Another Weeknight Pasta

I know, I can hear everyone now, “Another weeknight pasta?!  How many weeknight pastas does one needs?  Aren’t they really all the same??”  Like Sugar Skulls, I can never have to many weeknight pasta recipes.  Somehow, there is always a little twist.  And quite frankly, everyone has those, “Oh man, I don’t want to make dinner, nor do I know what to make for dinner” moments.  Weeknight pasta is the perfect solution and it’s simple!  I don’t like simple – said no one ever.

Ingredients:

8 oz uncooked pasta (any small shape that you’d like, I used a mix of what I had on hand)
1 Tbs olive oil (such as my new fave, garlic extra virgin olive oil by Sciabica’s)
1 lb lean ground beef (I use 90%, but 80% is great, too.  Or sub with chicken)
1/2 onion, minced
2 tsp dried oregano (if you haven’t tried LiteHouse freeze-dried herbs, I urge you to.  Run, don’t walk, to your local market and check out all of the options they have)
1 tsp minced garlic (as always, pre-minced, such as Spice Island)
28 oz crushed tomatoes (I love Cento)
2 cups beef broth (helps boost that meaty flavor)
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste (yes, you finally get to use the WHOLE can!!)
1 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
Parmesan cheese for topping.

Preparation:

Cook pasta according to package directions.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil to medium high.  Add beef, onion, and garlic.  Cook until onions are translucent.  Add crushed tomatoes, broth, tomato paste, oregano, salt, and sugar.  Stir well.  Reduce heat; simmer, covered, for 20 – 25 minutes.  Drain pasta and add back to the pot.  When sauce is done, slowly add sauce to pasta, stirring to mix thoroughly.  Top with pasta and serve with warm, crusty bread.

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Barbera
Malbec
Pinot Noir
Sangiovese

Total time:  About 40 minutes

Serves 6

Another Weeknight Pasta

Another Weeknight Pasta

*Original Serves-4 Recipe

On Top of Old Smokey Meatballs

All covered with cheese, I lost my poor meatball, when somebody sneezed.  But it’s ok because I made tons!  These meatballs were so easy to make and quick.  Such wonderful flavor!  And one of things that attracts me to a recipe is the ability to really make it your own.  Change it up some. Use spicy Italian sausage for a kick. Or, add your favorite hot sauce to regular Italian sausage. Instead of Italian seasoning, how about the Mexican Blend I always use with some fresh cilantro?  Add ginger and teriyaki sauce, served over steamed rice, for an Asian flavor.  Oh, how about subbing the bread crumbs with finely ground potato chips, shredded cheddar cheese and BBQ sauce.  Tailgate anyone?  So, let everyone sneeze as much as they want, you’ve got meatballs covered!

Ingredients (Meatballs Only):

16 oz pkg premium pork Italian sausage
1/3 cup plain dry bread crumbs
¼ cup finely chopped onion
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 375°. Mix ingredients until blended (the best way is to don some gloves and dive right in).

Shape meat mixture into 2″ meatballs and place on a baking sheet.  Either spray with nonstick spray, or as I did, line with parchment paper.

Bake meatballs 15 minutes or until done (when they reach 160°).  Serve with your favorite pasta sauce (such as my  Busy Mom’s Spaghetti and Meatball – but ignore those meatballs, just this once, and go back another time to try those!)

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Barbera
Grenache
Malbec
Pinot Noir
Sangiovese

Serves 6 (with pasta & sauce)
Prep time: 15 minute; Cook time: 15 minutes

On Top of Old Smoky Meatballs

On Top of Old Smoky Meatballs

*Derived from Jimmy Dean

Baked Ziti

I have an almost irrational obsession with baked ziti.  And I can pinpoint exactly where it comes from.  It was, I’d say, wow, about 10 years ago.  My wonderful Hubs (who was not my  Hubs yet) invited a coworker to go to dinner with us.  We went to Pasta Pomodoro in Rockridge (amazing outside seating with equally amazing heaters).  I very clearly remember ordering the very rich and creamy baked ziti.  When the waiter brought our food and said, “baked ziti?” I watched in dumb-founded amazement as Hector said, “Yes, right here.”  Right here?!??  “No, RIGHT HERE!!!” I silently screamed.  I don’t even remember the non-baked ziti dish I ended up with that night.  How could I?  It wasn’t baked ziti.  Ever since that fateful evening I have been on a baked ziti quest.  Each variation of a recipe that I try gets put in the “never again” pile, the “hmm, give it one more try” pile, or THIS could be the ONE” pile.  I made this ahead for our Tahoe trip.  My dad loved it, which is a whole other story, but got it added to the THIS could be the ONE pile.  🙂 

Ingredients:

16 oz dry ziti pasta
1 small / medium onion chopped (depends on preference)
1 lb extra lean ground beef (can sub turkey or chicken)
2 (26 oz) jars pasta sauce (such as Classico Tomato & Basil)
6 oz sliced provolone cheese
1 1/2 cups sour cream
6 oz mozzarella, shredded
2 Tbs grated Parmesan

Preparation:

Add ziti to slightly salted boiling water.  You want to cook to al dente because this dish will go in the oven.

Over medium – high heat, in a large skillet, sweat onions until soft, add ground beef.  Once browned, add pasta sauce and simmer 15 minutes.

While simmering sauce, preheat oven to 350°.  Spray a 9×13″ baking pan with nonstick spray.  Layer 1/2 of the ziti, provolone cheese, sour cream, 1/2 sauce mixture, remaining ziti, mozzarella cheese and remaining sauce mixture.  Top with grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake 30 minutes, or until cheeses are melted

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Barbera
Chianti
Malbec
Pinot Noir
Sangiovese

Serves 10
Total time: 1 hour

Baked Ziti

Not a great picture, we got busy in Tahoe and I forgot to take another when cutting into it!

*Derived from AllRecipes.com

Quick Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Pasta is a staple in my house.  For the most part, you can make it fast.  But, there are also some amazing dishes that take a while (lasagna, baked ziti anyone?).  I kind of have to admit, too, that one of the reasons I love pasta has to do with the control freak in me.  It’s also the same reason I prefer texting and email.  It’s all on my time. I get to decide, do I want/need a quick pasta tonight?  Do I need/want to respond to this text right now? Basically, whether a text or pasta, it comes down to me.  And no one knows the elements that brought me to the decision.  This dish, however, I’ll share with you the behind the scenes thought process.  I already had defrosted the extra lean ground beef.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it simply because my family is just coming back from a quick little vacation to Kings Beach in North Lake Tahoe (one of our fave places and I encourage everyone to go) and anyone that knows me understands that I spent the week leading up to Tahoe planning, cooking, and packing for our trip (those recipes to follow).  By the time we got back home I was 1) exhausted from a wonderful trip, 2) really tired of planning and cooking, and 3) completely out of groceries save for the staples I had on hand.  I can tell you, quite confidently, this was a huge hit!

Ingredients:

1 lb extra lean ground beef (can sub ground chicken or turkey)
1 (14.5) oz diced tomatoes
1 (14.5) oz tomato sauce
1/2 of (6.5) garlic & herb spreadable cheese (such as Alouette)
1 Tbs dried basil (such as Morton & Bassett) (I prefer fresh, but since my GSD puppy ate my plant, I had to go with dried)
Handful of dried spaghetti
Parmesan grated, shredded, shaved (your preference) for serving

Preparation:

Boil pasta according to your doneness preference.

While pasta cooks, brown meat. Once browned, drain off any excess fat. Add diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Reduced heat to medium low and heat through. Add the garlic and herb spreadable cheese. Stir to completely incorporate through. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer 5 – 10 minutes. Add basil the last few minutes and stir (if using fresh basil, wait until ready to serve.

Mix pasta with sauce, in batches, stirring to combine with each batch. Top with favorite Parmesan. Serve with crusty bread.

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Barbera
Chianti
Malbec
Pinot Noir
Sangiovese

Serves 8
Total time: 40 minutes

photo (5)

*Original Serves-4 Recipe

Lasagna with Zucchini

Lasagna is the quintessential comfort food.  And when you want comfort food, it doesn’t matter if it’s winter (the perfect weather for lasagna) or the start-up of summer.  Since I found this recipe in my June issue of Cooking Light, I felt it was the Food Gods way of telling me I need to make this.  Stat!  While midst of cooking, I realized it is the perfect remake of the perfect comfort food.  The zucchini and squash hold up well in place of Italian sausage or any other meat.  I found myself not even missing the meat.  Also, the sauce was not heavy, but so flavorful and rich.  The next day when I reheated for lunch, I did notice the zucchini and squash had a stronger flavor, but it still was very good and a meal that will make it to my rotation.  PS – This meal takes a LONG time to pull together, definitely keep for the weekend or when you have some additional time.

Ingredients:

2 Tbs olive oil
3 cups julienne-cut zucchini
2 cups julienne-cut yellow squash
1½ Tbs chopped fresh thyme
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (this is where I cheated, b/c I always have to cheat.  I used pre-chopped garlic)
¾ tsp kosher salt, divided
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
¼ cup water from fresh mozzarella container
4 oz fresh mozzarella cheese
2½ oz grated fresh Parmesan
1 (9 oz) package refrigerated fresh lasagna noodles (Our market did not carry this and I don’t care of the No Boil variety, that is until I found Delverde Ondine Instant Egg Lasagna.  Unlike our American brands, it did not take doughy or uncooked to me.  Certainly will use again and again!)
Cooking Spray

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 375°.

Heat large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add olive oil to pan and swirl to coat.  Add zucchini, squash, time, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes.  Stir in ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper.  Remove zucchini mixture from pan and cool.

Combine remaining ¼ tsp each of salt and pepper, ricotta, mozzarella water, and mozzarella in food processor or blender.  Pulse until smooth.  Combine ½ cup ricotta mixture and ½ cup Parmesan.

Coat 8″ baking dish with cooking spray; arrange 2 noodles, trimming to fit if needed.  Top with half of zucchini mixture and half of ricotta mixture.  Repeat layers, ending with noodles.  Top with the rocotta-Parmesan mixture.  Cover dish with foil and back for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake additional 15 minutes.

Turn broiler to high.  Sprinkle lasagna with remaining 2 Tbs parmesan cheese.  Broil 2 minutes or until lightly browned.  Let stand for 5 minutes.

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Barbera
Cabernet Franc
Malbec
Pinot Noir
Sangiovese

Serves 6
Hands-On time: 20 minutes; Total: 65 minutes

 Lasagna with Zucchini

 *Derived from Cooking Light

Quick Beef Stroganoff

I love beef stroganoff, and it seems that there are so many different recipes out there with the smallest change making a huge change if flavor.  What attracted me, though, to this recipe from Gimme Some Oven was it’s 30-Minute timeframe.  While this did take me a little longer than 30 minutes, it was so worth it!  And between you and me, I think the reason it took longer was completely my scattered fault.  I just can’t seem to get my ducks in a row, and if I finally get them in a row, they certainly don’t stay that way!  There were some substitutions I made to make it a little healthier or I was missing an ingredient.  There are also many ways you can make this healthier, instead of steak, you can use sliced chicken or turkey.  Or, if you are vegetarian, sub mushrooms and use vegetable broth.  All in all, a wonderful weeknight dish!

Ingredients:

1 lb wide egg noodles
4 Tbs butter, divided
1 ½ lb thinly sliced steak (I bought the fajita sliced steak in the meat department.  They also have super thin carne asada style)
1 white or yellow onion thinly sliced (I used a small one, the size depends on your enjoyment of onions)
4 cloves garlic minced (As always, I used the pre-minced from Spice World)
1 lb sliced mushrooms (You can use a mixture of different kinds of added flavor)
½ cup dry white wine (or you can just use more beef broth.  I had the wine, but it fell into my mouth . . . )
1 ½ cups beef broth
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce (thanks to the kids experimenting, I didn’t have any.  I used A-1 instead and it brought a very nice, unique flavor)
3 Tbs flour
½ cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt (or you can use light sour cream, the yogurt added a different flavor)
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped fresh parsley, as optional garnish

Preparation:

Cook egg noodles in boiling water according to package directions (Gimme Some Oven recommends actually adding the egg noodles to the water at the same time that the beef broth is added, and this is a perfect recommendation for timing!)

As pasta water is coming to a boil, melt 2 Tbs of butter in large saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add steak in a single layer and season with salt and pepper, let it cook for 3 minutes without turning to get a good sear.  Remove the steak from pan with slotted spoon, transfer to a separate dish.  Discard the cooked butter from the pan.

Return pan to heat and add remaining 2 Tbs butter.  Once melted, add onions and saute for about 3 minutes.  Add garlic and mushrooms, stir to combine.  Continue sauteing an additional 5-7 minutes, or until mushrooms have through and onions are soft.  Add white wine (or broth) and deglaze pan.  Let mixture cook down an additional 3 minutes.

In a separate bowl, whisk together beef broth, Worcestershire (or A-1) sauce, and flour until smooth.  Pour the broth mixture into the pan and stir to combine.  Let simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Next, stir in Greek yogurt (or sour cream) until combined.  Finally, stir in cooked steak.

Serve over egg noodles, garnished with parsley if desired.

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Cabernet Sauvignon
Malbec
Merlot
Pinot Noire
Sangiovese

Total time: About 40 minutes

Serves 6

Quick Beef Stroganoff

Quick Beef Stroganoff

 *Derived from Gimme Some Oven

Busy Mom’s Spaghetti & Meatballs

Do you ever feel like, when you are working away, that you are just going to topple over onto your desk in a heap, asleep so fast that as your head makes contact a dribble of spittle has already appeared?  That is how the last month to month and a half has been for me.  We’ve had major construction going on in the 2nd most important area of our house, the family room.  This was due to a large flood on Christmas morning (Yeah!  Merry Christmas!!).  So we’ve been dealing with that, in a small part, since then.  But when the construction finally started, well, it’s just been tiresome.  While our general contractor has been amazing at keeping everyone on schedule, I’m just over it, you know.  I’m ready to have that room opened to the rest of the house again.  I’m ready to have a laundry room again (something I’d never in my life thought I’d be excited about, a new laundry room).  I’m ready to have that 3rd bath available downstairs, as opposed to a 5 and 6 year old trying to race upstairs to pee when they’ve been outside playing with ladybugs and refused to “listen to their bodies”.  And at the tail end of this endeavor has been . . . dun, dun, dun . . . daylight savings.  “Come everyone, let’s Spring Forward!” I can clearly hear a very cheery Mother Nature shouting.  I want to shout back, not so cheerily, “Let’s all put our freakin’ happy faces on as our internal clocks get all screwed up!”  Sorry, I’m a grump today.  This is the perfect dinner for a grump to make.  It comes together quickly and painlessly.  And none of it would have been possible without my little sous chef!

My Sous Chef!

My Sous Chef!

 

Ingredients:

8 oz spaghetti
1 Tbs olive oil (go easy on olive oil because the sausage will have plenty of oil when cooked)
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs Italian Seasoning (or any favorite herb, oregano, thyme, etc.)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup beef broth (can sub with chicken)
2 cups pureed tomato
1 lb sausage meat (you can buy sausage links and remove the casings, luckily I found a package of bulk sausage meat prepared by the butcher)
Parmesan
1 bunch fresh basil (optional, I didn’t have on hand so I omitted)

Preparation:

Bring a large pot of water to boil for spaghetti.  While spaghetti cooks, prepare sauce.

Add 1 Tbs olive oil to large pan heated over medium-high.  When oil is hot, add onions and garlic, stirring to coat.  Add Italian seasoning.  Stir in salt to taste.  Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the onions begin to soften.  While onions cook, use sausage meat and form small balls.

Add stock, scraping up any bits from bottom of pan.  Add tomato puree and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.    Add meatballs into tomato sauce and simmer until fully cooked, about 10 – 12 additional minutes.

Serve over spaghetti and top with fresh grated Parmesan and a handful of torn basil.  Serve with hot crusty bread.

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Barbera
Chianti
Malbec
Pinot Noir
Sangiovese

Serves 6

Cooking time: About 40 minutes

Busy Mom's Spaghetti & Meatballs

Busy Mom’s Spaghetti & Meatballs

*Original Serves-4 Recipe