Weeknight Ragù

This comfort food dish was very well-received in my house. Everyone in my family was fighting over the leftovers! It was easy, full-flavored, and absolutely delicious.

The recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Chris Morocco. I modified the proportions and substituted sour cream for the heavy cream. I also adjusted the consistency of the finished dish with pasta cooking water. Great.

Yield: Serves 8

  • 6 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 3/4 lbs ground pork, turkey, beef, or chicken, preferably dark meat
  • kosher salt
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 Calabrian chiles in oil, finely chopped, or 1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 7 T double-concentrated tomato paste
  • 7 T sour cream or heavy cream
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lbs (20 to 24 oz) rigatoni, gemelli or other short pasta
  • 2 oz Parmesan, finely grated, plus more for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • basil leaves, for serving
  1. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven over medium to medium-high.
  2. Add ground meat in 12–14 pieces (patties), spacing evenly, and season with salt.
  3. Let cook, undisturbed, until deeply browned underneath, about 3 minutes.
  4. Turn over and cook until deeply browned on opposite side, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate. (It won’t be cooked through.)
  5. Add remaining 3 tablespoons of oil to pot over medium heat.
  6. Cook onion, stirring often, until softened and just beginning to turn golden around the edges, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  8. Add chiles/red pepper flakes and tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until paste is slightly darkened in color, about 3 minutes.
  9. Return meat to the pot and break up into small pieces.
  10. Add sour cream/heavy cream and 2 1/4 cups water.
  11. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat, and simmer gently until liquid is reduced by one third and flavors have come together, 15–20 minutes.
  12. Season ragù with salt and pepper.
  13. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 2 cups pasta cooking liquid.
  14. Add pasta to ragù along with 1 cup pasta cooking liquid and Parmesan.
  15. Cook, stirring and adding more pasta cooking liquid if needed, until sauce coats pasta, about 2 minutes.
  16. Transfer to a serving dish or individual bowls. Garnish with basil and reserved Parmesan. Serve.

Chicken-Spinach Burgers with Feta & Tzatziki

These Greek-inspired chicken burgers were juicy and flavor-packed. They were relatively healthy too! We ate them on Memorial Day with corn and potato salad on the side. Delicious.

This recipe was loosely adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Sue Li. I used freshly ground chicken thighs, added feta, and modified the proportions and method. The original recipe notes that in order to keep the burgers moist, it is important that the meat isn’t packed too tightly. I think that the exorbitant amount of spinach also kept the burgers moist.

Yield: 7 to 8 burgers

For the Burgers:

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken (can substitute ground turkey)
  • 4 cups baby spinach, long and/or thick stems removed, chiffonade
  • 4 large or 6 small scallions, thinly sliced
  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped, finely grated, or pushed through a garlic press
  • 2 oz feta cheese, crumbled (about 5-6 tablespoons)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 T panko breadcrumbs
  • vegetable oil and/or cooking oil spray, for grill
  • 8 potato rolls, split, lightly toasted (if desired), for serving
  • sliced red onion, tomato, and/or avocado, for topping, as desired
  • tzatziki sauce, for topping (see below)

For the Tzatziki:

  • 1/2 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • dash cumin
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely grated or pushed through a garlic press
  • 1/4 cup grated English cucumber, squeezed dry (I used the small holes of a box grater)
  • 2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used the juice of half of a Meyer lemon)
  • fresh dill or parsley, minced, to taste

To Make the Burger Patties:

  1. Using a meat grinder fitted with the medium disc, grind 1 1/2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. (Alternatively use 1 1/2 pounds of pre-ground chicken or turkey.) Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine cut spinach, scallions, garlic, crumbled feta, cumin, salt, pepper, egg and panko. Using a fork, mix to combine.
  3. Add the ground meat; mix gently with a fork until just combined.
  4. Form into 7 to 8 patties, about 1/2-inch thick. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you make the sauce.

To Make the Tzatziki:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients with a large pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. Refrigerate so that the flavors can develop while the burgers are cooked.
  3. Taste and adjust the seasoning, as desired. Additional lemon juice can also be added.

To Finish & Serve:

  1. Coat the grill grates with vegetable oil and preheat on medium to medium-high heat.
  2. Remove the meat from the refrigerator to bring the burger patties to room temperature. To prevent sticking, coat the burgers with vegetable oil or vegetable oil spray.
  3. Cook the burgers until lightly browned on both sides and until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, about 5 minutes per side.
  4. Serve the patties on rolls topped with tzatziki and sliced red onions, tomatoes, and/or avocado, as desired.

Note: Burger patties can be formed 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before cooking.

Sheet-Pan Chicken Meatballs with Charred Broccoli

Baked Chicken & Spinach Meatballs

Everyone loves meatballs- right? These were a healthyish version packed with cilantro and spinach. We ate them over rice topped with dollops of garlicky Greek yogurt sauce with roasted cauliflower on the side. Yum.

My husband was gifted a meat grinder for Christmas. 🙂 This was the first time he used it, grinding chicken thighs for these full-flavored meatballs. He plans to make burgers with blended meats next. Fancy!

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by David Tanis. I prepared the seasoned meat about 6 hours ahead of time but it can even sit overnight in the refrigerator so that the meat absorbs the seasoning. I baked the meatballs (in the same oven as the roasted cauliflower) and used red pepper flakes instead of a serrano chile. I also added a yogurt sauce for serving. Fantastic.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

For the Meatballs:

  • 1 pound spinach, washed
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken (I used 5 freshly ground chicken thighs- medium grind)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (I used the zest from 1/2 lemon)
  • pinch of ground cayenne
  • pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds (I crushed them using a mortar and pestle)
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems, plus more for garnish
  • 1 serrano chile, with seeds, finely chopped or 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup soft fresh bread crumbs, from about 4 slices of crustless sandwich bread (I used 3 slices of Trader Joe’s Tuscan Pane, crusts removed, pulsed in a food processor)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, half-and-half, milk, or ricotta cheese
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for the baking sheet
  • lemon wedges, for serving
  • cooked rice, for serving (I served the meatballs over white Basmati rice)
  • yogurt sauce (or store-bought tzatziki), for serving (see below)

For the Sauce:

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (I used 2%)
  • pinch of ground cumin
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated or pressed through a garlic press
  • fresh dill, cilantro or parsley, finely minced, to taste
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Blanch the spinach: Plunge leaves a handful at a time into a pot of boiling water. Leave just long enough to wilt, about 30 seconds, scoop out with a spider or slotted spoon and drain in a colander and cool under running water. Repeat until all of the spinach is wilted.
  2. Remove and squeeze wilted leaves into a ball. I used a potato ricer and squeezed out the excess liquid in batches.
  3. Using a large knife, roughly chop spinach on a cutting board — you should have about 2 cups.
  4. Squeeze into a ball again to remove excess water. (This may be done several hours or up to a day in advance and refrigerated.) Again, I used a potato ricer and removed the excess liquid in batches.
  5. If freshly grinding the chicken, grind into a large bowl using the medium grinding disc.
  6. Combine the ground chicken, salt, pepper, lemon zest, cayenne, nutmeg, fennel seeds, cinnamon, spinach, cilantro, chile (or red pepper flakes), egg, bread crumbs and cream in a large bowl. Using your clean hands, knead everything together, mixing well. Leave to absorb seasoning for 15 minutes or overnight. (I refrigerated it for about 6 hours.)
  7. Make the sauce: Combine all of the ingredients and refrigerate for flavors to develop.
  8. Test for seasoning: Take a small amount and flatten into a thin patty. Quickly cook in a small skillet, about 1 minute per side. Taste, then adjust the mixture’s seasoning if necessary.
  9. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  10. Using a large ice cream scoop or spoon, form 19 to 24 rough balls and place on a large plate. (The mixture will be soft.)
  11. Using a brush, coat a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil.
  12. Lightly form the meatballs and position them on the prepared baking sheet. Along the long side of the pan, I placed them in rows of 5. (I had 19 meatballs.)
  13. Bake meatballs until well browned underneath, about 15 minutes. Using a stiff metal spatula, pry up and turn over meatballs (they may want to stick a bit). Bake until browned on second side and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of each one registers at least 160°, about 4 to 5 minutes more.
  14. Serve over rice garnished with chopped cilantro, if desired. Serve with sauce (or tzatziki) and lemon wedges.

Kofta Sandwiches with Tomatoes & Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce

These sandwiches are a great weeknight dinner. Using ground turkey or chicken instead of beef, lamb or pork makes them a little bit lighter as well.

After seeing sandwiches served in taco racks at NYC’s Chelsea Market, I used taco racks to assemble these messy sandwiches. Genius! 😉

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food. I used ground turkey instead of ground chicken and added lemon juice, garlic, and herbs to the sauce.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 1.25 pounds ground turkey or chicken
  • 1/2 white onion, diced small
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley and cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced large (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice, from 1/2 a lemon, more to taste
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 2 to 4 T minced fresh dill
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 2 handfuls of grape tomatoes, sliced lengthwise or 2 medium tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 4 small naan or pitas, warmed
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint or cilantro, for serving
  • sliced or chopped red onion, for serving, optional
  1. In a large bowl, combine ground meat, diced onion, chopped parsley/cilantro, cumin and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper. Mix until well combined.
  2. Using your hands, form mixture into 8 oval patties.
  3. In a medium bowl, toss together cucumber, yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, and dill; season with salt and pepper. Add additional lemon juice, if desired.
  4. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium to medium-high. Cook patties until browned on all sides and cooked through, 8 to 12 minutes. (I cooked the meatballs until the internal temperature reached 165 degrees.)
  5. Divide patties and tomatoes among warm naan or pitas. (I assembled the sandwiches in taco racks.)
  6. Top with cucumber-yogurt sauce and mint or cilantro. Top with red onion, if desired.
  7. Fold to enclose (if not using taco racks) and serve.

Sheet Pan Turkey Meatballs with Roasted Harissa Chickpeas & Tomatoes

We have such a big adjustment- to life!- at the beginning of the school year. I feel like we’re always pressed for time… especially when it comes to preparing a family dinner. I have a few weeknight meals that I’d like to share that have helped us during crunch time. 🙂

This delicious sheet pan dinner was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Claire Saffitz. I used ground turkey instead of ground chicken and halved the harissa to decrease the level of spiciness. We ate it with crusty bread. Spicy and Great!!

Update- I’ve made this full-flavored dish with ground chicken as well. Wonderful!

Yield: 4 Servings
  • 3 to 6 tablespoons jarred harissa paste, divided ( I used Trader Joe’s Harissa)
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup panko
  • 6 ounces feta in brine plus ¼ cup brine, cheese crumbled, divided (I used sheep’s milk feta)
  • ⅔ cup chopped parsley, divided
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, divided
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound ground chicken or turkey
  • 1 pint mixed cherry or grape tomatoes, halved if large
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed, drained
  • crusty bread, for serving, optional
  1. Place a rack in top of oven; preheat to 400°, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Taste your harissa. If it’s extremely spicy, cut quantities used in recipe in half (…which I did!).
  3. Using a fork, stir 1 egg, ½ cup panko, ¼ cup feta brine, half of crumbled feta, half of parsley, 2 T (or 4 T if not halved) harissa, and 2 T oil in a large bowl until egg is blended and mixture looks homogenous.
  4. Finely grate or push 2 garlic cloves through a garlic press into bowl, then add 1 teaspoon salt and several cranks of black pepper. Be pretty generous here; 10 cranks wouldn’t be too much! Stir again with a fork.
  5. Add ground meat to garlic and work with clean hands until the meat is totally intermingled with panko mixture. Work it enough so that you don’t see big distinct pieces of meat, but then stop. Overworking could lead to crumbly meatballs. The mixture will feel very soft and wet and look a bit shiny.
  6. Pour tomatoes and chickpeas into the center of a large rimmed baking sheet. Add 2 T oil and remaining 1 T (or 2 T if not halved) harissa. Season with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Using clean hands or a small spatula, toss everything together right on sheet until chickpeas and tomatoes are evenly coated.
  7. Next you’re going to form the meatballs, but don’t wash your hands if you used them—the coating of oil will prevent them from sticking to your palms. Roll ground meat mixture gently and loosely between your palms into about 14 to 16 golf ball-sized balls (it’s okay if the balls aren’t perfectly round; just try to make them about the same size). (I used a large cookie scoop and kept my hands clean.) Place on baking sheet, tucking them in and around chickpeas and tomatoes and spacing evenly apart.
  8. Bake meatballs on top rack until about halfway cooked through, 12–15 minutes. Remove from oven and take a look. The tomatoes should be starting to soften and burst, and the meatballs should look opaque and feel a bit springy to the touch. If not, bake a few minutes longer.
  9. Meanwhile, combine remaining 3 oz. feta, ⅓ cup parsley, and 2 T oil in a small bowl, then grate or use a garlic press to add in the remaining garlic clove. Toss with fork to distribute. Turn on broiler (to high if your broiler has settings).
  10. Place baking sheet back on top rack if your broiler is on the top of your oven. Broil meatballs, rotating tray once or twice if they’re browning unevenly, until browned and fully cooked through, some tomatoes are lightly charred, and some chickpeas are crisp, 8–10 minutes.
  11. Let sit a few minutes, then sprinkle feta mixture over meatballs.

Note: Meatballs can be formed on baking sheet 1 day ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and chill.

I’m bringing my dish to share at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #190, co-hosted by Shinta @Carmel Tinted Life and Diann @Of Goats and Greens. Enjoy!

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Chicken Parm Meatballs

Who wouldn’t love this fun and delicious adaptation of classic chicken parmesan? Amazing.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food. I modified the proportions, used ground turkey, and served the meatballs over bucatini, our family favorite. I included the proportions for four as a footnote.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8 (makes 8 giant meatballs)

  • 1 3/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound bucatini or spaghetti
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 T plain dried breadcrumbs, plus 1 cup for breading the meatballs
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 T 2% or whole milk
  • 1 3/4 pounds ground turkey or chicken
  • 2 cups vegetable or canola oil
  • 6 to 7 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 24 to 32 pieces
  • 40 oz marinara, warmed (I used Victoria)
  • chopped fresh basil or parsley, for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions; drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the (3/4 cup plus 2 T) breadcrumbs, milk, salt, and pepper.
  4. Add the ground turkey/chicken and stir until just combined (do not over mix).
  5. In a medium straight-sided skillet, heat oil over medium until it registers 350 degrees on a deep fry thermometer. The oil should be about 1/2-inch deep. (I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet.)
  6. Place 1 cup of breadcrumbs in a shallow dish.
  7. Divide turkey/chicken mixture into 8 portions (about 4.7 oz each) and flatten each into a disk.
  8. Place 3 to 4 mozzarella pieces in center of each, then form disk into a ball around the cheese.
  9. In two batches, coat the meatballs in breadcrumbs and fry until golden brown, 5 minutes, turning once.
  10. With a slotted spoon, transfer meatballs to a paper-towel lined rimmed baking sheet and let drain 1 to 2 minutes. (I used a double layer of paper towels.) Repeat the process with the second batch. Discard paper towels and transfer sheet to oven.
  11. Bake meatballs until chicken is cooked through, about 14-16 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer.
  12. Place pasta in a serving dish and top with warm marinara. Top with meatballs and garnish with basil or parsley.

Notes:

To Make Meatballs for 4 (with one pound of ground meat) use 3/4 cup breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup milk, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper. Fill with 3 oz cheese and serve with 24 oz marinara and 1/2 to 3/4 pound pasta.

Keep the reserved pasta water to reheat leftovers, if necessary.

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