Slow Cooked Bolognese Sauce…..

Bolognese sauce is one of my absolute favorite sauces for spaghetti and there is something elegant how it rolls off the tongue, isn’t there?  This takes a bit more cooking time than most of my sauces.   Don’t be turned off by the fact that there are chicken livers in the sauce.  They add a deep and rich flavor and they will literally disintigrate while cooking.  I would recommend doubling or tripling the recipe and freezing the extra sauce to enjoy later.

I used my food processor to finely chop the ham and the vegetables that go into the recipe.  I love the texture of the ground meat and the richness of the sauce.  I subbed out turkey ham for the ham.  Either way, you get amazing flavor from the smoked meat.

When cooking the pasta for the sauce,  under cook it by a couple of minutes.  Reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining.  Put the pasta back into the cooking pot and add a few ladels of the bolognese sauce with some of the pasta cooking water.  Cook the pasta the rest of the way in the sauce.  That way the pasta will actually absorb the flavor of the sauce.  SO GOOD!  Serve with my simple Garlic Bread aTop with fresh grated parmesan cheese and some

Homemade Bolognese Sauce

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 lb chicken livers, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup smoked ham, finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped carrots
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons fresh garlic, finely chopped
1 lb. ground beef
1 6 ounce can tomato paste
1 cup red wine
2 cups beef stock
1 cup heavy cream
1 pinch of ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

1 lb. pasta

1)  Coarsely chop the chicken livers.  Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat.  Cook the chicken livers for about 5 minutes or until they’re done.
2)  Add the olive oil, ham, onion, carrots and celery.  Cook for about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic, cook for one minute.
3)  Add the ground beef and cook through breaking up large clumps of meat with your mixing spoon.   Add the tomato paste and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often.
4)  Add the wine and beef stock.  Reduce the heat to low and partially cover with the pot lid.  Simmer for 2 1/2-3 hours, stirring every 15-20 minutes.  Add a little more stock or water if the sauce is too thick.
5)  Add the heavy cream and nutmeg.  Stir well and give it a taste.  Add salt and pepper to your taste.  Serves 6.

Marinara Sauce…..

Everyone should have a “go to” marinara recipe.  Here you go.  Love this over pasta with fresh grated parmesan cheese.  Add a simple salad and you have dinner.   If you’d like to kick it up a notch, serve it with my homemade garlic bread.  (you’ll find the recipe in breads category)  Why not double the recipe and keep a stash in your freezer for later, always a great idea!  Also makes an excellent meatless lasagna…will share that with you soon.

Here we go….

We  begin with a large heavy pot over medium heat and some nice olive oil.

And lots of onions…two cups.  Cook for about 5 minutes.

We’ll add some seasonings now.  The olive oil will absorb the flavors.  We have crushed red pepper flakes, oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper.

Add the seasonings all at once….

And garlic, we need lots of garlic:-)  Cook for a couple of minutes.

Of course, we need tomatoes.  I like using crushed tomatoes for a little texture, tomato sauce, and tomato paste.  Sugar is added to reduce the acidity.

Add the tomato paste.  Cook this in the pan for a few minutes, the tomato paste will start to caramelize and all of the flavors will come together.

Add the crushed tomatoes, the tomato sauce, and a little water.

Finally, the sugar.  Simmer the sauce for about 20 minutes.  Quick and easy!

Marinara Sauce
(no meat)

 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
¼ cup fresh garlic, minced (about 5 large cloves)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt or 1 teaspoon table salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 6 ounce can tomato paste
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 28 ounce can tomato sauce + ½ can water
1 ½ tablespoons sugar

 1)  Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat.  Add onions and cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, oregano, thyme, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes, cook another couple of minutes.

2)  Add tomato paste and cook 3-4 minutes, stirring often.  Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, and sugar.  Simmer for about 20 minutes. 

*add additional water if you’d like a thinner sauce.

Caramelized Onion Pasta with Toasted Panko and Cheese

This pasta is incredibly flavorful and made with simple ingredients.  Serve as a delicious side dish or vegetarian main.  Add whatever you like.  I think it would be outstanding with chopped leftover chicken and petite frozen peas…YUM!

I take an additional step in the process because my guys wouldn’t appreciate identifiable onions and garlic chunks.  I give the mixture a whirl in the blender before adding it to the cooked pasta.  Skip this step if you wish.

Here we go….

We’ll start by toasting the panko.  Preheat the oven to 375′ and give the crumbs a drizzle of olive oil, mix well to coat and spread over a cookie sheet.  Bake for 5-6 minutes. 

They should be golden brown.  Allow to cool completely.

In a small bowl, combine the toasted panko, grated parmesan cheese, and dried parsley, mix well.  Set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Caramelize onions until they are golden brown as seen above.  This should take about 25-30 minutes.   Add garlic and 1/2 cup each chicken broth and wine.  Cook for 4 minutes.

Omit this step if you wish.  I blend the onion/wine/broth mixture to a smooth sauce so my guys will eat it.  They love the taste of onions and garlic but don’t much appreciate visible onions or garlic chunks.

It will look like this.  Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Drain well and toss the pasta with the sauce.  Top with the panko/cheese/parsley mixture.  The sweetness of the onions and garlic combined with the sharpness of the parmesan and the crunch of the panko will cause a party in your mouth!  Enjoy!

Rotelle Pasta with Caramelized Onions and Toasted Panko

 For the Crumbs:
½ cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup coarsely grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon dried parsley

 For the Pasta:

2 ½ cups thinly sliced onions
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup chicken broth (or use ½ teaspoon Better Than Bouillon with ½ cup water)
½ pound cooked whole wheat curly pasta (or your favorite kind)

 1)  Preheat oven to 375’.  Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over bread crumbs and stir to evenly coat.  Spread over cookie sheet and bake 5-6 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool completely.  Once cool put into a small mixing bowl with the parmesan and the parsley, mix well.  Set aside

2)  Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring often until they turn golden brown, about 30 minutes.  Add the garlic, wine and the chicken broth, cook for about 4 minutes.

3)  You may omit this step if you wish.  I put the onion/wine/garlic mixture into the blender so that my people will eat it.  They love the taste of onions and garlic but not necessarily the stringy pieces of onion and chunks of garlic.  It’s a texture thing.

4)  Cook the pasta according to package directions in salted water.  Drain well and gently toss with the onion mixture and top with the panko/cheese/parsley mixture.  Serves 4.

*if you’d like to make this vegetarian, simply substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth.

Simplest Garlic and Cheese Pasta…..

This is sooooo simple!  I use a small cheat on this one.  I use Better Than Bouillon for the chicken stock.  I add it to pasta water to make the simple, flavorful sauce.   I always keep this on hand, I just love using it in quick dishes such as this.  This pasta is one of my boy’s fav’s.  I serve it with roasted pork, chicken, or grilled sausage.

Add shrimp, peas, broccoli, frozen spinach…whatever you like!  Top with fresh grated parmesan or romano cheese.

To start, choose a pasta…any kind you like….

Any of these would be excellent.  It’s a bit more fun when you use a cheese filled tortellini or mini ravioli…this time I used whole wheat spaghetti.
Pasta, olive oil, fresh garlic, dried oregano, bouillon, and fresh grated parmesan cheese….that’s it!  Put a large pot of salted water on medium high heat and cook the pasta according to package directions less two minutes.  Cook time for my spaghetti was 10 minutes, so I set the timer for eight.
When the timer goes off, carefully remove about 1 1/2 cups of water from the pot.  Drain the pasta, I let it sit in the sink until I’m ready for it. 
Into the hot pan, add olive oil, crushed garlic, and dried oregano.  Cook over heat for one minute.  (If you’d like to add raw shrimp, add the oil and cook the shrimp until pink, then add the garlic and oregano and cook an additional minute, remove cooked shrimp from the pan and cover with foil, set aside)   Red pepper flakes would be great here too:-)
Add the reserved pasta water to the pan, bring to a bubble over heat.
Add 2 teaspoons of the bouillon to the pot, stir until dissolved.  Pan should still be over heat.  (add thawed frozen peas, broccoli, or spinach here)


Add the pasta back to the pot.  Cook for 2 minutes.  The under cooked pasta will absorb the flavors in the broth…(add the cooked shrimp to the pot here)
Add the cheese to the hot pasta, mix well.  Enjoy!
Simplest Garlic and Cheese Pasta

½ lb. pasta, any kind, cooked according to package directions less 2 minutes. Reserve 1 ½ cups reserved pasta water before draining pasta.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large cloves fresh garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon
¼ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese

1) Cook pasta and reserve 1 ½ cups pasta water. Set aside.
2) Add olive oil, crushed garlic, and dried oregano to the hot pasta pot. Cook for one minute.
3) Add pasta water to pan. Add bouillon, continue to simmer. Add pasta to pot and cook for 2 minutes.
4) Remove from heat and add grated cheese and mix well. Makes about four one cup servings.

YUM!  Enjoy!

Best Simple Pasta Side Dishes…Kids LOVE These!

Well, adults too!  What’s not to love about pasta?  It’s quick cooking, lends itself very well to flavorings and ingredients.  It’s offered in many varieties other than semolina wheat for those of you who have a dietary wheat restriction.  You can do a million things with it.  You can put it into soups, main vegetarian dishes, old world Italian pasta with meat dishes, and salads, just to name a few.  The beauty of so many different shapes and sizes of pasta would be that for the most part, their interchangeable in recipes.  My boys favor curly pastas as well as the mini ravioli or tortellini pasta.  It’s simply a FUN thing to eat.  I just love that!

In addition to soups and breads for upcoming posts, I want to also share some of my favorite simple and healthy pasta side dishes.   Try my Simple Garlic Spaghetti.  You will notice that it has very few ingredients.  I don’t know about you, but the fewer the ingredients the better for my guys.  The flavors here are very basic: tomato, garlic, and parmesan cheese….soooo delicious!  Serve with any simple roasted or grilled meat or enjoy as a vegetarian main dish and serve with a yummy salad with my Light and Creamy Yogurt Ranch Dressing.  I do not buy bottled dressings anymore, there are way to many ingredients in them I cannot pronounce.  There is no need in the human body for that.

Let us all strive to get back to whole, simple foods.  I strive each and every week to give you just that.

Healthy eating everyone:-)


Spaghetti and Meatballs…Oh Boy!!!

This is one of my favorite Sunday suppers.  It’s so cozy to fill your home with the smells of simmering homemade pasta sauce and meatballs.  The longer you let the sauce simmer, the better it is.  Add to that tender, flavourful meatballs and oh my goodness, a dinner that will have your family not walking but running to the table!  This recipe is large enough to freeze.  I love pulling this out of the freezer when I don’t feel much like cooking or am pinched for time.

Oh, one more thing…what’s a spaghetti dinner without some killer garlic bread?  See that recipe below.

Homemade Meatballs and Sauce

For the sauce:

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 6 ounce can tomato paste
1 28 ounce can tomato sauce + 1 ½ cans water
2 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper

1) Heat a large stock pot over medium heat and add olive oil. Add onions, oregano, thyme, and basil. and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic, cook for one minute.
2) Add tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.   This gives the paste a chance to caramelize or sweeten.
3) Add canned tomatoes, water, sugar, salt, and pepper. Turn the heat down to low and allow to simmer.  Stir every 10-15 minutes.  Prepare meatballs.

For the Meatballs:

1 ¼ lbs. ground turkey 93/7
1 ¼ lbs. lean ground beef
1 cup bread crumbs
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
¾ teaspoon granulated garlic powder
½ teaspoon granulated onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 eggs
1 cup water
1 lb. spaghetti

1) Preheat oven to 375’. Line a cookie sheet that has sides with non stick foil. Set aside.
2) Add meats to a large mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well with hands. (use gloves or meticulously clean hands with no cuts)
3) Scoop meatballs with a large cookie dough scoop. Shape into balls and place on sheet.
4) Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and add immediately to sauce. Simmer 30-60 minutes. Makes about 32 large meat balls.  (be careful not to simmer much longer with the meatballs in the sauce or they will fall apart)
5)  Cook pasta according to package directions less a couple of minutes.  (if they say to cook for 10 minutes cook for 8)  Put the pasta back into the cooking pot over medium heat.  Immediately add a couple of ladles of sauce and cook for two minutes.  The flavor of the sauce will cook into the pasta for the remaining couple of minutes.  Serve immediately.  Top with cheese and serve with a simple salad and garlic bread.  YUM!

*try adding cooked Italian sausages to the sauce for an alternative to meatballs.  Cut them into 2″ pieces.
*meatballs can be frozen with or without the sauce and can be easily used in other recipes.

Vegetable and Mini Ravioli Soup…..

I am in love with this vegetable soup that has an Italian twist.  It is loaded with fresh vegetables and flavorful cheese filled mini raviolis.  The recipe goes together pretty quick too.  I used homemade chicken stock I pulled out of my freezer but feel free to use store bought.  If you want to freeze, don’t add the pasta directly to the soup.  Make enough to add to what you’ll be eating and freeze the soup without the pasta, you can easily add later.  Enjoy with crusty Italian bread or grilled cheese.  Delish!

Vegetable Soup with Mini Cheese Ravioli

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onions, about 2 medium
6 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 medium zucchini, cut into ½” pieces
5 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes with juices
8 cups or 2 quarts chicken stock-homemade or store bought
2 14 oz. cans cannelli beans, drained
½ lb. mini ravioli, cooked according to package directions
Chopped parsley for garnish
Parmesan cheese

1) Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add olive oil. Add onions, zucchini, and celery. Cook for about 10 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Cook another minute. Add tomato paste to pan and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring often.
2) Add diced tomatoes with juices, chicken stock, and cannelli beans. Allow to come to a low simmer.
3) While soup is heating up, cook the ravioli. It takes about 15 minutes or so. Add a couple of cups of the pasta water to the soup pot. Drain pasta and add to the pot. Taste, you may have to add additional seasoning. Top each bowl with parmesan cheese and parsley if desired.  Makes about 20 one cup servings.
Great with crusty bread or grilled cheese sandwiches.

**You can find mini ravioli at Trader Joe’s.

Quick Pasta Supper…..

I love the simplicity of pasta.  This recipe is quick (takes only about 20 minutes) and you may use any vegetables you like.  I used a combination of fresh and frozen in this recipe.  Let’s not forget the sun dried tomatoes, so flavorful.  No homemade stock?   Try using Better Than Bouillion.  There is a good amount of sodium in it so taste at the end before any additional seasoning. 

Pasta With Sun dried Tomatoes, Vegetables and Cheese

12 oz. whole wheat pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
5 thinly sliced sun dried tomatoes
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup frozen spinach
1 cup frozen petite peas
Parmesan cheese

1) Place pan for pasta over medium high heat, add salt.
2) While water is heating, slice onions, mushrooms, garlic, and sun dried tomatoes. In a large skillet over medium heat add olive oil. Cook onions for about 5 minutes, add mushrooms, cook about 5 minutes. Add garlic, dried tomatoes, oregano, and pepper flakes and cook a few minutes. Add broth, spinach, and peas. Heat through.
3) Cook pasta according to directions, drain. Add vegetable mixture to pasta, toss with cheese.
Serves 4.

Simple Supper-Rigatoni with Meat Sauce…..

This is truly delicious.  You can use any combination of ground meat you like.  I recommend using hot italian sausage, after all ingredients are added, it has just a little kick.  Double or triple the recipe and freeze to enjoy on another hectic night.  Just boil pasta and dinner is on the table in minutes.  Serve with baby frozen peas, yummers!  

Simple rigatoni with meat sauce

¾ lb. lean ground beef
¾ lb. hot (or mild) Italian sausage
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 24 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 24 oz. can water
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
16 oz. package rigatoni
Parmesan cheese

1) In a large sauce pan, over medium heat, cook beef and sausage until cooked through, drain well. Add diced onions and cook until translucent, 7-10 minutes. Add garlic, cook about 2 minutes.
2) Add the tomato paste to the meat mixture, cook about 7 minutes, stirring often to caramelize the tomato paste. Be sure to stir often, it can easily burn. Add crushed tomatoes, water, salt, and sugar. Cook over medium heat until it comes to a simmer, allow to simmer about 20 minutes, stir occasionally.
3) Under cook pasta by 2 minutes. Put pasta back in the pan and add sauce, cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, stir gently.  Top with parmesan cheese, serve immediately. Enjoy!

Ultimate Beefy Mac n’ Cheese…..

Thank you to everyone who participated in my poll.  It seems that we are all looking for great comfort foods at this time.  I couldn’t agree more.  This recipe is the epitome of “comfort.”   You can make it ahead and warm a day or two later.  This dish also freezes very well.  As always, I recommend making a double recipe, one for immediate use and one for later.  Wrap first with cling wrap, then a layer of heavy duty foil.  You can write on the foil with a sharpe pen, label the contents and date.  Use within a couple of months.

Beefy Mac-n-Cheese

1 lb. lean ground beef or ground turkey
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 large cloves fresh garlic, minced, or 2 teaspoons granulated garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
3 cans water (measure in tomato paste cans)
1 batch béchamel sauce, recipe below
1 lb. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 16 oz. package whole wheat elbow macaroni (Barilla Plus is excellent)

1) Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, rinse and set aside. Prepare a large casserole baking dish with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350’.
2) In large skillet over medium high heat, cook ground meet until cooked through. Drain. Add onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook about 10 minutes to soften onions. Add tomato paste, mix well over heat. Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring often.
3) Add water and reduce heat to low, simmer while you’re making white sauce. Stir often.
4) In same you used for pasta, make béchamel sauce. (recipe below)  Once sauce is complete, add ½ shredded cheese and stir until cheese is melted.
5) Add meat sauce and cooked pasta to pot with white sauce. Mix well. Pour into prepared baking dish and top with remaining cheese.
6) Bake for 20 minutes.

Be ready for a very, very happy family!

*To heat after refrigeration:  Preheat oven to 350′, poke holes in top with a fork, drizzle 1 cup of milk over, bake for 40-45 minutes.
**To heat after freezing:  allow to defrost in refrigerator for 2 days.  Oven to 350′, poke holes in top with a fork, drizzle 1 cup of milk over.  Bake 45-55 minutes or until bubbly.