Greek Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

This flavor-packed weeknight dish was included in Milk Street Magazine’s “Tuesday Nights” series which features weeknight dishes with bold and fresh flavors. I have found that meatballs that incorporate a panade, hydrated breadcrumbs, are very tender- great.

The recipe was adapted from Milk Street Magazine, contributed by Calvin Cox. According to the original article, these Greek oblong shaped meatballs are known as soutzoukakia smyrneika. Traditionally, they are served with tiganites patates (potatoes fried in olive oil). We ate them with crusty bread to sop up every bit of sauce. The dish could also be served with roasted potatoes or a rice or orzo pilaf.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3 large garlic cloves, 2 finely gratedn(I used a garlic press), 1 thinly sliced
  • 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, divided
  • 2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (I used fire-roasted)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the panko, egg and 1/2 cup water, then mix until homogeneous. Let stand for 5 minutes to allow the panko to hydrate. (This step is very important in order to create soft and tender meatballs.)
  2. Add the pork, cumin, the grated (or pressed) garlic, 1/2 teaspoon pepper flakes, 1 tablespoon oregano, 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, then mix well.
  3. Divide into 11 or 12 portions (each about a scant 1/4 cup), then shape each into a 2 1/2-inch-long cigar (oblong) shape.
  4. In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. (Non-stick can be used; I used a 12-inch stainless all-in-one pan.)
  5. Add the meatballs and cook without disturbing until browned on the bottoms, 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs, flip the meatballs and cook until browned on the second sides, another 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Remove the skillet from the heat, transfer the meatballs to a paper towel–lined plate and set aside.
  7. Return the skillet to medium-high and add the sliced garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant and starting to brown, 1 to 2 minutes.
  8. Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  9. Stir in the tomatoes, cinnamon, honey and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper, then bring to a simmer.
  10. Place the meatballs in the pan and return to a simmer. Cover and simmer, undisturbed, until the centers of the meatballs reach 160°F, 12 to 14 minutes.
  11. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with salt and black pepper.
  12. Transfer the meatballs and sauce to serving dish. Drizzle with additional oil, if desired, and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon oregano.

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.

Caramelized Pork & Cucumber Stir-Fry

I have never cooked cucumbers before! The cucumber slices in this stir-fry were quickly sautéed until just crisp tender- great. I also loved the seasonings in the finished dish.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Christina Chaey. I used my largest skillet (14-inch) but would use a 12-inch next time. I don’t have a 14-inch splatter screen and I made quite a mess. :/ It was worth it.

Yield: Serves 3 to 4

  • 1 large English/European cucumber, peeled in alternating lengthwise strips, halved lengthwise, seeds removed, halves sliced crosswise on a diagonal 1/2-inch thick (I used a melon baller to remove the seeds)
  • 1/2 tsp Morton kosher salt (or 1 tsp Diamond Crystal), plus more
  • 2 T oyster sauce
  • 2 T soy sauce (I used Trader Joe’s light soy sauce)
  • 2 T Shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine) or medium-dry sherry (I used dry sherry)
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 3 T grapeseed or vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 Fresno chile, halved, ribs and seeds removed, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 1 one-inch piece ginger root, peeled, finely grated
  • 2 to 4 large garlic cloves, finely grated or pushed through a garlic press
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground white or black pepper
  • white rice, for serving (I used white Basmati rice)
  • minced cilantro, for garnish, optional
  1. Toss cucumber slices and kosher salt in a medium bowl to coat evenly. Let sit until cucumber slices start to release their liquid, about 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, stir oyster sauce, soy sauce, and sherry (or Shaoxing wine) in a small bowl to combine; set aside.
  3. Using your hands, form pork into six small patties. Season lightly with salt; set aside.
  4. Drain cucumber slices in a colander and rinse well under cool running water. Drain, shaking off any excess water, then pat dry with a kitchen towel.
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet (12-inch) over medium-high. Cook cucumber slices, tossing vigorously, until crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Transfer to a plate.
  6. Wipe out skillet and heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high.
  7. Add reserved pork patties; gently flatten with a spatula. Cook, pressing occasionally to help meat make contact with pan, until deeply browned and crisp underneath, about 4 minutes.
  8. Flip patties; cook until other side is deeply browned and crisp, about 4 minutes.
  9. Break up pork into large pieces; continue to cook until no longer pink, about 1 minute.
  10. Add chile, ginger, garlic, and pepper and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  11. Add cucumber back to skillet along with reserved sauce. Cook, tossing often, until sauce is reduced and evenly coats pork and cucumber slices, about 1 minute.
  12. Serve stir-fry over rice. Garnish with cilantro, if desired.

Pork & Asparagus Stir Fry

I loved that this was a veggie-loaded dish. Other members of my family may have complained that they wished it had more meat. 😉 Everyone enjoyed it!

I used asparagus combined with farm stand sugar snap peas and my CSA garlic scapes and bunching broccoli. Any crisp vegetable could be incorporated. We ate it over rice drizzled with Sriracha to add extra heat- perfect.

This Sichuan-inspired stir-fry recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Deb Perelman.

Yield: 4 servings

  • 1 to 2 T peanut or vegetable oil, divided (I used 6 teaspoons)
  • 2+ lbs crispy green vegetables (I used 1 lb asparagus, trimmed, cut on a diagonal into 1″–2″ pieces with 1 lb bunching broccoli, cut into 2″ pieces, and 2 cups sugar snaps)
  • 8 oz ground pork
  • pinch or dash of red pepper flakes, optional
  • 4 to 6 scallions, white and pale green parts only, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic scapes, finely chopped, optional
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 2″ piece ginger, peeled, finely chopped
  • 2 T Shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine) or medium-dry sherry
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • white or brown rice, cooked, for serving
  • store-bought chili crisp or sriracha, for serving, optional
  1. Heat 1 or 2 teaspoons of peanut oil in a large skillet over medium-high to high. (I used a 14-inch stainless steel skillet.)
  2. Once pan is hot (oil will be lightly smoking), add half of the vegetables and a couple pinches of salt and cook, tossing only once or twice so the pieces have a chance to blister, until crisp-tender and lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add another 1 or 2 teaspoons of peanut oil to skillet (no need to wipe it out) and repeat process with remaining vegetables.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-high; add remaining 1 or 2 teaspoons of peanut oil to skillet, then add pork, spreading out into an even layer. Season with a couple pinches of salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes, if desired. Cook, undisturbed, until meat begins to brown underneath, about 2 minutes.
  4. Break up meat with a wooden spoon and add scallions, garlic scapes (if using), garlic, and ginger. Cook, stirring, until pork is crisp and mixture is very fragrant, about 2 minutes. (I used a mini-food processor to finely chop the scallions, garlic, garlic scapes, and ginger.)
  5. Add wine and soy sauce and return the vegetable to the skillet. Cook, turning to coat with pork mixture, until heated through, about 1 minute.
  6. Transfer stir-fry to a platter or large shallow bowl and drizzle with sesame oil. Serve with rice and hot sauce.

Ottolenghi’s Meatball Toad-in-the-Hole

More meatballs! This is an updated version of the classic British dish. Ottolenghi describes the key elements as “well-cooked meat, crisp pancake and velvety gravy.” He modified the popular dish by using ground pork in the meatballs. It was very hearty and rich.

The complete dish was time consuming to prepare, but the components can be made separately and ahead to save time, if desired. This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Yotam Ottolenghi. I modified the baking times.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

Time: about 2 hours

For the Batter:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup/240 ml whole milk
  • 2/3 cup/160 ml India pale ale or another pale ale (I used Sierra Nevada)
  • 2 T Dijon mustard
  • 1 3/4 cups (225 g) all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

For the Gravy:

  • 2 T sunflower or canola oil
  • 1 T (15 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 small onions (about 12 oz (350 g) total), halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 3 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 T all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups/480 ml chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 T/100 ml India pale ale
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Meatballs:

  • 7 oz/200 g sourdough bread, crusts discarded and bread cut into 1/4-inch (1/2-centimeter) cubes
  • 3/4 cup/180 ml whole milk
  • 1 1/2 pounds/700 g ground pork
  • 4 oz/115 g pancetta, very finely chopped (I used a food processor)
  • 1/2 onion or 1 very small onion (about 3 oz/80 g), grated
  • 1/3 packed cup/20 g roughly chopped parsley
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 6 T/90 ml sunflower or canola oil
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  1. Heat the oven to 475°F/240°C, preferably on convection.
  2. Prepare the batter: Add the eggs, milk, beer and mustard to a large bowl, and whisk vigorously until foamy, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the flour and salt to a separate large bowl, making a well in the center, and pour the egg mixture into the well, in about four increments, whisking lightly each time until the flour is just incorporated. Whisk until there are no lumps and the ingredients are just combined, taking care not to overwork the batter.
  4. Set batter aside for at least 30 minutes, or while you continue with the next step.
  5. Prepare the gravy: Add the oil, butter, onions, rosemary and vinegar to a 9-by-13-inch (23-by-33-centimeter) baking dish (tin)(Do not use pyrex/glass). Bake, stirring a couple of times during cooking, until the onions are thoroughly collapsed and browned, about 20 minutes.
  6. Whisk together the flour, stock and beer in a bowl until smooth. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and a good grind of pepper, then pour flour mixture into the baking dish.
  7. Return gravy to the oven and bake, stirring twice throughout, until the gravy is thick and rich, 20 to 25 minutes. Discard the rosemary sprigs and keep warm.
  8. While the gravy is cooking, prepare the meatballs: Soak the bread in the milk in a small bowl and set aside until the liquid is absorbed, 10 minutes. Use your hands or a fork to break apart the bread into a lumpy mash.
  9. In a large bowl, mix together the ground pork, pancetta, onion, parsley, garlic and lemon zest with 1 teaspoon salt and a generous amount of pepper. Add the bread and use your hands to knead the mixture until it is very well mixed. Shape into 12 large meatballs.
  10. Spread 2 tablespoons oil across the bottom of a large roasting pan (tin), about 9-by-13-inches (23-by-33-centimeters) in size. (I used an enameled cast iron baking pan.)
  11. Add the meatballs and bake for 7 to 10 minutes, or until some of their liquid has been released. Transfer the meatballs to a baking sheet (tray) lined with paper towels to absorb any excess moisture. Pour the liquid released from the meatballs in the roasting pan directly into the gravy, and then wipe the roasting pan dry.
  12. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons oil to the meatball roasting pan and return to the oven until very hot and beginning to smoke, about 7 to 10 minutes.
  13. Working as quickly as possible, pour the batter into the pan (it should bubble around the edges) and then add the meatballs and 2 rosemary sprigs. Return to the oven immediately and bake for 15 minutes.
  14. Reduce the temperature to 400°F/210°C (don’t open the oven!) and bake for 20 to 30 minutes more, or until golden and well risen. (If you want, near the end of baking time (when the custard is set), you can sneak the gravy into the oven to rewarm during the last 5 minutes of baking.)
  15. Serve immediately, with the gravy alongside.

Spicy-Sweet Sambal Pork Noodles

This tasty and quick dish is listed as one of Bon Appétit’s Most Popular Recipes of 2019. It’s a great list! 🙂 The dish is inspired by pad kee mao, known as drunken noodles.

I used fresh noodles from an Asian grocery that were the most similar to fresh ramen noodles. This dish was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Chris Morocco. I modified the proportions and method. Great.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 2.5 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 lbs ground pork, divided
  • 1 2 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled, cut into thin matchsticks or finely chopped
  • 10 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 1/2 T granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 T tomato paste
  • 2 sprigs basil, plus more for serving
  • 6 T hot chili paste (I used sambal oelek)
  • 5 T soy sauce
  • 5 T unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 lbs fresh ramen noodles or 16 to 20oz dried spaghetti
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 T unsalted butter

  1. Heat oil in a large wide heavy pot over medium-high. (I used a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
  2. Add half of pork to pot, breaking apart into 6–8 large chunks with a wooden spoon. Cook, undisturbed, until well browned underneath, about 5 minutes. Turn pieces and continue to cook, turning occasionally, until pork is browned on 2–3 sides, about 5 minutes longer.
  3. Add ginger, garlic, sugar, and remaining pork to pot and cook, breaking up pork into small clumps, until meat is nearly cooked through, about 5 minutes longer.
  4. Add tomato paste and 2 basil sprigs. Cook, stirring occasionally, until paste darkens, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add chili paste, soy sauce, vinegar, and 2 1/2 cups water. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until sauce is slightly thickened and flavors have melded, 30–45 minutes.
  6. Cook noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until 1 minute short of al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water. (I cooked 1 pound of noodles at a time for 1 minute each, removing the first batch with a bamboo strainer.)
  7. Add to cooked noodles to the pot with sauce along with butter and a splash of pasta cooking liquid. Simmer, tossing occasionally, until sauce begins to cling to noodles, about 1 minute. Pluck out basil sprigs.
  8. Adjust consistency with additional pasta water, as desired.
  9. Divide noodles among plates. Top with torn basil.

Shortcut Baked Rigatoni with Meatballs

There are so many end-of-the-school-year parties this time of year. A great time to share a crowd-pleasing casserole! I brought this baked pasta dish to my son’s pre-County Championship Swim Meet pasta dinner. I was thrilled when my friend’s husband asked for the recipe. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from such a fun book- Mad Genius Tips: Over 90 Expert Hacks + 100 Delicious Recipes by Justin Chapple and the Editors of Food and Wine. I love Chapple’s column in the printed magazine and knew I would enjoy this book as well. The pasta and the meatballs cook in the oven. Truly genius!

  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup lightly packed basil, torn or chiffonade, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound ziti, rigatoni, rotini, fusilli, shells, or campanelle pasta
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 28 oz (about 3 cups) prepared marinara sauce
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the pork, beef/turkey, bread crumbs, eggs, 1/3 cup torn basil, 1/4 cup of Parmesan and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper; mix well.
  3. Using a cookie scoop, form the meat mixture into one-inch balls.
  4. In a 9-by-13-inch ceramic baking dish, spread half of the pasta in an even layer.
  5. Arrange half of the meatballs (about 16) and mozzarella on the pasta.
  6. Spoon half of the marinara on top and season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  7. Repeat with the remaining pasta, meatballs, cheese, and marinara. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  8. Place baking dish on a rimmed cookie sheet. Add 2 1/2 cups of water to the baking dish and cover tightly with foil.
  9. Bake for about 1 hour, until the pasta is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed.
  10. Uncover and bake for 5 minutes longer, until lightly browned.
  11. Let stand for 5 minutes. Garnish with basil and parmesan and serve.

Make Ahead: The baked pasta can be refrigerated overnight. Reheat gently.

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