peppers, substitute roasted red peppers)
1/4 cup of drained and rinsed Cannellini beans
1/4 cup of Pistachios
1/4 cup of  grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese
1 small clove of peeled garlic
2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/2 a teaspoon of black pepper
1 tablespoon of fresh chopped basil leaves
1/4 cup of *E.V.O.O.
1 loaf of Tuscan Ciabatta bread, sliced (yields 16 slices) substitute a good French baguette

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375-degrees F.
Slice the Ciabatta bread at a 45-degree angle into 1/2 -inch thick slices. Arrange the bread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet topped with a rack. Brush the top surface of each slice of Ciabatta lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste. Place into the oven on the center rack. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the bread is golden. Take the baking sheet out of the oven and let the toast cool slightly before adding the toppings.

Start processing the nuts ( Pistachios) garlic and the herb of choice first. You can see this in the pictures above. Once this has been processed, add in the main ingredients. In this case, the drained and rinsed roasted Piquillo peppers, Cannellini beans, fresh lemon juice, Kosher salt, and pepper.

Next, through the feed tube, at the top, drizzle in the *E.V.O.O. slowly. This will allow you to control the consistency of the pesto as it’s being processed, and you can adjust the amount accordingly.

Finally, add the grated cheese. The reason I do it this way, is so the cheese doesn’t get too hot from that blade doing all this processing and change the integrity of the cheese. I only pulse the cheese through the mix just until it’s mixed through.

This is the method I use when making any type of pesto. I also want to mention, using Cannellini beans gives extra body to the pesto without changing the flavor.

*E.V.O.O. is Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

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