Amatriciana with Bucantini

My next recipe comes from a cooking class my family took together a few years back. It was a Christmas present for my family and it ranks as one of my favorite presents.

Not only did it involve good food, but it was a bonding experience with the whole family. I think we need to do it again. It’s way better than any item someone can give you. Plus not only is it entertaining, but you learn a skill while you’re being entertained.

The cooking instructors supplied Proseco while we cooked too, which I’m sure had nothing to do with all the fun we had.

My favorite memory of the experience was all of us taking turns making our own pasta by turning the crank on the pasta machine.

My brother was probably the most delighted by it. I’ll never forget his face

The cooking instructors planned out a multiple coarse meal with 3 different types of pasta dishes for us, as well as salad with dressing we made ourselves and dessert.

I’m not going to go over each course today and will just focus on one of those meals which was Amatriciana. Amatriciana is a pork based red sauce traditionally made with pork jowl, but this recipe is Americanized and uses a different area of the pig.

This is the same recipe we used that winter night a few years ago and was given to us at the end of our lesson and meal.

What you’ll need

  • 1/2 pound of pancetta or bacon cut into 1 inch slices
  • Olive oil
  • 2 large onions finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • 10 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced
  • 2 cans of 28oz tomatoes crushed
  • 2/3 cup of dry white wine
  • 4 tablespoons of parsley, chopped
  •  1 pound of bucantini pasta
  • 1 cup of Parmesan cheese grated

The first step is to cook the pancetta in a wide frying pan over medium heat until crisp and lightly browned. Once the meat is cooked, remove from the pan and drain the greasy fat out except for a 1/2 cup’s worth. This will be used to cook with the onions.

With the reserved grease, cook the onion and pepper flakes until the onions soften which should take around 6 minutes. Then add garlic, tomatoes with the liquid, wine, and parsley. Allow this mixture to boil for 10-15 minutes.

As the sauce cooks, prepare a pot to cook your pasta in. Most Italians and myself recommend to cook the pasta al dente and to follow the instructions on the packaging.

Once the pasta is cooked, add the pancetta back into the sauce and season with salt and pepper. You are now ready to serve, like so!

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This is a simple pasta dish that doesn’t land too far from the tree of spaghetti bolognese or meat sauce for those of you who aren’t in the Italian know how.

Pancetta is a crisper version of bacon and bucantini for the most part is a tube version of spaghetti. One could say that it’s for people who love spaghetti bolognese but want a little bit of a change in their pasta consumption.

I personally am a fan of both sauces, but I admittedly don’t care all that much for bucantini. It’s fine, it doesn’t taste bad. I mean it’s pasta. I’m just not into tube pastas and bucantini makes me feel like I’m eating overcooked soggy spaghetti.

The sauce is easy to make and definitely satisfying to the taste buds. I do reccomend you give this dish a try, especially if you’re in a spaghetti and meat sauce rut.

*In case you’re curious, we did not make our own bucantini pasta. I do remember making ravioli, but I can’t recall if we used boxed bucantini or if we made our own spaghetti for this dish. My memory is a little fuzzy there. I blame the proseco bubbles.

 

 

 

 

Balls of a Matriarch

Freud would probably have a lot to say about the fact that I’m writing about another meatball recipe. I wonder what though?

Maybe he would say that I secretly wish I was a dog so I could play fetch? Maybe he’d say I have ball envy? Nah….Freud overthinks things too much.

Making this recipe was a long time coming.

Why, you ask?

Well this particular recipe is from my grandmother! My grandmother was mostly Irish in ethnicity, but an American who grew up in the hills of Tennessee. When she was 18 she met my grandfather who was a first generation Italian-American from the same tiny town as me in Indiana.

When she married my grandfather, my great-grandmother taught her how to make one of her son’s favorite meals. Spaghetti and meatballs. That’s what an Italian mother-in-law did when she liked you. Of course, she didn’t reveal all her secrets. Italian mothers are competitive about their cooking. That’s what I’ve told anyway. You can’t have your son preferring his wife’s cooking over a mamma. That’s a big no-no.

Grandma still cooked a delectable meatball, though, especially for a girl from Tennessee.

The whole family loved her meatballs. I was the youngest of all my cousins and I remember sitting at her long family kitchen table, my head peeping out just above the ledge watching as everyone chowed down the meatballs.

Sadly, I was a notorious picky eater as a child and didn’t like Grandma’s meatballs. I loved her spaghetti and would slurp that up, but I can’t remember if I ever even tried them.

That’s a long way of saying, it was time to make this for myself, even though I’m sure it’s un-edible compared to Grandma’s.

Before I dish out the ingredients, I have to make a disclaimer that my sister wrote this recipe down when she was a kid. So, it’s not very accurate in some spots and I had to make guesses. I’ll have my mother read this and see if she has any insight.

What you’ll need for the meatballs

  • 3/4 beef, 1/4 pork  (I’m assuming the measurement is pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon of Parmesan Cheese
  • Crackers or Bread Crumbs (I eyeballed this, but I bet you could look up another recipe and figure it out)
  • 1 or 2 eggs (It’s all about the consistency folks!)
  • Milk (Again, eyeballed it, you just don’t want the mix to be too wet or dry)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of Parsley
  • Onion, finely chopped
  • Mint

For the sauce

  • Salt pork (No mention of how much, I’d say 1/4 lb)
  • 4 tablespoons of oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • Butter
  • 1/2 – 1 lb of hamburger meat
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 fresh parsley or 2 tablespoons of dry parsley
  • 1 can of whole tomatoes
  • 1 can of Hunt’s Tomato Paste with tomato bits (I think this is actually crushed tomatoes, because I couldn’t find “paste” with bits in it.)
  • 1 can of Contadina Tomato Paste
  • 1-3 tsp. salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon of rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon of brown sugar
  • 1 bay leaf

Instructions for the meatballs weren’t included, but it’s not too difficult. You’re just going to add all the meatball ingredients together until they are a middle of the road consistency of wetness. Once you’ve found that, you just form them into balls as big or small as you desire and set aside.

The first advice from my grandma regarding the sauce is to use a stainless steel or aluminum pan with a thick bottom. I have to say that if I had had a pan like that, it would have helped things.

Do your best with the deepest pan you’ve got. That’s what I had to do.

The first step is to place enough oil to cover the bottom of your pan. Add the pork. When the pork is half cooked, add the onion and cook together until both are nearly brown. Then add the hamburger and mash it together with the pork. Cook this until also almost brown.

While this is happening, mince the garlic. Slide the meat to one side of the pan and then add the garlic to vegetarian side of the pan and cook until lightly browned.

Then she suggests to add butter, but only if it’s needed. I’m guessing if needed means if things start to overcook or stick.

Next add the parsley and the whole tomato, but not the juice. You’re going to add the juice later. Chop that up and then add the two pastes. This is when you add the juice! Finally add your seasonings and the balls. Stir and simmer until you’ve reached the level of thickness you prefer.

The process of making this wasn’t too difficult. My only big issue was that I did not have a deep enough pan for all those balls!

Get your mind out of the gutter, readers. I’m talking about pans and food. Sigh.

I had to use two pans to make this, which I wasn’t happy about because I think the whole point of cooking the balls with the sauce is that it affects the taste of the actual sauce.

Despite this conundrum, things turned out well. Grandma and Great-Grandma would have a lot of nagging advice and suggestions I’m sure. More than anything, though, I think they’d be pleased that I’m full-filling the matriarchal balls legacy.

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Meatballs, meat sauce, and pasta. It’s the Roman way.

 

Salmon Salad with Roasted Tomatoes

My next recipe was sent to me, via my mother years ago. She found it in a magazine. I can’t recall which one she got it from, but she thought it looked healthy and tasty. She wasn’t wrong.

This simple salad is filling and yet lite. It’s a healthy slab of salmon that doesn’t require a heavy dressing to be tasty.The tomatoes compliment the salmon and add a light juicy flavor. It’s the perfect salad to ween yourself off of heavy dressings like ranch and blue cheese, because it teaches you how tasty a salad can be without all the fatty bells and whistles. Trust me, I loved ranch dressing in my youth, but now I crave balsamic dressings with oregano because they compliment as opposed to overwhelming the taste of a salad.

So to make this healthy protein salad, you’ll need 16 cherry tomatoes, 2 teaspoons of olive oil, plus a 1/4 cup for later, 4 6 oz. salmon fillets with skin, 1/2 cup of fresh lime juice, 1/4 cup of grapeseed oil, and 4 oz. of mixed baby green lettuce.

The first step is to pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees. Once it’s heated you will place the tomatoes inside to roast, but before you do so, drizzle two teaspoons of oil on top. They will roast for about 8 minutes.

While they are roasting, you will cut a couple of diagonal lines into each salmon fillet and sprinkle salt and pepper on top. This technique is called scoring and is done to open up the meat so it absorbs ingredients more deeply. Once you are done scoring, place the salmon on a saute pan with the salmon skin facing down. Set the heat to medium-low and then finally to high. I admittedly do not understand this, since there are no instructions as to how long you are supposed to keep it on medium-low, but I’m assuming it’s so the salmon can be a bit slow cooked. Anyway, you will cook the skin side for 2-3 minutes and then flip and cook for 1-2 minutes. The goal is for the salmon to have a slight pink color in the middle.

Once that’s done, you might as well make your dressing. To do so, you will slowly whisk and pour, the grapeseed oil and 1/4 cup of olive oil into a bowl with the lime juice already inside. Season with salt and pepper to your liking as well.

The final step is to put everything together! So, get your lettuce out, place a salmon fillet on top with some tomatoes, and drizzle with oil.

The final result, as I said at the top of this entry, is quite good! I feel it’s versatile as well. Meaning, that you could just keep the recipe for the tomatoes and salmon, add rice, and just sprinkle a bit of lime juice for flavor.

That’s the beauty of salmon, though. It’s simple to cook and doesn’t require a lot of dressing up. It’s a low maintenance kind of gal.

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Flaky, crispy, tasty, and healthy!