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.

Shrimp Creole

I served this tasty dish for our Mardi Gras dinner followed by our essential celebratory King Cake for dessert. It was festive and delicious.

I admittedly used Cajun seasoning instead of Creole Seasoning- gasp! After making the dish, I read about the similarities and differences between the Cajun and Creole cuisines. Both cuisines use a roux, the “holy trinity” composed of onions, bell peppers, and celery sautéed in oil, and both are from Southern Louisiana. Cajun food incorporates more smoked meats and rice, such as jambalaya, and is from more rural parts of the region whereas Creole cuisine, such as étouffée, is from New Orleans. I included the recipe for the homemade Creole seasoning below. (for next time!)

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Vallery Lomas. I modified the cooking times and doubled the garlic. I also used store-bought seasoning and omitted the dried basil. The shrimp was cooked perfectly.

Yield: Serves 4

For the Creole Seasoning: (Optional)

  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or less, if desired)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For the Shrimp:

  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used large tail-on shrimp)
  • 2 teaspoons homemade or store-bought Creole seasoning, divided (I used Slap ya Mama)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick / 4 T)
  • 1/3 cup (5 T) all-purpose flour
  • 1 medium or large yellow onion, finely chopped (I used a food processor)
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 4 to 8 garlic cloves, minced (I used a food processor)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce (no salt added)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons hot sauce, to taste (optional) (I used Frank’s Red Hot)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1/2 T fresh thyme)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1/2 T fresh oregano)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil (or 1/2 T fresh basil)
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves and tender stems
  • steamed rice, for serving (I used white Basmati rice)
  1. Make the optional Creole seasoning: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir together. The seasoning makes about 1/4 cup; store it in a closed container in a cool, dry place. (Only 2 teaspoons are used in this dish.)
  2. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels. Then toss the raw shrimp with 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning and set aside.
  3. In a Dutch oven or large, heavy skillet with a lid, melt the butter over medium-low heat. (I used a low and wide enameled cast iron pot.)
  4. Sprinkle the flour on top and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until a roux the color of peanut butter forms, about 5 to 10 minutes. Watch carefully- if the roux burns it cannot be saved.
  5. Add the onion, celery, and bell pepper, increase the heat to medium and cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 8 minutes.
  6. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.
  7. Stir in 1/3 cup water, then the tomato sauce, hot sauce (if using), sugar, thyme, oregano, basil (if using), bay leaves, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and the remaining 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low.
  8. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes until thickened, stirring occasionally to make sure that the bottom doesn’t burn. (If needed, add more water.)
  9. Once the stew has thickened, add the seasoned shrimp and simmer until opaque and cooked through, about 5 minutes, turning each piece halfway through the cooking time. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  10. Remove from the heat and let stand for 10 minutes, uncovered.
  11. Serve over steamed rice sprinkled with sliced scallions and chopped parsley.

Cauliflower Parmesan

I have made this wonderfully cheesy dish a couple of times already- just to get the proportions right. I knew that I had to increase the amount of simple and flavorful sauce after making it the first time.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I lightened the dish by baking the cauliflower after coating it instead of frying it. We ate it over linguini fini with sautéed broccoli rabe on the side. Wonderful!

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 6 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red Chile flakes, optional
  • (28-ounce) cans whole or diced plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • sprigs basil or 1 bay leaf
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Parmesan rind, optional
  1. In a large, straight-sided skillet over medium heat, warm the oil. (I used an enameled cast iron pot with a glass lid.)
  2. Add garlic and cook until just lightly golden.
  3. Add chile flakes if desired and cook 30 seconds.
  4. Stir in tomatoes and juices, basil or bay leaf, and salt and pepper.
  5. Bring sauce to a simmer, add the Parmesan rind, if using, and cook until sauce is thick and tomatoes have mostly fallen apart, about 30 to 40 minutes. Adjust heat as needed to keep at a steady simmer. If using whole plum tomatoes, mash them up with the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher to help them break down.
  6. Remove sauce from heat and discard basil or bay leaf.

For the Cauliflower & To Finish the Dish:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups panko or plain unseasoned bread crumbs
  • Kosher salt, as needed
  • freshly ground black pepper, as needed
  • 1 large or 2 small/medium heads cauliflower, trimmed and cut into 2-inch florets (I used 1 small and 1 medium)
  • olive oil, for drizzling
  • Simple Tomato Sauce (recipe above)
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 3/4 pound fresh mozzarella, torn into bite-size pieces
  • linguine fini or other pasta, optional, for serving
  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Place flour, eggs, and panko into three wide, shallow bowls. (I used glass pie dishes.) Season each generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Dip a cauliflower piece first in flour, then eggs, then coat with panko. Repeat with remaining cauliflower.
  4. Place on 2 parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheets. Roast coated florets for 22-24 minutes, or until nicely browned.
  5. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  6. Spoon a thin layer of sauce over the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
  7. Sprinkle one-third of the Parmesan over sauce.
  8. Scatter half cauliflower mixture over the Parmesan and top with half the mozzarella pieces.
  9. Top with half the remaining sauce, sprinkle with another third of the Parmesan and repeat layering, ending with a final layer of sauce and Parmesan.
  10. Transfer pan to oven and bake until cheese is golden and casserole is bubbling, about 30 to 40 minutes. While the dish is baking, prepare the pasta, if desired.
  11. Let cool a few minutes before serving. Serve over prepared pasta, as desired.

Hugh Acheson’s Bucatini Amatriciana

I have a couple of fast weeknight pasta dishes to share. Classics. Both are served with bucatini, a house favorite. 🙂

This amatriciana sauce has rich and meaty flavor from the pancetta which balances nicely with the spiciness from crushed red pepper flakes. The flavors really come together as the sauce simmers. Simple and delicious.

This recipe was adapted from a “staff-favorite” Food and Wine recipe, contributed by Hugh Acheson. I omitted the marjoram.

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Eggplant Rollatini

Eggplant Rollatini is my absolute favorite dish to order when we go to Little Italy in the Bronx. Our family tradition is to go to the same restaurant each time we visit, Dominick’s, for delicious family-style Italian food. This dish is only served on Sundays- and only while it lasts. I’ve been disappointed on a couple of occasions when it has run out before we have been able to get in our order.

Making this dish was a fabulous way to use my gorgeous CSA eggplant! This recipe was adapted from Mad Hungry Family: 120 Essential Recipes to Feed the Whole Crew by Lucinda Scala Quinn. I didn’t peel the eggplants, reduced the amount of prosciutto, and increased the casserole baking time. The prosciutto can easily be omitted to make a vegetarian version. Wonderful.

For the Simple Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • one 28-ounce can of whole San Marzano tomatoes, cut with a knife or kitchen shears
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt

For the Eggplant and Filling:

  • 2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
  • 3 T grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 2 large eggplants, peeled (if desired) and cut lengthwise into twelve to sixteen 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 5 to 8 oz sliced prosciutto, optional
  • 1 loaf Italian bread, for serving

To Make the Sauce:

  1. Heat a saucepan over medium heat, swirl in the oil, and add the garlic and red pepper flakes, stirring until the garlic lightly sizzles but does not brown, about 30 seconds.
  2. Add the tomatoes and salt. Simmer over medium heat for at least 20 minutes and up to 30 minutes.
  3. Taste and adjust seasoning, to taste.

To Make the Eggplant Rollatini:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta and the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
  2. Shred enough mozzarella to measure 1/2 cup and add it to the bowl; reserve the remaining mozzarella.
  3. Add the egg, salt, and pepper and mix well.
  4. Heat an oven to 400 degrees, preferably set to convection roast.
  5. Brush the eggplant slices with oil on one side and place oil-side up on two parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheets.
  6. Roast for 20 minutes, flipping the eggplant slices halfway through cooking.
  7. Remove sheet pans from the oven and let the eggplant cool for about 10 minutes. (Keep oven on!)
  8. Spread a thin layer of the ricotta mixture on each piece of eggplant.
  9. Top with a slice of prosciutto, if using.
  10. Roll the eggplant into a rollatini. Repeat with the remaining slices and filling.
  11. Coat the bottom of a deep baking dish with some of the tomato sauce.
  12. Place the rollatini in the dish, nestling them close to each other.
  13. When the pan is filled, put some sauce on the top of the eggplants and sprinkle with Parmesan.
  14. Finally, cut slices from the remaining fresh mozzarella and place on top of each rollatini.
  15. Bake until the cheese is melted, bubbling, and lightly brown in spots, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  16. Let rest for at least 10 minutes before serving with slices of Italian bread.

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Marcella Hazan’s Butter, Tomato, & Onion Sauce

I made this sauce when I was still swimming in gorgeous fresh tomatoes. Because the sauce is so simple, it really showcases them. That being said, the quality of the tomatoes used is very important.

There are many debates about this famous sauce online. Much of the discussion is about whether or not butter (and its richness) should be incorporated into a tomato sauce. My vote is “YES!” 🙂 After tasting it, I think most would agree with me. Other discussions revolve around dissatisfaction with the results compared to the “hype.” Comments about the sauce being soupy and underwhelming may stem from using lower quality tomatoes or an abbreviated cooking time. We loved it.

My intention was to freeze the sauce to enjoy it during the winter, but it was too delicious to wait. The debate about this sauce in my house was about what type of pasta to serve it with! 😉 My husband won with his choice of pappardelle. Great.

This recipe was adapted from Hazan Family Favorites: Beloved Italian Recipes by Guiliano Hazan, via Epicurious.com. I increased the cooking time and reserved the onions after removing them from the tomato mixture (I pureed and seasoned them to serve as a spread on toasted baguette slices). Using fresh instead of canned tomatoes may have altered the total cooking time. I more than doubled the cooking time in order to achieve my desired consistency. I also pureed the finished sauce. Addictive!

Yield: Makes enough sauce for 1 pound of pasta

  • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes (or 3 cups canned whole peeled tomatoes with their juice, preferably San Marzano)
  • 1 medium sweet yellow onion
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, to finish
  1. If using fresh tomatoes, peel them: Score the base of each tomato and place it in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove the tomato with a wire strainer and peel off the skin.
  2. Coarsely chop the fresh or canned tomatoes.
  3. Trim both ends of the onion; peel it and cut it in half lengthwise.
  4. Put the tomatoes, onion, butter, and salt in a 4- to 5-quart saucepan over medium heat. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, lower the heat to a slow but steady simmer. Cook, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes, until the tomatoes are no longer watery and the sauce has reduced, about 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the size and shape of the pot. (I used an enameled cast iron pot.) The sauce is done when the butter has separated from the tomatoes and there is no remaining liquid.
  5. Puree the finished sauce, if desired.
  6. Prepare one pound of pasta in boiling, salted water according to package directions.
  7. When you toss pasta with the sauce, add about 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Note: If the sauce is doubled, the cooking time will increase.

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Spaghetti with Tomatoes & Anchovy Butter

My husband waters a friends’ tomato plants for one week every summer while they are on vacation. I really look forward to it because we get to eat all of the ripe specimens. 🙂

This dish was a spectacular way to use our giant load of vine-ripened tomatoes. The stick of butter in the sauce made it restaurant-esque. 😉 Rich and absolutely fabulous!

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Alison Roman. I doubled the recipe, increased the garlic, and used whole wheat spaghetti. The whole wheat pasta added a wonderful bite to the finished dish. I also omitted incorporating pasta water into the sauce because the consistency was perfect without it. I did save it for re-heating the leftovers.

Yield: 8 servings
  • 16 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 4 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained
  • 12 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 4 pounds medium tomatoes, cut into eighths
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • chopped tender herbs (such as flat-leaf parsley, tarragon, and/or chives), as desired
  1. Cook spaghetti; drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  3. Cook anchovies and garlic, stirring often, until anchovies are broken down and garlic is soft, about 4 minutes.
  4. Add tomatoes; season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until falling apart, 8–10 minutes.
  5. Toss in pasta; cook until sauce coats pasta, about 2 minutes. Incorporate pasta water to achieve desired sauce consistency.
  6. Toss in herbs, for garnish, as desired.

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