Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Fettucini Amatriciana with Smoked Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs

The flavors of the pasta in this dish are simple and subtle so that the real stars are the smoked mozzarella stuffed meatballs. I had my reservations about using smoked mozzarella. I've only had it once before, when I melted huge slabs of it over portobello mushroom caps. At the time I remember thinking that I'd be avoiding it from now on. I think it was just too much and the smokey flavor too overwhelming. I am so glad now that I didn't opt for plain old mozzarella with this one. Those unassuming little half-inch cubes in the center of each meatball were so savory, with just a hint of smokiness.

I added a few small chunks of the leftover mozzarella to our Friday pizza and I used the rest with some grilled burgers which I also topped with caramelized onions.

Fettucini Amatriciana with Smoked Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs
(This is only slightly adapted from a Giada de Laurentiis recipe. Hers is titled differently since she uses bucatini pasta.)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (28 oz) can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1 small onion, very finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/3 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 2 ounces smoked mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 pound long pasta (bucatini, fettucini, or linguine)

For the sauce: In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the pancetta and reserve. To the same pan, add the onion and cook for 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in the garlic and saute about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, and the cooked pancetta. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Stir in the cheese and add more salt and pepper, if necessary.

For the meatballs: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine mix together all ingredients except the beef. Mix in the beef and combine all ingredients thoroughly. Shape the meat mixture into meatballs (about 1 1/2 inches) and place on the baking sheet. Make a hole in the center of each meatball and place a cube of mozzarella inside. Reform the meatball so that the mozzarella is completely covered with the meat mixture. Bake the meatballs for 15 minutes or until cooked through.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and toss with the sauce until pasta is well coated. Top with the additional parsley and Parmesan, if desired.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Barefoot Bloggers: Spring Green Risotto

I actually made this a while back and I must confess, I made a few omissions. Miguel has an aversion to peas so I left those out, and I forgot to get asparagus when I went to the store, so that's absent as well. This is the first time that I've ever made risotto and I think it turned out pretty well. Though I may have cooked it just a few minutes too long. It was not overdone but I think I let too much of the liquid cook away. I've never had risotto before but it seems like I remember seeing it on TV and thinking that it was a little more liquidy. I don't know, but the flavor was great. I was tasting it all throughout the cooking process and I can say that the addition of the mascarpone, Parmesan, and lemon juice mixture at the end really makes it special. This dish embodies the flavors and colors of spring.

You can find the recipe at Foodnetwork.com

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In other news, Thursday is meal planning day and I'm looking at my list and it's totally empty. Do you ever get into a food rut? I think I'm in one - though it's not because of a shortage of ideas. I have a whole three ring binder and a bookmark folder that's full of ideas but I can't think of a single thing that I want to cook. It seems that I often feel this way in the spring. I'm not quite ready for the cool, light meals of summer nor do I have an appetite for the heavy flavors of winter. I need something in between . . .

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Cinco de Mayo Dinner and a Yard Sale

I spent a good part of my free time last week in my mother's garage preparing for a Saturday yard sale. Over the years, my parents have accumulated a lot of stuff. My childhood toys and keepsakes, the belongings of deceased parents, and their own collections have measured up to every closet, attic space, garage space, and storage space in their house being cram packed from top to bottom. And I mean that quite literally. Last week my mother finally prepared herself for the realization that she needs to purge.

It's not as easy as it sounds. As we opened up box after box, we found ourselves picking up one little item after another and saying, "Remember when . . . " It's astonishing to me how hard it is to let go of things sometimes. It's as though we think that if we let the objects go, the memories will go along with them. Inevitably, there were a few artifacts that found their way into my car rather than priced and onto the yard sale table.

When I was little my Dad worked for an airline company which added up to lots of travel and time away from home and family. He brought me a t-shirt from every place that he visited. I came across a box of about 2 dozen of those very shirts.

They were from places like:


And often they had cute little sayings on them like:


I also brought home a mini glass tea set given to me by my Aunt Inez,

a set of mini vases that belonged to my grandmother,

two "Depression Glass" serving plates, one from each side of the family,

and my little set of miniature Strawberry Shortcake figurines.

I wish I could say that was all but I also lugged into my car my first favorite little stuffed animal and the book that I bought with my very first allowance (It was a Care Bears book - published and bought in 1984).

In the midst of all of that, I did manage to fix a Cinco de Mayo inspired dinner for my husband and myself on Wednesday evening. We enjoyed Chicken Enchiladas with Mexican Cornbread.

Chicken Enchiladas

1 lb. chicken tenderloins
1-2 tsp. taco seasoning (recipe below)
12 corn tortillas
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 c. salsa
1 can (14 0z) fire roasted tomatoes
1/4 c. chicken broth
1/2 lb. shredded cheese (Monterrey Jack or cheddar)
sour cream

Preheat oven to 350. Heat a small amount of oil in a saute pan, then add chicken tenders and sprinkle with taco seasoning. Saute for several minutes on each side or until done and lightly browned. Remove from pan and allow to cool slightly and then shred the chicken. To the same pan heat about 1 tsp. more oil then add onion and garlic. Saute until tender then add the salsa, tomatoes, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. In a separate pan, heat the tortillas over medium-high heat for just a few seconds on each side.

Grease a large casserole dish with oil and then add a spoonful of the tomato mixture to the bottom of the dish. Roll up shredded chicken and cheese inside of tortillas and arrange in the casserole dish. Pour remainder of tomato mixture over the top and cover with cheese. Bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Taco Seasoning

1 tbs chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
pinch red pepper flakes (optional)

I love to make my own taco seasoning. It's super simple and when you make it yourself you can be sure that it doesn't contain any unnecessary ingredients like MSG.